Rice makes statement, beats Kansas on the road
Owls positioning themselves for a bowl game
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 04:09
After finally getting the Big 12 monkey off their backs against the University of Kansas, the Rice Owls look to take some momentum with them down to Ruston, La. The Owls – who have been defeated against Big 12 teams since the formation of the conference – played up to their potential this past game, coming up with big plays in the clutch.
This weekend, the Owls battle the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs (1-0), who will enter Conference USA next season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs, coming off of a WAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl, have high expectations for this season.
The Bulldogs had to cancel their season opener against Texas A&M University, a neutral site game in Shreveport, La., due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac. They then opened their season last weekend against the University of Houston Cougars, traveling to Houston and beating the Cougars in a 56-49 shootout. Even coming off a big victory, the Bulldogs know that Rice will be a difficult opponent.
“They will be much more confident, probably, than we would like for them to be after going on the road and beating a Big 12 team and playing the way they did against UCLA,” Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes said this past Monday. “They will come into this place and have a ton of confidence. It is going to be up to us to play well, and if we have a chance to close things out, we have to get better at doing that.”
The previous week against Kansas looked a lot like the Owls’ first win of the previous season against Purdue University. After junior Chris Boswell’s field goal and three straight turnovers, the Owls seemed like they were going to struggle during the game, giving up 10 points to the Jayhawks in a matter of minutes.
A long drive to start the second quarter put the Owls within striking distance again, leaving the score at 17-13 headed into the half.
In the winding minutes of the fourth quarter, down 24-16, junior quarterback Taylor McHargue faced a must-score drive. He led the team down the field on a seven-play, 93-yard drive bringing the Owls within two. They missed the extra point, leaving Kansas with the ball with a little under five minutes left.
An interception by sophomore defensive back Bryce Callahan, his second of the game, earned the Owls the ball back with a little over three minutes left.
“To know we have a kicker like Chris Boswell, we knew we just needed to get to that 40-yard line.” Head Coach David Bailiff said. “We thought if we could get to the 40 without the wind, we would be good. We knew if we could get to the 40 with the wind, he is pretty automatic from that range. So we felt good when we got the ball to the 40. We were trying to just get extra yards and burn clock.”
The Owls did just that, setting Boswell up with a 45-yard field goal. Despite being iced by the Kansas coaches twice, Boswell nailed the field goal and gave the Owls the win. It was their first road victory since a win in against the University of North Texas in 2010.
“You feel really good about the progress. You’re excited, and then you put that Louisiana Tech video on,” Bailiff said. “They look so similar to U of H a year ago. Their quarterback, Cameron, just runs that offense so efficiently. You know they’ve got a massive offensive line. They run the ball for over 200 yards. I mean it was a great offensive performance. They’re a good, good football team.”
The previous week against Houston, Louisiana Tech totaled 598 yards on 93 plays, including over 200 yards from their two freshman running backs. Their defense struggled to contain Houston, but it will be hard for the Owls’ offense to outscore the Bulldogs in a pure shootout.
The Owls’ defense will have to continue to develop, but the younger players have really solidified the backfield, giving the Owls big play potential. Junior Cameron Nwosu, who had seven tackles against Kansas, is continuing to shut down the running game up the middle.
On the offensive side of the ball, turnovers remained a problem against Kansas, but it was hard not to feel good about the Owls in the closing minutes. Despite throwing an interception, McHargue still had 236 passing yards, in addition to 37 yards on the ground. Junior Charles Ross and senior Turner Petersen both had a pair of touchdowns, with Ross having an impressive 6.7 yards per touch.
Special teams continued to be the Owls’ strength, capped off by Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week Boswell. Anytime the Owls can get big plays out of this unit it will greatly improve their chances of wnning games.
If the Owls can win this week against the Bulldogs, the 2-1 start will be impressive for the team heading into a weaker C-USA than it saw last season. With the only remaining (and very winnable) non-conference game against University of Texas at El Paso, the Owls can put themselves in the best position for a bowl game in years.