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Stout defense lifts No. 11 Texas Longhorns to 37-10 win over Rice in season opener

AUSTIN (KXAN) — No. 11 Texas used a dominating defensive performance to claim a 37-10 win over Rice in the season opener on Saturday at DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium.

The Longhorns kept the Owls to under 200 total yards offense at 176 and were especially great against the run, allowing just 27 rushing yards. Linebacker David Gbenda led the way with six tackles with half a sack while Ethan Burke recorded 1.5 sacks. Texas hurried Rice quarterback JT Daniels seven times and broke up four passes while Jaylan Ford and Austin Jordan had interceptions. Daniels, making his third start at DKR for his third different team, finished the game 14-for-36 passing for 149 yards with a touchdown.

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“One thing I really like about this team is that we’re very versatile, and today was indicative of that,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said. “Our defense played a fantastic game, and there’s not always a lot of talk about how good we are defensively.”

The Longhorns forced three turnovers, two interceptions and a fumble, and had a turnover on downs in the third quarter. Sarkisian said he was pleased with how the defense complemented the offense.

“We won a way today that I don’t think that’s how most people thought we’d win,” Sarkisian said. “There’s a lot of encouragement in that for me. It showed me when we can win a game in different styles. The beauty of it all is that we got things rectified offensively with three drives and three touchdowns in the second half.”

Rice drew first blood with a field goal following a Longhorns turnover on down early in the first quarter, but then Texas’ talent took over and built a 37-3 lead before the Owls scored again late in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Quinn Ewers battled a little inconsistency in the opener, specifically with the deep ball, but he finished the game with 260 passing yards on 19 of 30 with three touchdowns. Ewers hit running back Jonathon Brooks with a 37-yard screen pass in the first quarter, transfer wideout Adonai Mitchell with a 9-yard pass in the third and then tight end JT Sanders with a 44-yard score in the fourth.

He didn’t get in the end zone, but wideout Xavier Worthy led the Longhorns with seven catches for 90 yards. Brooks finished with 94 yards from scrimmage, 52 rushing on 12 carries and 42 yards on a pair of catches. Jaydon Blue rushed for 55 yards on 10 carries while freshman CJ Baxter had 38 yards on five carries but left the game with an injury to his midsection in the first half. Sarkisian wasn’t sure how severe the injury was right after the game.

Texas kicker Bert Auburn made three field goals from 27, 46 and 50 yards. He gave one a shot from 56 yards late in the game but it fell short. Ewers ran for a 2-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The Longhorns ran 75 plays to Rice’s 51 and averaged 6.1 yards per play. The Owls averaged just 3.5 yards per play with 1.1 yards per rush attempt.

“Our defensive front did exactly what they’ve been doing all training camp, and that’s playing dominant football,” Sarkisian said. “We moved the ball decent between the 20s, but for whatever reason, maybe some self-inflicted wounds, we had drives stall out. We have a lot of things to clean up and get our players bought into what needs to be fixed.”

Texas (1-0) travels to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Allstate Crossbar Classic at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9. Rice (0-1) hosts rival Houston at 6 p.m., Sept. 9.

Game log

Final: Longhorns 37, Owls 10. Texas D holds Rice to 27 rushing yards and Ewers finishes 19-30 with 260yds and 3 TD. Worthy 7 catches for 90yds

3:04 4Q: Rice’s Luke McCaffrey makes a tremendous catch and gets clobbered at the goalline for a 15-yard score. McCaffrey’s helmet came off as he was making the catch. Wow. PAT good. 13 plays, 62 yards, 9:24. Longhorns 37, Rice 10

12:33 4Q: Auburn gives it a go from 56 yards … but comes up short. Rice will take over on their own 38-yard line.

