The Texas versus Rice game has been around for over 100 years, and for the first time since 2010, the Longhorns returned to H-Town to face their millennial rivals. However, what once was called a rivalry would be an injustice to Texas, as they blew out the Owls 48-13 on Saturday night.
Texas’ offense did not shy away from proving their prowess against the Owls, thanks to junior quarterback Sam Ehlinger and sophomore running back Keaontay Ingram. Both propelled Texas to their landslide win in Houston.
“We had to go out and play and start fast, and I thought both sides of the ball really, really showed that they believed in that,” head Coach Tom Herman said. “We had a great week of practice, and I think myself and everybody associated with the team was certainly excited, or proud I should say, of the way that we played those first three quarters.”
Eight wide receivers, three running backs and two quarterbacks saw time in NRG Stadium, for a total of 509 offensive yards. The Longhorns went uninterrupted for three quarters before the Owls could get anything on the board. Ehlinger credits Texas’ 64% third down efficiency for their success on offense.
“It's great. Converting on third downs is huge, and when we're over 50% on third down, it's hard for defenses to keep us off the field. When we're doing things on offense and long drives, it really takes takes the life out of a defense,” Ehlinger said.
Ehlinger’s performance was the most poignant in Saturday night’s game. He completed 23 of 27 passes for 279 yards and finished the night with three touchdowns. He surpassed former Texas quarterback Vince Young in most touchdowns thrown; Young had 44 while Ehlinger is up to 47.
“He's making good decisions,” Herman said. “I think he's comfortable with his receivers giving them a chance … Overall, decision making, game management and protection of the football has been impressive through the first three games.”
Ingram, however, was the greatest success story from Saturday night. In his game against LSU, he had 10 carries for only 29 yards. Against Rice, he had 13 carries for 74 yards and recorded two touchdowns. His 26-yard running touchdown gave Texas a 21-0 lead and peace of mind that the game was in their pocket.
“I think you know, Keaontay definitely bounced back,” Herman said. "I think even though early I thought he got a little bit frustrated. We had to remind him, ‘Hey, we knew that it was going to be this kind of game, especially early,’ and he found his groove, the (offensive) line found their groove. And it was important for him to have a game like this.”
Junior running back Daniel Young also returned after a high ankle sprain injury kept him on the sidelines for two weeks. Although not fully recovered, Young was still able to record four carries for 16 yards. Though there have been questions about Texas’ running back depth all season, Ingram feels confident in his group.
“I feel like us in the running back group, we’re headed in the right direction,” Ingram said. “You know, Danny … all those guys, and it’s just the run game speaks for itself. All of them play with a chip on their shoulders.”
The Longhorns will begin Big 12 play next Saturday against the 3-0 Oklahoma State Cowboys. With an improved 2-1 record and a bye week approaching, Texas is hoping to leave everything they have on the field next week.
“We're going to have our hands full, they're always going to have an elite offense in this conference, and we're excited,” Herman said. “Again, if we want to be elite, we want to be the things that we say we want to be, we're going to have to bring our A-game again in preparation to go 1-0. We all know what's after that game, a bye-week, and you know it's leave everything you have on the practice field and on the field at DKR on Saturday night.”