Commentary

Texas' potential shown on long drive

The 99-yard drive featured a big play and a mix of strong runs

Updated: September 6, 2011, 11:43 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

[+] EnlargeFozzy Whittaker
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesFozzy Whittaker's touchdown run capped Texas' 99-yard scoring drive against Rice.
It all started with a look.

Blaine Irby to Tray Allen to Dominic Espinosa to Garrett Gilbert - 11 faces in all, huddled together, with 101,000 strong watching their every move. After sharing that look, they decided this was when they would show everybody what Texas stood for.

Eight plays, 99 yards and 3:33 later, the Longhorns were in the Rice end zone.

"A statement drive," said Allen, who was at left tackle. "It's a big statement that we are restoring ourselves back to Texas."

"We started that and we were just looking at each other and I don't think there was any doubt in our eyes," said Irby, the H-back. "We knew we could do it."

Texas hadn't gone 99 yards since 2009, when Colt McCoy led a march against Central Florida, and most of the yardage came on an 88-yard pass from McCoy to Jordan Shipley.

Saturday night's drive had a big pass play as well -- 55 yards from Garrett Gilbert to Mike Davis. But what it also featured was a quarterback maturing into his role, a line growing together and seven handoffs coming from all angles.

For Gilbert it started with a startlingly simple yet extremely intelligent decision. Stacked on the 1, Gilbert changed his cadence and drew Rice offside.

"When you are on your own 1-yard line you can't move back very far, so offsides can't hurt you that much, but it can gain you five yards," Gilbert said. "That was big for us to give us a little breathing room."

Texas had the stadium holding its collective breath on the next play as Davis ran under Gilbert's throw for the second 50-yard-plus pass play of the night.

"I just thank the offensive line for giving Garrett time to throw the ball and I thank Garrett for just throwing it up there," Davis said.

That pass may have drawn the applause but it was what happened next that earned the offense praise. Six different players -- Gilbert, Malcolm Brown, Joe Bergeron, Jaxon Shipley, D.J. Monroe and Fozzy Whittaker -- rushed the ball on six consecutive plays to chew up 36 yards. Whittaker capped the drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.

"It was really good just to go force it down with running," guard David Snow said. "This is kind of a new era. We are going to run the ball."

[+] EnlargeD.J. Monroe
Erich Schlegel/Getty ImagesSix different Longhorns, including D.J. Monroe, carried the ball in the scoring drive that ate 3:33 off the clock.
Then they turned around and did it again. This time Texas went 94 yards in 11 plays. To put that in perspective, the longest touchdown drive of the 2010 season was 82 yards.

"Knowing that we can have those long drives is going to be big for us," Gilbert said. "On the first one we had a 50-yard completion. On the second one it was pretty methodical.

"So that is something, as an offense, that can give you confidence."

The second drive had seven runs by Malcolm Brown for 49 yards. There was one rush by Shipley for 10 yards. Gilbert hit two passes, including a 26-yard screen to Whittaker for the touchdown.

"That is what we have to do from beginning to end," Allen said. "We've got to figure out what we need to do to start capping 99-yard drives from the first second of the game."

At least now Texas, which was had yet to prove what it was capable of, now has more than a few positive memories it can lean on when things are lean on offense.

"We will have the confidence now and know we can do it," Irby said. "That is pretty special."

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas sports and recruiting for HornsNation.

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