Bill Frisbie, Lead Writer -- Off-the-field distractions, crimes and misdemeanors, unprecedented for a Texas football team, on the eve of a game against lightly-regarded Rice. Recent headlines, you say? Sure, but it's also an unpleasant trip down memory lane.
Thirteen years ago, Texas was fresh off a James Brown-led upset of Oklahoma and traveled to face an Owl team it had not lost to in 28 years. Yet, off-the-field misconduct not only resulted in disciplinary action against frontline Texas players (including Mike Adams and Lovell Pinkney) but also racial tension that went unreported. Prior to the Rice game, Pinkney appeared on an Austin sports program and asked why (white) QB Shea Morenz had not also been disciplined. Sources had previously told me that, as a result, a number of African-American players initially refused to board the bus to Houston because they were convinced coach John Mackovic had given Morenz preferential treatment based on race.
This week, I asked James Brown about the 1994 pre-game situation that saw Texas drop a 19-17 shocker to Rice.
"I do remember that," Brown said. "I remember it happening. I was a redshirt-freshman. I was probably in the back of the bus with my headphones on. I remember there were some problems about that, because they said Shea was out (late) just like everybody else. Some of the players got into trouble, and they didn't do anything to Shea. There was some commotion. There were a lot of guys out that shouldn't have been out. A lot of minority guys took the brunt of it, but everybody still traveled. I believe it was all taken care of because, after that week, it wasn't even an issue. Mackovic apologized and said the information he received didn't have Shea's name in it. Maybe one of the other players was covering up for Shea."
The point is that nobody was talking about Rice that week; just like the Owls are getting scarcely a mention when folks talk about the Longhorns this week. The fact that Texas completes its non-conference slate this week against Rice has been an afterthought, in both local and national media, given that a sixth Longhorn has been arrested since June. That, compounded with injuries among the WRs, offensive line and to DE Brian Orakpo, has produced the most difficult stretch of six months in Brown's 33-years in coaching.
"We're waiting on our luck to happen," Mack Brown said. "We know it's ahead. It hasn't been behind, or in the present."
The 90th meeting between the Owls and the Horns makes it the fourth-oldest series in Texas football history. The Owls have had some near misses, but have not posted a 'W' in Austin since 1965. That won't change Saturday, despite some of the parallels between the current situation and the 1994 shocker.
It's hard to remember, though, when fans have been more disgruntled with an undefeated Texas team ranked in the Top 10. But off-the-field embarrassments have been compounded by 10 quarters of excruciating football this season.
If Texas doesn't win by at least three touchdowns Saturday, the team is in more trouble than we thought. Texas 41, Rice 12
Ross Lucksinger, InsideTexas.com Editor -- Ah, just what the doctor ordered.
With arrests and injuries piling up, the Texas Longhorns are being pushed to the brink. But the despite the calamity on the field this has produced, the Horns are 3-0 and they'll move to 4-0 after this weekend.
A game against Rice, and not just Rice, but a bad Rice team, will significantly help the Longhorns refocus and, for all intents and purposes, take a week off.
I know I'm not giving much respect to a team that returns the nation's leader in receiving touchdowns, but the offensive coordinator who ran that system is in Tuscaloosa and he's taken the offensive production with him. No matter what problems the Longhorns have had this season, it won't amount to squat on Saturday at DKR.
Arrests? No effect on this one. Inconsistent offense? Will look like a well-oiled machine. Spotty secondary? Shut down the air attack. Poor linebacker play? The 'backers will rack up tackles. Swiss-cheese offensive line? Steamrollers.
Do not judge Texas by this game. It will not be an accurate assessment of where the Longhorns are as a team. Simply take it as a welcome respite from a rocky start to the season and a great opportunity to get the young players into the game.
Texas wins and Texas wins easily. Texas 58, Rice 10
Mike Blackwell, Inside Texas Magazine Editor -- I thought the Texas-Arkansas State game would be ugly, and it was, but in a completely different way than I anticipated. I thought the TCU game would be ugly, and it was, eventually.
Rest assured, the Texas-Rice game Saturday will be ugly. Ugly like my sweaty feet after mowing the grass. Ugly like that girl down the block who still lives in your nightmares, or when you take too much Nyquil. Ugly like O.J. trying to get his stuff back.
Everybody's been cantankerous in Austin all season. First, Arkansas State wasn't a worthy enough opponent for Texas, so everybody complained, and then they proved to be too worthy, with a chance to win the game very, very late. Then TCU came to town, and they were worthy, but certainly not worthy enough to lead Texas 10-0 at halftime. And everybody complained.
1. What's wrong with the running game?
2. What's wrong with the defense?
3. Why can't Mack Brown play more backups?
Then came Central Florida, and another nailbiter, and more questions.
