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Monday, April 15, 2024 — Houston, TX

Owls horned down by Texas, lose 37-10 in season opener


Kathleen Ortiz / Thresher

JT Daniels prepares to throw a pass. In his Rice debut, Daniels threw for 149 yards, ran for -6 yards and passed for a touchdown.

By Kathleen Ortiz     9/5/23 11:46pm

Rice football led the University of Texas Longhorns for exactly 2 minutes and 40 seconds on Saturday when the teams met for the 97th time. Being ahead may have been unfamiliar, but the final result was not — Rice lost to Texas again, this time by a score of 37-10, for the Owls’ 75th loss against the Longhorns.

While Rice’s 3-0 start, courtesy of a 43-yard field goal from redshirt junior Tim Horn, did not last long, coach Mike Bloomgren praised the defense’s ability to force a turnover on downs to end Texas’ first offensive drive of the game. 

“That was a very fun time in the game, but it’s also what I think we were capable of for the entirety of the game and, again, that’s what we’ve got to work towards,” Bloomgren said of the first four minutes of play.

After a Texas touchdown in the first quarter ended Rice’s lead, the Rice defense held Texas to three field goals in the second quarter, giving Texas a 16-3 lead at the half. Redshirt junior linebacker Myron Morrison said the team was proud of their defensive performance in the first half. 

“We consider ourselves one of the best short-yardage defenses in the country, so no surprise to us,” Morrison said. “We just knew that was something we needed to continue doing, and I was proud of how we played through the first half with that. I think it was something we needed to play all four quarters with.”

However, the Owls were not able to hold onto that performance into the second half — the team allowed three Texas touchdowns without an offensive response in the third quarter. Morrison said he believes that part of the problem was the way the team started after halftime.

“I feel like we came out the third quarter flat,” Morrison said. “I’ll take some of that blame as well. I feel like that first drive in the third quarter on defense, there were certain mental errors, certain physical errors that were made on my end as well. I think we need to find a way to come out with the same energy we did first quarter in the third quarter.”

In the fourth quarter, however, Rice played well on both sides of the ball as the defense shut out the Longhorns, who brought in their backup quarterback, running back and wide receiver at the start of the quarter. Taking advantage of the last 15 minutes of play, the Owls scored a touchdown with 3:04 left on the clock after graduate transfer quarterback JT Daniels, who started his third career game against Texas on Saturday, connected with wide receiver Luke McCaffrey for the sole Rice touchdown. 

“You play against Texas, and whether it’s the ones, twos, threes or anybody, it’s a really good team, a really good roster,” Daniels, who threw for 149 yards, ran for -6 yards and passed for a touchdown, said. “They have a lot of depth across the board. I think we got good game reps. Definitely a lot of things that we’ll learn and get better at, but I’m very proud with how offensively we responded and finished.”

The Owls’ next chance to make these changes and improve comes Saturday, Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. against the University of Houston. The “Bayou Bucket Classic,” which will be broadcasted on NFL Network, will be Rice’s first home game this season. Last year, Rice and Houston were tied at 27 until Houston scored the winning touchdown with 3:34 left in the game. The Owls hope to beat Houston for the first time since 2010.

“This team is well aware of the fact that the best teams always grow the most from Week 1 to Week 2,” Bloomgren said. “We know we’ve got an unbelievable opponent coming into our house next week, so we’re going to be motivated. We’re going to be fine to get the work in. The improvement is what has to come.”

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