The Texas Longhorns came into Saturday night's game against Rice with much to prove before heading into conference play next week. After last week's disappointing loss at the hands of the Arkansas Razorbacks, anything but a blowout victory over the Owls would be falling short of expectations.
It's safe to say Texas and head coach Steve Sarkisian shook off the first loss of the season in dominant fashion, as the Longhorns blanked Rice 58-0 to improve to 2-1 on this young season.
The Texas offense put up huge points in this game behind major contributions from the running game. Four different running backs found the end zone, including Bijan Robinson who scored on three separate occasions in the first half.
However, this ground-and-pound style was able to set the tone due to the bounce-back performance from the Longhorn's defense. It seems like allowing the Razorbacks to rush for 333 yards last weekend fueled a fire in Pete Kwiatkowski's group.
Here's a look at individual stats from some of Texas' standout defenders, including teams stats from the Rice offense.
LB Luke Brockermeyer - six total tackles, one QB hurry
DB D'Shawn Jamison - five total tackles, three solo
DB Jerrin Thompson - three total tackles, two solo, one forced fumble
LB Ovie Oghoufo - five total tackles, two solo, one sack, 1.5 tackles for loss
LB DeMarvion Overshown - four total tackles, two solo
EDGE Jacoby Jones - four total tackles, one solo
DE D.J. Harris Jr. - two solo tackles, tackle for loss, one sack
Rice Owls Offense
284 total yards
128 passing yards
156 rushing yards
5 of 13 on third down
The Texas defense left no doubt in this one. It was simply a masterclass defensive performance from the entire unit.
The 58-0 blowout marked the first shutout for the Horns since the 2017 season, when Texas beat San Jose State 56-0.
The matchup against Rice was one that Texas was expected to dominate in, especially after the loss to Arkansas shadowed some doubt on the Longhorn's potential success in the SEC.
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Giving up a field goal to the Owls wouldn't have had the media in a furious frenzy or anything like that, but allowing zero points on the scoreboard certainly left a positive feeling for all of Longhorn Nation on Saturday night.
In the first quarter, a 30-yard run from Rice running back Khalan Griffin set up the Owls in the red zone with momentum down 7-0.
Don't remember it? The run turned out to be the longest play the Longhorns D would allow on the night. A missed field goal a few plays left the Owls empty-handed and were the closest they came to reaching the end zone.
If Rice scores a touchdown on that drive, maybe the game becomes more competitive in the first half? We'll never know since the Texas defense stayed strong and made little to no mistakes after the run from Griffin.
Defense is the focus, but it's hard to ignore the big-time play from the Texas special teams at the end of the first quarter that seemed to kick the entire team into another gear. Running back Keilan Robinson blocked a punt that resulted in a safety, securing a 16-0 lead for the Horns headed into the second.
With a minute and a half left before halftime and Texas up 37-0 convincingly, Rice had the ball again at their own 30 with another attempt to get inside field goal range.
Griffin, who was looking to build off of his big run in the first quarter, found a hole up the middle of the Texas front seven but was quickly pursued by linebacker DeMarvion Overshown.
Overshown proceeded to toss Griffin into the waiting arms of defensive back Jerrin Thompson, who lowered his shoulder to pop the ball free.
The fumble gave the Texas offense yet another chance to punch it in before halftime, which is exactly what happened a minute later. Casey Thompson found Xavier Worthy to push the lead to 44-0 heading into the locker room.
From there, the defense remained steady. The second half wasn't full of big-time plays from the defense, just solid tackling and quick pursuit.
With the score lopsided, Sarkisian even allowed a number of back-ups and third-stringers to get some solid reps in on defense.
Defensive end D.J Harris Jr. recorded his first few starts of the season so far and did so in impressive fashion. The freshman had two solo tackles, a tackle for loss, and got the first sack of his college career.
The box score proves how nearly every player on the Texas defense contributed, as 31 different Longhorns recorded a tackle against the Owls on Saturday
These are positive backup reps for a Longhorn team that will be entering the toughest part of 2021's schedule.
The 58-0 win looks real satisfying on the scoreboard, but the focus will have to shift immediately on conference play as Texas Tech comes into Austin next Saturday.
The home matchup with the Red Raiders (3-0) marks the end of the only set of back-to-back home games of the season for the Horns.
Kwiatkowski and the Texas defense will need to be fired up in order to shut down Tyler Shough and the rest of the Texas Tech offense.
The game kicks off at 11 a.m. at DKR, as the Longhorns look to improve to 3-1 on the season.
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