Texas changed its playcaller on Tuesday and its quarterback Saturday and got a 42-28 victory over Rice to generate some momentum and confidence heading into next week’s game against visiting Cal.
A week after a 37-3 loss at Notre Dame, the Longhorns (1-1) went outside the box to alter their fortunes after three straight defeats dating back to last season.
Redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard threw two touchdowns and ran for 96 yards in his first career start and the Longhorns won easily with first-year receivers coach Jay Norvall calling plays, despite losing nearly every statistical matchup.
“What everyone wanted to see was something different. Some change,” Texas coach Charlie Strong said of Heard. “He can make plays. He’s a winner.”
Freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson said the team was waiting for Heard to get his chance. “All the guys wanted to see him play,” Jefferson said. “He’d been held back, like in a prison cell.”
The Longhorns scored more than 40 points for just the second time in 15 games under Strong, but whether they have enough offense to match Cal remains unclear.
Rice outgained Texas 462 yards to 277. The Owls had 30 first downs to 11 for Texas. Ninety-six plays to 38. And held the ball more than 44 minutes.
But Rice also had five turnovers, which Texas cashed in for points. An 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Taje Johnson helped.
Cal has never beaten Texas in a five-game series that began in 1959 and had its most recent installment at the 2011 Holiday Bowl.
Texas likely will get its act together sooner or later. But maybe not this season. Maybe not by next Saturday in Austin.
Cal will face a hostile environment and a desperate team search for its pride and identity.
The Bears also may never get a better chance to knock off one of college football’s traditional powerhouse programs.