Texas cruises past Rice, 34-9

Christian Corona

Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis were worth the price of admission.

Texas scored touchdowns to cap drives of 94 and 99 yards and did not allow a touchdown as the Longhorns started their season with a 34-9 win over Rice. Shipley made the most of his college debut, hauling in 2 passes for 54 yards, including an acrobatic 36-yard touchdown catch while running for 25 yards. Sophomore Mike Davis was the Longhorns leading receiver with 115 yards on three catches.

“We weren’t perfect but we showed a lot of good things tonight,” said senior linebacker Keenan Robinson. “Our motto is ‘brick-by-brick’ and tonight we laid the foundation.”

Shipley was one of three freshman in on his highlight reel-worthy score as David Ash handed off to senior Fozzy Whittaker, who flipped the ball behind him to receiver John Harris. Then, Harris heaved a pass downfield and Shipley wrestled it out of a Rice defender’s arms in the end zone. Another true freshman, highly touted Malcolm Brown, led Texas with 87 yards on 16 carries, triggering cheers from Texas fans every time he touched the ball.

“[Harris] had the option to keep it or throw it,” Shipley said. “I’m glad he threw it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.”

Garrett Gilbert, who spent most of a tumultuous offseason wondering whether he would even be the starting quarterback, wasn’t on the field for the Longhorns’ first passing touchdown of the season but made his presence felt. The junior from Lake Travis hit sophomore Mike Davis for 55 and 56-yard passes, doubling the number of completions over 50 yards he had last season. Gilbert, who threw a touchdown and no interceptions, was met with boos from time to time but did his part to help Texas win, going 13-for-23 and 239 yards.

“We’re 1-0 and that’s all that matters,” Gilbert said. “When you win, that’s always fun.”

On the other side of the ball, the Longhorns defense was solid, holding the Owls to just nine points and 224 yards. Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s bunch found themselves struggling to stop the run at times but did more than enough to make up for it. Sophomore defensive back Adrian Phillips fell on a muffed punt late in the first quarter to set up a one-yard plunge into the end zone by senior Cody Johnson, the Longhorns’ first touchdown of the year. Fellow senior running back, Fozzy Whittaker, found the end zone twice, once after a seven-yard run on a direct snap and again in the fourth quarter on a 26-yard swing pass from Gilbert.