After one of the longest weeks in recent memory, in which the team was shellacked in South Bend, leading to Charlie Strong to demote play-caller Shawn Watson and Mack Brown washing his hands of the mess he left behind, it was safe to say Texas needed this. Jerrod Heard and a bunch of freshman led the Longhorns to a 42-28 win over Rice, in what felt like a ceremonial turning of the page from whatever the past six years have been to whatever the next few years could become.
Heard, a redshirt freshman and a two-time state champion from Denton, Texas, earned the first start of his career and made an immediate impact, accounting for 78 yards (40 passing, 38 rushing) on an 80-yard opening touchdown drive. Heard and an explosive punt return unit (141 yards between returns by Daje Johnson and Duke Thomas) pushed Texas to a 21-0 lead after one quarter.
It was the third quarter, however, that showed the promise of what Texas football could become. Heard opened the frame by hitting true freshman John Burt for a 69-yard touchdown, the team’s first third quarter touchdown in 13 games. The Longhorns pushed the lead to 35-14 when true freshman Kris Boyd forced a Driphus Jackson fumble and true freshman Malik Jefferson picked it up and raced 26 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore D’Onta Foreman closed the quarter with a two-yard touchdown plunge.
In all, Heard finished the game by completing 4-of-7 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns and rushing 10 times for a team-high 96 yards.
In showing its promise, Texas also revealed its limitations on Saturday night. While the Longhorns won the odd-numbered quarters 42-0, they lost the evens 28-0. Rice consistently exploited a soft underbelly in the Longhorns’ defense, rushing 58 times for 228 yards and converting 13 of their 17 third downs. Those stats allowed Rice massive advantages in first downs (30-11), total plays (96-38), total yards (462-277) and time of possession (44:02 to 15:58). If not for Texas’s explosive plays in the passing and kicking games and a 5-1 turnover edge, Rice could easily have won this game.
Texas (1-1) moves to 41-1 since 1966 against Rice; the ‘Horns have now marked a full 50 years since last falling to the Owls in Austin. The Longhorns will host California next week in a critical game for Strong and company. Rice (1-1) visits North Texas next week.
Week 5 means it’s time for Arkansas and Texas A&M’s trek to the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex for their annual conference game at AT&T Stadium but the days of the old SWC-turned-SEC West rivals meeting in the area might be on the way out.
While a number of fans on both sides have clamored for a return to campus sites for the yearly division meeting, it seems they have picked up a key ally in new athletic director Ross Bjork, who gave some pretty strong indications to the Dallas Morning News that the series is unlikely to continue after the contract runs out after 2024.
“Here’s how I should view it: we should have every SEC home game on our campus from here on out,” Bjork said. “How we do that after the contract is over is still yet to be determined. I think we should have four SEC home games every single year on our campus.”
Bjork said he has spoken about the series with his counterpart at Arkansas, who has even more of a juggling act to do given that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (a former player and prominent booster) enjoys hosting his old team at his palace of a stadium. Still, the Razorbacks have to be interested in a return to campus in at least some form given that they also play a number of games in Little Rock and have just two SEC games in Fayetteville some years — including in 2019.
We’ll see what ultimately becomes of the Arkansas-Texas A&M dance in Dallas but the comments out of College Station right now certainly put it on a path to ending in the near future.
There’s giving back as a former player and then there’s giving back to your old program.
The latter was certainly the case for Syracuse this weekend as the school announced a record $25 million gift from former offensive guard John Lally during their game against Western Michigan at the Carrier Dome.
“For Syracuse University Athletics to become even more competitive in both the ACC and on the national stage, the program needs to have first-class facilities, operations and support,” Lally said in a statement. “Laura and I are committed to Syracuse University Athletics, and in particular positioning the university to attract, recruit and retain high-performing student-athletes who succeed on and off the field, inside and outside the classroom and in their communities.”
Lally made his money as the owner and president of PCB Piezotronics Inc., a company he founded after playing offensive guard for the Orange from 1977 to 1981.
While the extra large gift didn’t have any specifics attached to it, the size certainly points to at least some minor facilities upgrades. According to Syracuse.com, Lally already donated nearly $1 million for renovations to the Carrier Dome prior to writing an even bigger check on Saturday in the middle of the Orange’s victory over the Broncos.
It’s not uncommon but for players, especially those in the NFL, to pony up for a new locker room or weight room at their old program but the size of Lally’s generosity is certainly notable in a very welcome gift for Syracuse.
There were some absolute bonkers endings in the Pac-12 this weekend, from the #Pac12AfterDark special that was UCLA’s comeback against Washington State, to Colorado stunning Arizona State to California remaining the league’s only undefeated team thanks to a goal line stand against Ole Miss.
While the Golden Bears escaped Oxford with a 28-20 win, the victory was not without controversy — something Rebels officials want answers on.
For those who didn’t catch the action, Ole Miss was down eight in the final minute. After a big pass play got the team into the red zone, the Rebels faced 3rd-and-goal from the three yard line with just 17 seconds left. QB John Rhys Plumlee rolled out and quickly threw it to Elijah Moore right at the goal line.
Officials, who were from the Pac-12, ruled Moore short of the end zone however and marked him down inside the one yard line. The home team had no timeouts left and scrambled to get a QB sneak in, which was stuffed by Bears linebacker Evan Weaver.
Ole Miss interim athletic director Keith Carter took to Twitter to express his frustration over Moore’s catch not being reviewed (which would have stopped the clock) as to whether he broke the plane or not, not holding back at all at the Pac-12 officials involved.
The conference has already acknowledged an error their crew made in Arizona State’s victory over Michigan State last week, where Pac-12 refs missed a call that would have allowed the Spartans to get a first down on a missed field goal. Something could be released on Sunday afternoon but that’s unlikely to appease the Rebels, who now sit at 2-2 on the year and face the always brutal SEC slate over the coming months.
All of which Pac-12 fans probably shrug their shoulders over and say get in line Ole Miss given the mistakes the league’s officials make on a weekly basis out West.
AP Poll voters shook up their ballots quite a bit after a fairly wild Week 4 of action in college football.
Among the biggest risers are No. 15 Cal, which celebrated a controversial victory at Ole Miss on Saturday to become the Pac-12’s only unbeaten and now the conference’s second-highest ranked squad after No. 13 Oregon. The folks out West had a number of movers and shakers when all was said and done, with previously ranked Arizona State and Washington State dropping out after losses and No. 21 USC returning to the top 25 after beating a Utah squad now ranked No. 19 on Friday night.
One of the big drops came at the hands of new No. 22 UCF, which had been sitting in the top 15 prior to losing at Pitt on Saturday in a wild one from Heinz Field. That left new No. 16 Boise State as the highest ranked Group of Five team. Michigan State also returned to the rankings at No. 25 while Kansas State is now ranked in both the AP and Coaches Polls after an idle week. No. 23 Texas A&M hung on to a number in front of their name after a second loss to a top 10 team while Michigan dropped nine spot and sat at No. 20 after being destroyed by Wisconsin.
In the top 10, Notre Dame stuck around after their close loss to Georgia, the Badgers moved to No. 8 and Oklahoma and Ohio State flipped spots in the 5/6 range after the Sooners were off and the Buckeyes scored 76 unanswered against Miami (OH).
Here’s the full AP Poll heading into Week 5:
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- Penn State
- Boise State
- Texas A&M
- Kansas State
- Michigan State