Keys to the Game vs. Rice

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Feed Johnathan Gray

Senior running back Johnathan Gray only had eight carries for 40 yards in Texas’ 38-3 loss to Notre Dame. That isn’t going to cut it.

It’s essential that Gray is a bigger part of the offense against Rice and through the rest of the season. There were plenty of short yardage situations against Notre Dame where Texas could’ve easily handed the ball to Gray to pick a yard or two, and perhaps the first down. Instead, the Longhorns usually dropped back to pass, and there was even one strange play where they ran a jet sweep with senior wide receiver Daje Johnson.

Head coach Charlie Strong said over the offseason that the team needed Gray to be the guy, but the only way that happens is if Texas gives him the opportunities.

More Heard

Strong announced Monday in his weekly press conference that the team is re-opening its quarterback race after junior Tyrone Swoopes completed 7 of 22 passes for 93 yards against Notre Dame.

Whether or not Swoopes starts, it’s time for redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard to get more snaps at quarterback. No one knows how much better Swoopes is going to get at quarterback, and he might have already reached his ceiling.  Essentially, this team is going no where with Swoopes.

There is at least an upside with Heard. Maybe he isn’t any better than Swoopes is. But, maybe he sparks a terrible Texas offense and re-energizes a team that looked so dejected Saturday.

Plus, Heard is probably a better fit for what Texas wants to do. The Longhorns have attempted to make the change to a spread offense, which failed against Notre Dame. Part of that was because the young offensive line couldn’t protect Swoopes, and he isn’t mobile enough to compensate. Heard is a scrambler and can mask the deficiencies of the offensive line. Right now, Heard needs a chance.

Defense needs to show up

Texas’ strength of last year was its defense under Strong and defensive coordinator Vance Bedford.

But after key players graduated and the Longhorns’ reliance on younger players, the defense struggled Saturday. Notre Dame accumulated 527 total yards of offense and junior quarterback Malik Zaire completed 19 of 22 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns.

Rice was an average offensive team in Conference USA last season. This is the perfect game for the Longhorns’ defense to regain their confidence and hopefully have a performance they can build off of.