HOUSTON — Texas and Rice played for years in the old Southwest Conference, where UT dominated much of the series.
Almost 25 years later, some things never change.
Behind the arm of Sam Ehlinger, the legs of Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson, and a stout defense, No. 12 Texas defeated Rice, 48-13, from NRG Stadium in Houston on Saturday night.
Texas overwhelmed the Owls from the opening kick, including having 19 first-half first downs, while Rice ran only 20 plays. Texas had four drives of 70+ yards, while the Owls had 40 yards total in the opening stanza.
Ehlinger finished the day almost perfect: 23-of-27, 279 yards, three TD passes. He also added a 5.4 ypc to fuel the offense. Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson totaled 182 yards and three scores, and freshman Jake Smith had his breakout game. The rookie H (slot) tallied 75 yards, on six catches, and two touchdowns.
“Really proud of our team,” said Texas coach Tom Herman. “Certainly the way that they started, they did what we asked them to do all week, which was to put last week behind them. I know that playing the game last week, win or lose, was going to help us down the road. And it will.”
Tonight was a large step in the right direction. The junior signal-caller, Ehlinger, agreed they couldn’t let LSU “beat them twice.” Controlling the ball and tempo was just the trick to trip up the Owls.
“Converting on third downs is huge,” said Ehlinger, who became only the sixth Longhorn in history to amass 7,000 total yards. “When we’re over 50% on third downs, its helps us. It’s great for us do to the things we want on offense and wear the defense down.”
The second half was much like the first.
Ingram, sophomore, capped off UT’s first series in the third with a 14-yard touchdown run and a 38-0 advantage.
“Everyone was worried about the running back room coming into this season,” Ehlinger said. “I didn’t bat an eye. I have so much confidence in Keaontay, Ro, and Danny.”
Let’s not forget the defense that held Rice to 262 yards. Keondre Coburn, Ayodele Adeoye, and Juwan Mitchell all played outstanding and all recorded their first career sacks.
Texas started the scoring on its opening drive when Sam Ehlinger hit Roschon Johnson for a 25-yard touchdown. The 12-play, 82-yard drive chewed up 6:12 in the first quarter.
After a Rice punt, UT marches 90 yards, culminated by an Ehlinger to Jake Smith 53-yard pitch-and-catch for the score, and 14-0 advantage through one quarter.
UT didn’t take long in the second quarter with heavy doses of Keaontay Ingram and Roschon Johnson. Ingram capped off the 10-play, 73-yard drive with a 26-yard scoring scamper and a 21-0 Texas lead.
Later in the first half, Ehlinger hits Smith for a 12-yard scoring grab, his second of the night. Smith is one of only five receivers at Texas to catch two touchdowns in a game – Collin Johnson, Roy Williams, Sloan Thomas, and Artie Ellis the others.
Smith’s score gave Texas a 28-0 lead late in the 1st half. Cameron Dicker would close out the scoring nailing a personal-record 57-yard field goal and UT a 31-0 lead heading into halftime.
Dicker’s 57-yard boot was the longest FG by a Texas kicker since Jeff Ward’s 57-yarder at Texas A&M in 1985.
Ingram wasn’t finished. He capped off UT’s first series in the third with a 14-yard touchdown run and a 38-0 advantage.
“If I had to pinpoint any one quality about Texas is their athleticism,” said Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren. “They are an athletic group with great length and great skill. We looked like a MASH unit by the end of the game.”
Rice prevented the shutout with a 12-play, 73-yard drive, capped off by a Aston Walter 3-yard scoring catch. 38-6, Texas, with 7:50 left.
Rice added another late score, then UT’s D’Shawn Jamison returned the favor, literally. His 98-yard kickoff return for six was the icing on the cake at NRG.
With Big 12 play starting next Saturday, and Oklahoma State owning a 4-game winning streak at DKR, Herman and his troops know what lies ahead.
“It’s an empty the chamber kind of week,” said Herman. “We’re not going to leave any stone unturned.”