Despite the win, the Texas Longhorns still have work to do.
The overriding theme following the Texas Longhorns 42-28 victory over Rice Saturday night was one of relief. Texas had finally won a game, and found their quarterback in the process. That sound you heard was millions of Longhorn fans breathing a sigh of relief.
More from Texas Football
- Texas Football: Quinn Ewers joins 7-Eleven Cleat Crew for charity event
- Texas Football: 4-Star A&M OT commit officially visiting for KU game
- How to watch Texas football vs. Baylor: TV, stream, game time
- Texas Football: Predicting each remaining 5-Star commit for Horns this fall
- Texas Football: Top 5 defenders during nonconference play
At the risk of being a buzzkill, let me channel my inner Corso. Not so fast my friends.
Jerrod Heard did decisively end the quarterback dilemma by doing what Tyrone Swoopes never could. He took control. Saturday night was my first real exposure to Heard and I was impressed. I won’t go so far as to declare him THE answer, that remains to be seen. However it is without question that for the 2015 Longhorns, he is the answer.
After Rice, Texas still has two big problems to solve: the offense and the defense.
The best plays the Longhorns had going for them Saturday night were Heard throwing deep and Heard scrambling. The rest of the offense looked pretty much like it has for some time now. That’s not a condemnation of Jay Norvell’s play calling. I don’t think he got to call enough plays to make a judgement.
Rice represented the Texas offensive line’s best chance to line up against an athletically inferior opponent and do some mashing. Not so much. They still struggled to get consistent movement in the running game and allowed too many defenders to run free into the Texas backfield. That doesn’t bode well once Texas starts playing the big boys again.
The Longhorns won’t be able to rely solely on Heard’s athletic ability. The better Big 12 defenses will have athletic linebackers or defensive backs to spy Heard and unless Texas finds some way to punish them for it, they should be able to choke the life out of the Longhorn offense. TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Kansas State will all possess the skill players necessary to do this.
Hopefully given more time to settle into his role, Jay Norvell will come up with some ways to help the Longhorns overcome this. However, until the line gets their act together, the rest of the offense will be extremely limited.
This doesn’t really come as a surprise. In fact, the specter of continued poor line play was one of the most compelling reasons to turn to Heard anyway. He was never going to solve all of the offensive problems. What is a surprise is the continued poor play of the defense.
After Notre Dame, the common refrain was that Notre Dame was a great team with a great line and Texas wouldn’t face another one like it. Unless Rice somehow suited up Notre Dame’s offensive line last night, you can put that theory to rest. The Longhorn D line still failed to make an appearance this season.
The one area that was supposed to be a team strength instead looks like one of it’s biggest Achilles heels. Rice ran the ball at will and imposed their will on the Longhorn front. If Brick Haley doesn’t find a way to shore up the line this team is in big trouble.
While the D line was playing on roller skates, the rest of the team has apparently been learning tackling from Manny Diaz. I don’t have any hard stats, but I’m willing to bet that Texas could have shaved at least five minutes off of the Owls’ time of possession by simply tackling. Youth and inexperience can excuse some breakdowns, but tackling is one of the essential elements of football. There is no excuse for the continued poor tackling of this defense.
Sep 12, 2015; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns wide receivers Amanti Foreman (3) and Daje Johnson (4) tailback D
The Rice offense is neither dynamic or overly athletic and yet they still dominated the Texas defense for most of the night. Had it not been for two drive killing turnovers and the Malik Jefferson scoop-and-score, last night’s game might have turned out very different.
Texas fans have every reason to enjoy finally seeing their team win a game. Last night’s effort was good enough, barely, to beat an above average CUSA team decimated by graduation and playing their first game against a FBS opponent in nine months. It will not be enough to score victories over anyone else on the schedule save Kansas and maybe Iowa State.
There is still a lot of work to be done. Improvements need to be made across the board to get this program back to a competitive level. Heard seems to have solved the leadership problem and inspired his teammates to their best performance in months.
The Rice win was a good first step, now the Longhorns have to prove that they can take their game up to the next level and quickly.