Texas-Rice Preview

Replacing Colt McCoy at Texas won’t be an easy task for Garrett
Gilbert. Luckily for the sophomore quarterback, he got a taste of
being in a high-pressure situation last season.

Gilbert and the fifth-ranked Longhorns begin life after McCoy
when they meet Rice at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in the season
opener for both teams on Saturday.

McCoy returned to Texas for his senior season in 2009 with hopes
of winning a national championship, and he led Texas to a 13-0
record and spot in the BCS title game against Alabama after
throwing for 3,512 yards and 27 touchdowns while completing 70.5
percent of his passes.

The Maxwell Award winner as the nation’s best all-around player
and winner of the Walter Camp player of the year award, McCoy also
was Texas’ second-leading rusher with 348 yards.

The Longhorns were confident heading into the title game against
the undefeated Crimson Tide, but McCoy hurt his shoulder on Texas’
first drive and was replaced by Gilbert.

After appearing in eight games as a freshman that season and
throwing 26 passes, Gilbert went 15 for 40 for 186 yards with two
TDs and four interceptions in a 37-21 loss.

“It leaves a bitter taste,” Gilbert said. “It was tough.”

Gilbert was one of the nation’s top high school recruits and
spent last season studying McCoy, who won an NCAA-record 45 games
as a starter before being drafted in the third round by Cleveland
in April.

“I still feel like I have a bit to prove,” Gilbert said. “I
haven’t won a game yet … I’m not Colt. I just have to be my own
player.”

Gilbert is the only Texas quarterback with any experience, and
he will be backed up by freshman Case McCoy – Colt’s younger
brother.

“I do think his presence in the national championship game gave
him instant credibility with the older kids,” coach Mack Brown
said.

Colt McCoy is not the only impact player gone from Texas. Only
four regular starters return on offense, with three multiyear
starters on the line no longer on the team.

Wide receiver Jordan Shipley, who led Texas with 116 receptions,
1,485 yards and 13 TDs last season, was selected in the third round
of the NFL draft by Cincinnati.

On defense, the secondary ranks among the best in the country
even after losing first-round draft choice Earl Thomas. The line is
talented but lacks experience.

The Longhorns signed one of the top recruiting classes in the
country in February.

“We’re going to throw (the freshmen) to the wolves and see what
they can do,” defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “Those
credentials aren’t going to help them play this year. We’re glad
they have them, but they’re not going to help you play at
Texas.”

David Bailiff’s Rice squad is a year older after matching
Louisiana Tech in 2009 with the youngest starting lineup in the
nation and finishing 2-10.

The Owls return nine starters each on offense and defense, and
they will also have running back Sam McGuffie available after he
sat out last season following his transfer from Michigan. McGuffie
ran for 486 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games for the
Wolverines in 2008.

Rice went 10-3 in 2008 and beat Western Michigan 38-14 in the
Texas Bowl.

“David Bailiff has done a great job at Rice,” Brown said. “…
Coach Bailiff has talked about how they loved their offense in ’08
when they won 10 games. We’re not sure what they’ll do. They’ve got
three quarterbacks and they’re not naming one now. … They also
have Sam McGuffie, the transfer from Michigan. We’re not sure what
we’ll see on offense.”

Texas is 69-21-1 against Rice and has outscored the Owls 448-139
in winning the last 10 meetings.