In its first game this season against a Power Five-conference opponent, Rice’s football team struggled to get into the game, losing to Wake Forest University 56-24. The Owls came into the contest having lost their last three games, most recently against conference rival University of Southern Mississippi. The game against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, North Carolina was the third road matchup in a row for Rice.
The Owls began the game with a quick defensive stop, but it all went downhill from that point. After a three-and-out from the Rice offense on the ensuing possession, the Demon Deacons scored a touchdown on five consecutive offensive possessions and added a sixth touchdown on a fumble recovery.
In the midst of all of Wake Forest’s scoring drives, Rice was able to muster only one field goal. The score at half time was 42-3. In the first quarter, the Owls gained only 21 total yards and converted only one first down. Head coach Mike Bloomgren said he could not find anything in particular that led to the Owls’ slow start.
“We didn’t perform,” Bloomgren said. “And again, we can keep looking at it and we have to keep evaluating everything when the game starts off that way. But there’s nothing I can point to right now.”
From a production standpoint, Wake Forest’s star receiver Greg Dortch torched Rice’s defense throughout the matchup. Dortch finished the game with 163 receiving yards and four touchdowns, three of which came in the first half. According to junior defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia, Rice’s secondary was not to blame for Dortch’s success.
“Anytime a player can come out and do something like that, that’s an amazing feat,” Abercrumbia said. “You can’t look at our safety zone or corners first. You have to look at the defensive line. You have to look at us and ask what can we do to get to the quarterback to affect the decision maker so that he can’t just throw it up and let one of the best playmakers go up there and make plays.”
In the second half, Rice actually outscored the Demon Deacons 21-14, albeit with the Wake Forest starters sitting from around the middle of the third quarter until the end of the game. The Owls outgained their opponents by more than 100 yards after the break.
Much of the offensive production for the Owls came from senior running back Austin Walter. Walter accrued a career-high 165 rushing yards and 266 all-purpose yards. He totaled two touchdowns in the game — one rushing and one receiving.
Although Bloomgren said he was disappointed with the result, he said he took some positives from the game.
“Obviously you never want [the] scoreboard to look like it does right now,” Bloomgren said. “The thing that I would say that I’m proudest of is that I challenged our kids at halftime to play for each other to fight and continue to fight. And I think they did that.”
With the loss, the Owls move to 1-4 on the season. Rice returns home for its next game to face the University of Texas, San Antonio. According to Bloomgren, the Owls will continue to approach their matchups with a positive mindset.
“There’s a lot of work to do right now,” Bloomgren said. “We’ve got a really good plan for what we can do with these guys this week. We learned a lot about some young players that I can’t wait to watch the film and see exactly how they performed, but we’ll be excited to come back home next week.”