Anger Management: Texas Takes It Out On Rice, 48-7

Now we’re talking! The Silence of the Horns ended with 48-7 statement over Rice at Houston’s Reliant Stadium Saturday, a win so dominant that it spoke volumes of Texas’ determination to right its season. Sure, it was just Rice. But "just Rice" has taken Texas to the wire in recent years and, of course, sprung the upset here in 1994.

Behind RB Cedric Benson’s punishing ground game (repeat: Benson’s punishing ground game), the offense exploded for 34 second quarter points by scoring on six straight possessions including consecutive, one-play scoring drives. The outpouring was the most in a single quarter during the Mack Brown era.

QB Chance Mock was a perfect 8-of-8 for 159 yards and has yet to throw an interception after 71 attempts. Meanwhile, dazzling QB Vince Young saw early action and gave Orangebloods a taste of things to come. Young ran for 54 yards on seven rushes (can you live with 7.7 ypc?) while adding 54 yards on 3-of-5 passing.

SE Roy Williams (who has yet to fully detonate) became Texas’ all-time career receiving yardage leader (3,077) with his 69 yards on five grabs, surpassing Mike Adams’ old mark (3,049). But Benson was the big story offensively, reeling off 130 yards on 18 totes (7.2 ypc) to top the century mark for the first time since the Oct. 26, 2002 Iowa State game. The Dreaded One added a 59-yard scoring reception from Mock as the Horns racked up 515 yards of total offense (322 rushing, 193 passing).

"We'd like to be able to run the ball well enough to protect and throw the ball downfield and make some big plays in the passing game and have some big runs, so we feel like what we saw tonight is the offense we're trying to get to," Brown said postgame at Reliant.

The Texas defense forced five three-and-outs and two turnovers (a CB Nathan Vasher interception and a WLB Derrick Johnson fumble recovery) in holding the nation’s fifth best rushing offense (276 ypg) to 57 total first half yards and 192 for the game. The Owls converted but 1-of-10 third down conversions. FS Dakarai Pearson registered a team-high eight tackles.

Bottom line: Texas needed to come out and throttle a team that it’s supposed to throttle. In years past, Texas has stood around and allowed the Owls’ time-chewing option attack to shorten the game and keep them in it. On the heels of the Arkansas loss, Texas needed to flex its muscle and dominate a game from the get-go (not just from special teams and defense but from its beleaguered ground game). It needed to see 322 rushing yards (on 53 carries) even if it was against the poorest run defense it will face all year. Most of all, Texas needed to have a lathered and smiling Cedric Benson on the sideline.

After shaking off a failed fake punt attempt on its opening series, Texas scored TDs on its next six possessions to take a commanding 41-0 halftime lead. Desperately needing to establish a running game (regardless of opponent), Texas jumped to a 7-0 lead with 2:17 remaining in the first quarter on what might be called the Cedric Benson drive. The junior accounted for 48 yards on six carries during Texas’ eight-play, 80-yard drive that began with his longest-of-the-season 20-yard carry and ended with his 2-yard TD plunge over left guard.

After the defense forced another three-and-out to end the opening frame, Vince Young entered the contest behind Texas’ second team O-line. The result was Vince’s third scoring drive in as many possessions (two scores against New Mexico State while never setting foot on the field against Arkansas). The key was RB Brett Robin’s 19-yard counter play out of the ‘gun, spotting the Horns at the Owl 20. A 9-yard slant pass to FL B.J. Johnson took Texas to the four, and RB Selvin Young carried it in on the next play. The sophomore RB suffered a groin and shoulder injury in the third quarter and spent much of the remainder of the game on a stationery bike.

After the D forced another three-and-out, Vasher returned Jarred Scrugg’s punt 58 yards to the Owl 13. A five-yard false start penalty on first down meant that Williams’ 18-yard TD grab off a Mock slant pass goes into the record book as a one-play, 13-yard drive (including the yardage needed to break Adams’ receiving record).

Both CB Cedric Griffin and MLB Brian Robison (subbing for injured Garnet Smith) each registered a TFL as the defense came up with another three-and-out. All the offense did on the heels of its one-play scoring drive was to respond with another one-play scoring drive. With a first down at the Texas 41, Mock found Benson, who motioned out of the backfield wide right, streaking down the right sideline in single coverage against CB Dustin Haynes. His 59-yard scoring reception gave Texas a 28-0 lead with 8:20 remaining until intermission.

It just kept getting uglier for Rice. On the Owls' next possession, FS Pearson forced a QB Greg Henderson fumble that Johnson recovered at the 14. Four plays later, Selvin Young carried it in from the two. David Pino’s blocked PAT attempt was one of the few offensive miscues for Texas on a spread-the-wealth night when nearly every eligible ball carrier and receiver touched the ball.

With Texas leading 34-0, Vasher came up with his 13th career INT (No. 4 UT all-time). Following the INT, UT's six-play, 43-yard drive culminated with Benson’s best run of the season: the junior tailback barreled over left guard, cut back across the middle of the field to follow his blocks, and then raced toward the goal line before pushing three defenders into the end zone. Texas led 41-0 with 3:08 until halftime.

"I thought Cedric broke out tonight," the Texas head coach said of his junior RB's 18-carry, 130-yard performance. "He got to run it more which was important. He was running it hard early in the ballgame and we took him out after the first series in the third quarter or he probably could have had a 200-yard night. We're really, really please what we saw out of him and that should give him a lot of momentum going into next week."

Henderson recorded his only completion of the first half (resulting in just the Owls’ second first down) on Rice’s final possession before intermission, but were content to let the game clock expire rather than punt to Vasher. About the only Owl player you wish wore the Burnt Orange might be P Jared Scruggs (averaged 45 yards on seven punts).

Speaking of punts, Texas did not attempt one until its opening drive of the third quarter stalled after nine plays and 46 yards. P Richmond McGee's 23-yarder (sometimes his best efforts look like a pooch kick) pinned the Owls at their own 14.

Vince Young would engineer one last scoring drive on Texas’ next possession. Young’s 20-yard run set up the Horns with a first down at the Owl 26. Two plays later, Young found TE David Thomas for a 20-yard completion over the middle (the sophomore’s first grab of the season and the only pass attempt of the 7-play, 61-yard drive scoring drive). When Vince carried it over from the one, it was his third rushing TD in 12 carries this season.

With Texas emptying its bench late in the game, Rice finally erased the goose egg with a 9-play 57-yard drive. Henderson’s 7-yard scamper completed the scoring with 5:18 remaining. From there, Texas QB Matt Nordgren basically handed it off to a determined RB Anthony Johnson (42 yards on six carries) to run out the clock.

No, Texas did not beat one of the Florida schools Saturday. Two weeks from now, when Kansas State (and soon-to-be-healthy QB Ell Roberson) are on the field at DKR, you won’t be thinking about the Rice game. That critical two-week stretch (followed by Oklahoma) is when we’ll really know something about this team.

But, ideally, there will be much from the Rice game that Texas can point to: namely, knowing that you can dominate a foe if you bring your A Game instead of playing to the level of your opponent. Texas didn’t need to ‘win ugly’ in Houston. It needed to ‘win big’. And to a team that has now lifted its self-imposed gag order against the media, a 48-7 win is worth 1,000 words.

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