14:48 4Q: Maalik Murphy throws a laser over the middle for his first completion to Isaiah Neyor for 13 yards

End 3Q: Longhorns 37, Owls 3. Maalik Murphy came into the ballgame at QB for the final play of the quarter. Assuming he’ll stay out there for the 4Q. Texas will have it 2nd-and-14 on the Rice 28. Jett Bush recovered a fumble with 0:06 left in 3Q to get Texas the ball back

0:57 3Q: Ewers calls his own number on a read play and walks into the end zone from 2 yards out. PAT good. 9 plays, 54 yards, 3:35. Longhorns 37, Owls 3

5:33 3Q: On the first play, Ewers hits JT Sanders for a 44-yard TD. Short pass from Ewers over the middle and Sanders took care of the rest. PAT good. Longhorns 30, Owls 3

5:41 3Q: Rice tries to gain a yard on 4th-and-1, and like Texas in the 1st quarter, they don’t get it. Longhorns will take over just inside the Rice 45-yard line

8:45 3Q: The big fella from Bastrop, Alfred Collins, does his best Dikembe Mutombo impression and swats the Daniels pass to the ground on 2nd down.

9:37 3Q: Adonai Mitchell scores his 1st TD as a Longhorn on a 9-yard pass from Ewers. PAT good. 8 plays, 62 yards, 3:40. Longhorns 23, Owls 3

13:17 3Q: Texas forces a 3-and-out and Worthy has a nice punt return to set Texas up at their own 38-yard line for the 1st drive of the 2nd half

15:00 3Q: Texas kicks off to Rice to start the second half and it goes out of bounds to give Rice good field position at their own 35-yard line

0:00 2Q: Bert Auburn blasts a 50-yard FG as time expires to give the Longhorns a 16-3 halftime lead. Total yards in 1st half, Texas 254, Rice 64 with -2 rushing yards. Longhorns 16, Owls 3

4:25 2Q: Rice punter Conor Hunt booms a 58-yard punt that’s downed on the Texas 2-yard line.

6:08 2Q: On 4th-and-1, Texas comes up short and turns it over on downs. Wow. Ball is spotted about half a yard short of the line to gain. Rice takes over on their own 23-yard line.

7:44 2Q: Daniels didn’t get enough on that pass and Austin Jordan steps in front of it for a Texas INT. Longhorns take over on the Rice 33-yard line

7:51 2Q: Auburn connects on another kick, this one from 46 yards to give Texas a 13-3 lead. Drive looked promising after a 32-yard run by CJ Baxter, but then it bottomed out with a negative play and a penalty. Longhorns 13, Owls 3

9:53 2Q: Jaylan Ford shows off his hands and picks off Daniels over the middle of the field. Such a versatile defensive player, Ford is. Longhorns take over on their own 36-yard line.

12:59 2Q: Bert Auburn knocks in a 27-yard FG to cap a 9-play, 50-yard drive. Brooks dropped a pass on 3rd down that he very well could have turned into a TD. Longhorns 10, Owls 3

End 1Q: Texas 7, Rice 3. Longhorns driving and have the ball on the Rice 37-yard line to start 2Q.

1:40 1Q: The Texas defense has been great so far. They force another 3-and-out so Rice punts and it’s fair caught by Worthy on the Texas 41-yard line. Rice with 15 yards of offense so far.

3:20 1Q: Another disjointed drive for the Longhorns ends in a punt. Only 7 rushing yards so far for Texas, and that was really the only big question mark on offense heading into the season. We shall see how Sarkisian adjusts from here.

5:48 1Q: Texas gets the ball back on their own 25-yard line after Rice has to punt. The Owls have gained 11 yards on their first two drives.

7:27 1Q: Longhorns get a TD on a well-designed throwback screen to Jonathon Brooks who runs untouched 37 yards to pay dirt. PAT good. 6 plays, 75 yards, 2:40. Longhorns 7, Owls 3

10:07 1Q: Rice gets on the board first with a 43-yard FG by Tim Horn. Owls’ offense didn’t gain a lot of yards but with the short field, they didn’t have to. Owls 3, Longhorns 0

13:00 1Q: It’s 4th-and-short after Ewers gets bit by the turf monster and falls short of the line to gain. Longhorns go for it and don’t get it. An early turnover on down for Texas and Rice takes over on the Longhorns 24-yard line.

Game start: Rice wins the toss and will defer to the second half and the Longhorns will receive the opening kick.

Throughout the game, there will be tributes to both All-American linebacker Derrick Johnson and the 1963 Longhorns national championship team. There was also a moment of silence for both Red McCombs and Bill Little before the teams took the field.

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