Seeking to build off its first win of the season against Prairie View A&M University last week, Rice University instead was crushed on the road, falling 61-16 to Louisiana Tech University to bring its record to 1-7 on the season.
Rice took the ball to open the game and began a half where it was outgained 446 to 118. The Owls had eight offensive possessions in the half, which produced five punts, a fumble, an interception and a missed field goal. On the other hand, Louisiana Tech scored touchdowns on each of its first four offensive possessions and came away with points on seven of its first eight drives overall. The Bulldogs took a 41-0 lead into the half and allowed them to rest their starting quarterback, senior Ryan Higgins, for the entire second half. With the Bulldogs pulling some starters and easing up in the second half, the Owls ultimately put some points on the board. Needless to say, it was far too little, far too late.
For Rice, this game presented some unique circumstances as the team was ravaged by the flu in the week leading up to the game. In total, 27 players ended up missing the game due to illness while others played despite being sick. That said, this type of performance fell in line with what we have seen from the Owls throughout this year. The team found no offensive rhythm, failing to establish the run game or throw the ball down the field. Though they showed some signs of progress a week ago by scoring 65 points against an admittedly weak opponent, Rice was unable to sustain drives against the Bulldogs and scored only two touchdowns. Defensively, the Owls were decimated by the big play: Rice gave up four plays of 70 yards or more, allowing a whopping 735 yards in the game. Among Division I college football schools, the Owls now rank last in yards allowed per game (545), second-to-last in passing yards allowed per game (337) and eighth-to-last in points allowed per game (40).
At the postgame press conference, Bailiff said he blamed himself for the loss — something he has repeated numerous times this season.
I’ve got to do a better job [and] coaches have got to do a better job,” Bailiff said.[Louisiana Tech Head Coach] Skip Holtz had his team ready to go and he outcoached me.”
Rice athletic director Joe Karlgaard, however, said fans should be patient with both the team and Bailiff.
“I think the enthusiasm of our fans is going to be based on a sense of that there’s hope in the future,” Karlgaard said. “I think we need to have a sense of hope and optimism at the end of the year.”
The expectation this season was that, with the team not having lost many players from last season’s squad and teams like Louisiana Tech losing seven players to NFL rosters, this year represented an opportunity to make a leap forward and return to bowl contention. That has not come to fruition, as the team is being outscored by over two touchdowns per game. With many key seniors preparing for graduation — including linebackers Alex Lyons and Tabari McGaskey, quarterback Tyler Stehling, running back Jowan Davis and others —the Owls will have to replace much of their current roster next season.
As the team continues down the homestretch of their season, it will face off against Florida Atlantic University at home next week in a matchup of two teams seeking their first C-USA win of the season. In this duel of 1-7 teams, which ESPN has dubbed “The Pillow Fight of the Century,” both sides will be looking for some positive momentum to get a rare win.
Rice will take on the Florida Atlantic Owls at 2:30 p.m. on Sat. Nov. 5 at Rice Stadium.