HOUSTON — Mack Brown insisted this offseason that with Colt McCoy gone, No. 5 Texas would re-establish a running game that had gone stale as the Longhorns leaned on their star quarterback in recent years.
At least for the first game of the post-Colt era, the Longhorns' coach showed he was serious.
Tre' Newton ran for three touchdowns and Texas ran twice as much as it passed in Garrett Gilbert's first game as starting quarterback, a 34-17 victory against Rice on Saturday.
Gilbert, who threw four interceptions filling in for McCoy in the loss to Alabama in the BCS title game, didn't turn the ball over in this one. Still, his day didn't go as smoothly as Longhorns fans had hoped.
He finished 14-of-23 for 172 yards. Texas ran 46 times for 197 yards.
Texas was stopped on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard-line on its first drive and settled for a 51-yard field goal on the second. Gilbert bounced a few passes but showed pinpoint accuracy on others, including a 47-yard throw to Malcolm Williams in the third quarter.
Brown got a bit snippy when asked if he'd rather run than pass though.
"I am at a point where I would rather win," he said. "I don't care. I really don't. I liked Colt McCoy completing 80 percent of his passes. Some people didn't. It really bothered them. (They) got emotional, got counseling. I liked it. I liked Garrett completing a bunch of passes tonight."
Texas finally got going on its first full drive of the second quarter taking a 10-3 lead on a 1-yard touchdown run by Newton. He ran up the middle and just out of reach of the outstretched arms of two Rice defenders for that score.
That drive was fueled by a 22-yard catch and run by Marquise Goodwin, a play where the Longhorns finally seemed to find a rhythm. The Longhorns gained just 53 yards in the first quarter but piled up 69 on their first touchdown drive.
"I think there is a lot of things we need to work on, but it is something we can build upon," Gilbert said.
The defense got involved after Newton's first score with Sam Acho sacking Rice freshman Taylor McHargue and causing a fumble. Keenan Robinson scooped it up and returned it for a 10-yard touchdown, and Texas had turned a 3-3 tie into a 17-3 lead in less than two minutes.
"There will be an upset today when we start looking at scores from other games across the country, and that scares you to death," Brown said. "You're excited to win the opener, and I told the players they ought to be real proud to be 1-0, but there are a lot of things that we can work on."
Newton also had a 2-yard score in the second quarter and a second 1-yard TD in the third.