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.