For a guy who was supposed to be hurt, freshman fullback Ricky Williams played pretty well in Texas' 37-13 victory over Rice Saturday.
Williams, who twisted his left knee against Notre Dame Sept. 23, gained 56 yards on 10 carries but had two fourth-quarter touchdowns that put the Owls away.
"I felt a lot better than I thought I would," Williams explained.
Williams not only felt good, he looked good, especially during the final quarter, when he rushed for 38 yards.
The first of his short touchdown runs, a 1-yarder, put Texas safely ahead 27-13 with 12:29 to play. On that scoring drive, Williams carried the ball four straight times: 15 yards, 9 yards, 8 yards, then the 1-yard touchdown.
"I was waiting for that the whole game," Williams said of his number being called by Texas coach John Mackovic.
Williams' two scores Saturday gave him five rushing touchdowns for the year. The Texas freshman record is eight, set in 1990 by Butch Hadnot.
"Ricky's a powerful runner and he feels the goal line, and when you get him the ball down inside the 25-yard line he really can run with it," Mackovic said.
Williams' second touchdown of the fourth quarter put Texas up 34-13 with 8:49 left. The score capped a six-play, 39-yard drive and put an exclamation point on the Horns' second conference victory of the season.
It turned out to be a good day for Williams, considering he was a question mark coming into the weekend. Mackovic was unsure how much of a contribution Williams could give the team early last week. In fact, Williams wore a yellow jersey in practice Wednesday, warning the defense that he wasn't to be hit.
Williams initially injured the knee against Notre Dame and has been tender since.
"[Williams] knew we needed him today so he stepped up to the occasion," offensive guard Dan Neil said.
Williams stepped up his play in the second half as did the rest of the Longhorn offense. Although the Horns scored on their first three possessions of the game, they stalled in the second quarter.
"We added a couple of wrinkles to the running game for this game," Mackovic said. "We didn't get those cleared up until halftime and in the second half we came back and really had some good inside runs against them."
Texas scored four (three touchdowns and a field goal) of the last five times it had the football Saturday. In the first half, the offense generated only 147 yards, but the second-half performance improved that mark to 348 by the end of the game.
"In the second half, we clearly asserted ourselves and took control of the football game," Mackovic said.
Rice head coach Ken Hatfield, now 2-1 against Mackovic, was not surprised by the style of offensive play used by Texas.
"We knew they were going to come out and try to run the football down our throats," Hatfield said. "We thought our kids did a heck of a job fighting in the trenches and not letting that happen early."
The Longhorns ran the ball 39 times and threw 26 passes against Rice. After seeing the final play distribution, Mackovic said that he would have liked more pass plays.
He said more running plays were used to keep Rice's time-consuming ball-control offense on the sidelines.
* Wideout Mike Adams missed breaking Tony Jones' record of seven career 100-yard receiving games by just one yard. Adams caught seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. For the game, Adams accounted for 158 all-purpose yards, with 50 yards on two punt returns and a 9-yard end-around play. Adams averages 135.6 all-purpose yards in 1995.
* Texas had no turnovers for the first time this season.
* Pat Fitzgerald made his fifth touchdown reception this season, breaking the school record for tight ends.
* The Longhorns are averaging 35 points a game this season.
* James Brown threw a touchdown pass in his seventh straight game to break Shea Morenz's Texas record, set last season.
Having allowed 253 total yards and finding itself tied with the Rice Owls 13-13 after one half, No. 20 Texas realized it was letting one slip away -- literally.
"Our first half was garbage," Texas linebacker Robert Reed said. "We just couldn't live with that. We chewed each other up at halftime and came out fired up. We were around the ball but we just couldn't make the tackles. It was disgusting."
In the second half, however, the Longhorns' defense did figure out how to make a tackle. And the Texas offense scored 24 unanswered points to help the Horns pull away from the Owls 37-13 Saturday before 66,184 fans at Memorial Stadium.
Texas (4-1, 2-0 in Southwest Conference) is now ranked 18th in the Associated Press Top 25 football poll and moved up to No. 13 in the USA Today/CNN football poll.
The Longhorns, who return to the Cotton Bowl for the second time in three weekends this Saturday when they face No. 13 Oklahoma, are a half game ahead of Baylor for the conference lead.
"The good thing about football is that they schedule two halves," Texas coach John Mackovic said. "Thank goodness for that."
"We missed so many tackles and gave [Rice] so many opportunities. Offensively, we were sharp in the second half. We moved down the field and had very few miscues."
The Horns went 80 yards and took the lead for good when quarterback James Brown (13-of-25, 211 yards, O INTs) threw his second touchdown pass of the afternoon at the 8:08 mark of the third.
On fourth-and-1, Brown faked a handoff to running back Wane McGarity who went flying over the top. The sophomore QB then rolled out and dumped a 19-yard pass to tight end Pat Fitzgerald in the right corner of the end zone, giving Texas a 20-13 advantage.