4. Where's the run defense?
5. Why can't Mack Brown's offense produce in short yardage situations?
Then more off-the-field stuff, of course. Mug shots in the paper, etc.
6. Why can't they control their players?
7. Why can't they screen their recruits?
8. and 9. Where are the leaders on this team, and why aren't they putting their foot down?
Here are the answers for you:
2.I don't know.
3.Because if he did, he might've lost one or more of the three games he's played.
4.I don't know, and this is not good.
5.Because Cedric Benson plays for the Chicago Bears.
6.Ask Barry Switzer.
7.They do. I think. I hope so. I assume they do.
8.At quarterback and at defensive tackle. Not sure where else.
9.I don't know.
Now, enough with all of this. Can we please talk football? A frown is just a smile turned upside down. Texas scored 52 on Rice last year in Houston. Give the Longhorns an extra touchdown for being in Austin, and score this one 59-7, Horns. Don't be surprised, if the score is higher, though.
Everyone is grumpy around here. Being a Texas fan is kind of like being a parent. You love your kids, but dammit, it would sure be nice if they were a little better. A little smarter. A little more athletic. They definitely should have better manners. And they should definitely make better decisions. Clean up your room, or you don't get to play Rice!
Then one day the kids leave – and they don't come back.
There will come a time – maybe even later this season – when some Texas fans will say, "Man, I sure wish we were 3-0…" Enjoy the football, insist the off-the-field stuff is stopped, and stop worrying.
Poor Rice. Texas 59, Rice 7
Michael Pearle, Co-publisher -- Mack Brown said this week that "we have to make sure that [the players] understand all of the things that are good because the standard here is pretty high and winning is not enough for some, but it is for us. The only stat we are concerned about is winning and then the things we are not doing well we try to fix. We are proud to be 3-0."
We out here in fan and pundit-land who are the "some" for whom winning apparently is not enough, are all happy to be 3-0 as well, of course. But in racking up those three "Ws", Texas has not looked anything like a team that figures to be able to beat Oklahoma, it's biggest rival and challenger for the South division title, nor perhaps a Texas Tech, K-State, Nebraska or even A&M at Kyle Field. That is why 3-0 ain't making us load up for a drive down the drag with horns blaring, screaming "We're Number One!"
If Texas struggles again this week, against this Rice team, which has lost by a combined 101 to 41 to Tech and Baylor, then I think we can safely say that the ‘07 season could well end up being a multiple-loss disappointment. A struggle this week means that we probably must just face the fact that this Longhorn team is simply not a great one, and that the goal of winning the Big 12 title is a long shot. With Kansas State and Oklahoma on the horizon, now is the time for Texas to quit playing down to its opponents, to find consistency in the red zone, to eliminate the late defensive lapses that have allowed opponents to keep scoring late into the fourth quarter, and to by-God start playing in all phases like a top 10 team, which somehow they still are.
The beautiful thing is, the team can still prove that greatness is within their grasp. While the struggles have been many, improvements are still possible, and every goal, including the conference and, yes, even the national championship, are still within reach.
My feel for this week is that Texas will be excited to be back home, under the lights, against an in-state team that they have dominated since before most of us were born. They will be pumped up with the infusion of talent back into the lineup in the form of Sergio Kindle, Billy Pittman and Henry Melton, and they will be happy to have Ken Rucker back after his cancer surgery. They will be looking to shut up the doubters and to take everyone's attention, including their own, off of the police blotter. In short, I think we see a Texas team Saturday that plays loose, has a blast, and makes strides to get better. I think Rice is going to find that it caught Texas at a bad time – feeling good and with something to prove. Texas 50, Rice 14
Clendon Ross, Co-publisher -- This game should be nothing more than a glorified scrimmage. Yes, Rice is that bad. All you need to know is that the Owls lost 16-14, at home, to division I-AA Nicholls State, which then lost 52-17 to Nevada, which lost 52-10 to Nebraska. You get the picture. Even this inconsistent, Jekyll and Hyde, perhaps distracted Texas team should crush the Owls.
More importantly, this game could tell us whether the coaches have any intention of auditioning younger players for more significant roles later in the season, whether underperforming players continue to remain in starting roles despite superior play from their back-ups, and whether the coaches have realized the futility in trying the same ol', same ol' in scheme and expecting different results.
The answers to those questions Saturday may tell us whether this is an 8-4 season (which is well below this team's talent level given this year's schedule), or a 10-2 or better campaign that keeps this program where it belongs, among the nation's elite.
What do I expect we'll see? More of the youngsters, no changes in the rotation at linebacker (other than getting Sergio Kindle some snaps), and a wide open, innovative and less predictable offense that will again disappear once the schedule stiffens. Texas 52, Rice 17
Average of IT Members Picks: Texas 48, Rice 12