After sacrificing 320 yards and four touchdowns from Louisiana Tech University redshirt senior quarterback Jeff Driskel, the Rice University football team fell to Louisiana Tech 42-17. The loss dropped the Owls to 4-4 (2-2) on the season.
In a game that had major implications in the Conference USA West Division, the Bulldogs struck first on their opening drive, with junior wide receiver Trent Taylor catching a 47-yard touchdown pass from Driskel on third down. While the Owls tied the game on their ensuing drive with a four-yard touchdown run from redshirt freshman Samuel Stewart, the Bulldogs went up 14-7 when Driskel connected with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Carlos Henderson from 14 yards away from the end zone.
The teams traded punts until midway through the second quarter, at which point the Bulldogs went on a drive that would be the turning point of the game. Louisiana Tech marched down the field to the Owls one-yard line with an opportunity to take a two-possession lead in the game. After the Owls stuffed senior running back Kenneth Dixon on consecutive plays, they forced an incompletion on third and goal, appearing to come up with a huge third down stop that would keep the game close.
Redshirt freshman safety J.T. Ibe was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the play — his second personal foul penalty of the drive — giving Louisiana Tech another chance to put the ball on the end zone. Dixon took advantage with a two-yard touchdown run, and the Bulldogs never looked back: The rushing score initiated a string of 28 unanswered points that would put the game out of reach.
Rice Head Coach David Bailiff said he was upset with Ibe’s penalties, as well as several others by other players at key points in the game.
“Those are selfish penalties, and we’re not going to have a selfish football team,” Bailiff said. “We start every year talking about how we’re going to be the hardest, smartest working football team in Conference USA; that’s not smart football, it’s got nothing to do with hard work.”
According to Bailiff, his team’s inability to sustain momentum was a key reason for the defeat.
“After that first half, we got into the locker room and they had three big plays and that was the difference in that half,” Bailiff said. “We thought we could run the ball by throwing the ball around a little bit, but a lot of the woes offensively were where we could move the chains and we’d have a drop or have a stupid penalty, and you can’t do that playing a good football team.”
Redshirt senior quarterback Driphus Jackson acknowledged Louisiana Tech’s prowess as a team, but said the loss came from the Owls’ inability to execute.
“They were a fast, physical team, but this is one of those games that I thought we lost it more than they actually won it,” Jackson said. “I’m not saying that to take away anything that went on in the game, but I think that [Quarterbacks] Coach [Larry] Edmondson called a great game. Offensively we didn’t execute at all.”
In all likelihood, the loss to Louisiana Tech has made the Owls’ chances of winning the Conference USA West Division — and thereby earning a trip to the Conference USA title game— extremely slim. The loss dropped the Owls to 2-2 in Conference USA play, while the Bulldogs and the University of Southern Mississippi are tied atop the division with a 4-1 record.
According to redshirt senior defensive tackle Stuart Mouchantaf, the team can draw on their recent season for belief that they can pull off the feat.
“A few years ago we were in this position; we had to win six straight, and we did it,” Mouchantaf said. “We just need to remind the young ones that we can do this and we can keep it alive, but we have to believe and we have to work.”