On Texas' next two possessions, fullback Ricky Williams accounted for 14 points thanks to touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards, with the second one coming with 8:48 left in the game. Texas led 34-13 at that point and Horns kicker Phil Dawson finished the scoring with a 43-yard field goal with 1:39 to play. Dawson also hit field goals from 36 and 33 yards out.
"We just did a better job in the second half of opening up the holes and having the backs hit them," Texas offensive guard Dan Neil said. "We got a few big runs and we just sparked. The running game picked up and that opened up the entire offense."
Williams led a committee of running backs with 56 of Texas' 125 yards rushing.
Said Rice linebacker Larry Izzo: "It was two different halves we played today. They came back in the second half and kicked our butts. They just ran it straight at us in the second half."
When Brown wasn't handing off to a Texas runner, he was throwing to his favorite target, flanker Mike Adams. Adams had seven receptions for 99 yards, including a diving 6-yard catch in the left side of the end zone that put the Horns up 13-3 with 11:58 left in the second quarter.
A roughing the kicker penalty on a 51-yard field-goal attempt from Dawson earlier in that drive gave Adams the chance to make the TD grab.
The Owls (1-3-1, 0-1 in SWC) closed the gap to 13-10 on a bizarre fourth-and-goal play from the Texas 2. Keilone Gordon fumbled an option pitch from Rice quarterback Josh LaRocca and Mike Gingrich picked up the ball near the 10-yard line. Although he looked as if he were going to be tackled for a loss, Gingrich somehow broke a tackle and dived into the end zone for the score at the 6:16 mark of the second.
"We needed 11 people swarming to the football," said Texas defensive lineman Stonie Clark. "That really showed our lack of aggressiveness at that time of the game."
And if that play wasn't indicative of how things were going for Texas, the one before the end of the first half was. Freshman Michael Perry, a reserve defensive back and return specialist who switched to running back three days before the game, broke through the line of scrimmage, broke a tackle and into the area vacated by safety Tre Thomas, who had lined up on the wrong side of the field.
Perry then raced 60 yards down the field from Rice's 11 all the way to the Texas 29 before cornerback Taje Allen saved a touchdown.
The play set up a 25-yard field goal from Owls kicker Mike Ruff with only 3 seconds left in the first half that tied the game at 13-13 -- and brought down a chorus of boos from the stadium crowd.
In his first career start, Perry finished with 123 yards on 11 carries and led a Rice offensive attack that amassed 428 yards -- 275 on the ground. Texas totaled 348 yards of offense.
"It was pretty fun out there today," Perry said. "I was pretty nervous and had to settle down. ... I started to get more comfortable as the game went on, but there were still some things I had to ask Josh [LaRocca] about."
Although the defense shut out the Owls in the second half, many of the Texas players were disappointed with their performance.
"We played bad ball in the first half," Clark said. "It was probably the worst half of football that we've ever played. Hopefully myself and my teammates can go out and get things cranked up [next week]."
Rice 3 10 0 0 -- 13 Texas 6 7 7 17 -- 37 Tex--FG Dawson 36 Ric--FG Ruff 24 Tex--FG Dawson 33 Tex--Adams 6 pass from Brown (Dawson kick) Ric--Gingrich 2 run (Ruff kick) Ric--FG Ruff 25 Tex--Fitzgerald 19 pass from Brown (Dawson kick) Tex--Williams 1 run (Dawson kick) Tex--Williams 2 run (Dawson kick) Tex--FG Dawson 43 A--66,184. Rice Texas First downs 22 20 Rushes-yards 52-275 39-125 Passing 153 223 Return Yards 0 0 Comp-Att-Int 13-23-0 14-26-0 Punts 4-46 3-45 Fumbles-Lost 4-2 3-0 Penalties-Yards 9-68 1-9 Time of Possession 32:02 27:58 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING Rice - Perry 11-123, Nelson 5-46, LaRocca 15-42, Whitlock 7-22, Newhouse 2-17, George 4-9, Gordon 2-7, Gingrich 4-6, Godfrey 2-3. Texas - Williams 10-56, Mitchell 14-38, McGarity 5-23, Clayton 4-20, Adams 1-9, Walton 1-(minus 9), Brown 4-(minus 12). PASSING Rice - LaRocca 13-22-0-153, Nelson 0-1-0-0. Texas - Brown 13-25-0-211, Walton 1-1-0-12. RECEIVING Rice - Bridges 2-45, Venhaus 2-28, Wilmington 2-24, Whitlock 2-16, George 2-11, Newhouse 1-12, Askew 1-10, Perry 1-7. Texas - Adams 7-99, Fitzgerald 3-60, McGarity 1-22, Wallace 1-19, Scarborough 1-12, Williams 1-11.