AUSTIN, TEXAS (AP) - Garrett Gilbert has hardly played since high school and in his only meaningful college game, he threw four interceptions as Texas lost the national championship to Alabama.
When Gilbert takes the field Saturday to lead No. 5 Texas against Rice, he will be replacing a quarterback who won an NCAA-record 45 games as a starter. And he’ll do it with the full faith and confidence of Longhorns coaches and fans who believe he’s the guy to keep them chasing national titles.
Chalk it up to his NFL family pedigree, a standout high school career and maybe that two-touchdown performance in the second half against the Crimson Tide back in January.
“(It) probably has given him a pass here, until he plays as a starter,” coach Mack Brown said. “We all forget he’s starting his first game on Saturday.”
“Win,” Brown said. “That’s all that matters.
“We can get into all those stats and all those other things but if you win the game, then you can move on to game two and that’s it. If you lose the game, then you take a huge step back, then you’re all over the place, starting over and trying to find out what is wrong.”
The son of former NFL quarterback Gale Gilbert won two Texas state championships at nearby Lake Travis High School. He was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the country when Texas signed him in 2009, fully expecting he would take over for McCoy this season.
Gilbert got the role with minimal competition, a testament to his talent _ and the program’s lack of depth at the position.
From 2000-2006, Chris Simms, Vince Young and Colt McCoy all had to beat out others for their jobs. Simms battled Major Applewhite. Young at first rode the bench behind Chance Mock. McCoy had to fend of Jevan Snead, who eventually transferred to Mississippi.
The competition for playing time sharpened their skills while simultaneously creating vigorous _ and sometimes nasty _ debate among fans. Gilbert hasn’t had to go through any of that.
As a freshman, he quickly rose to No. 2 over junior Sherrod Harris, who had shown no signs he could some day be the starter. Gilbert’s playing time was minimal until he was tossed into the fire of the BCS championship game.
The first half was nearly a disaster and Gilbert’s second interception was returned for a touchdown. The second half looked much better.
Gilbert got more confident with every play. His passes were sharper, he made better decisions and Texas rallied to within 24-21 before two late Alabama touchdowns put the game away.