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The Fifth Quarter: Rice, Big 12 a perfect match

(09/05/16 10:11pm)

In what has come as a shock to many, including myself, Rice finds itself as one of the final 11 universities under consideration for Big 12 expansion.The Big 12 Conference, which ironically has 10 teams, has expressed interest in expanding to 12 or 14 teams, and Rice could be one of the newest members of the conference.I have heard arguments as to why we should not join, and the concerns are legitimate: We do not have the fan support, we will have to deal with losing seasons, et cetera.

Football defeats Army on last-minute touchdown

(10/24/15 10:14am)

With just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, senior quarterback Driphus Jackson and the Rice offense drove down the field and scored a last-minute touchdown to break a 31-31 tie and defeat the United States Military Academy, 38-31.With the win, the Owls have improved their overall record to 4-3 and have now won four consecutive matchups against Army. Rice has also now won 14 of their last 16 games played at Rice Stadium.Playing in the pouring rain, Rice struck first on a 34 yard touchdown run from redshirt junior running back Darik Dillard just one minute and 22 seconds into the game. Rice also scored the second touchdown less than one minute later on a one yard run from redshirt freshman running back Samuel Stewart. The Owls hold onto the 14-0 lead through the first quarter.Army began to claw back in the second quarter, however, scoring 14 points to Rice’s 10 in the quarter. Army then scored the lone touchdown of the third quarter to bring the score to 24-21 Rice entering the final period.Although Jackson scored his first touchdown pass of the game early in the fourth quarter to redshirt sophomore former quarterback Nate German, Army went on to 10 unanswered points, including the game-tying field goal with 2:13 remaining in the game.Jackson, who finished the day 20-30 for 267 yards and two touchdowns, led the Owls on a seven-play, 75-yard game-winning drive in 1:49. With 24 seconds in the game left, Jackson found redshirt junior wide receiver Zach Wright in the back of the endzone for a 12 yard touchdown pass, which would seal Rice’s victory.Rice next plays Louisiana Tech University on Friday, Oct. 30 at Rice Stadium. Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Rice falls to Western Kentucky, 49-10

(10/03/15 4:12pm)

Rice lost to Western Kentucky by a score of 49-10 Saturday afternoon. The loss drops them to 2-3 on the season, and 1-1 in Conference USA play.After Rice opened up with a 3-0 lead, WKU senior quarterback Brandon Daughty led the Hilltoppers down the field, throwing four touchdowns over the next five drives and leading to 28 unanswered points for Western Kentucky. Daughty showed why he is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, ending the day going 28/38 for 409 yards and four TD.For Rice, Driphus Jackson struggled mightily. On Rice’s first six drives, Jackson went 5/10 for 87 yards with one interception and one fumble. These struggles led him to be benched in favor of redshirt junior Tyler Stehling early in the second quarter after Jackson’s interception. Stehling started the game strong, going 4/6 for 56 yards on his first drive, leading to a Luke Turner rushing touchdown. Stehling finished the game 11/19 with 150 yards and one interception.Samuel Stewart was a bright spot for the struggling Rice offense, averaging almost six yards per carry, rushing for 60 yards on 11 carries. Ultimately, losing the turnover battle 5-0 and failing to score in the second half proved too much for Rice to keep the game close.Rice continues playing their Conference USA schedule next week when they travel to Florida Atlantic.

Wagner presents unique challenge

(09/01/15 2:32pm)

When Rice University takes the field for the first time this season, it will be against a very unfamiliar opponent.Wagner College, a liberal arts school in Staten Island, New York, will make a trip to Houston on Sept. 5. With an undergraduate population of under 2,000, Wagner is the seventh-smallest school at the Division 1-AA level, the second-highest division of collegiate football and a tier below Rice’s Division 1-A status.Wagner College first began competing in football in 1927, where today they compete in the Northeast Conference. The Seahawks’ home field is Hameline Field at Wagner College Stadium, named in honor of Walt Hameline, the current athletic director who just resigned as head football coach after the 2014 season. Hameline, the 49th-winningest head coach in college football history, compiled 223 wins in 34 seasons as head coach, including winning the 1987 NCAA Division III National Football Championship. Wagner made the move to Division I in 1992.Wagner will now begin its first season since 1981 without Hameline leading the team. First-year Head Coach Jason Houghtaling will take the helm of the program where he previously served as offensive coordinator. Houghtaling has spent seven seasons at Wagner, serving as offensive coordinator during Wagner’s 2012 and 2014 Northeast Conference title runs.During the 2014 season, the Seahawks posted a 7-4 season record including 4-1 in conference play, which placed them in a tie for first, but did not earn a trip to the FCS playoffs. Among their four losses was a 34-3 road defeat at the hands of Conference USA first-year member Florida International University. Rice defeated FIU last season 31-17. Offensively, Wagner returns seven starters from a squad that averaged 20.7 points per game in 2014. Senior quarterback Chris Andrews will lead the offense after throwing for 657 yards and three touchdowns on 42 percent completion percentage. Andrews also possesses dual-threat ability, adding 468 yards and four touchdowns through the ground. Additionally, leading rusher Otis Wright returns after rushing for 598 yards and six touchdowns last season. Wagner was more effective rushing the ball than passing last season, as the rushing attack outgained the passing game 1,767 yards to 1,484. Conversely, Rice rushed for 2,181 yards and passed for 3,009 last season.Defensively, Wagner only returned five of 11 starters from last year’s team which sacrificed 18 points per game. Wagner gave up only 914 yards on the ground last season but allowed 2,180 yards passing. With a defensive unit returning only one defensive back, Rice redshirt senior quarterback Driphus Jackson and the offense may look to capitalize on Wagner’s rebuilding defense.According to Head Coach David Bailiff, Rice cannot overlook Wagner despite their lower-division status.“All we’ve talked about since January is Wagner,” Bailiff said. “We’ve been telling them that it’s the most important game on the schedule and that you can’t overlook them. ... But you listen to the seniors talk and the theme is pretty consistent that we’re not going to overlook these guys.”Bailiff also said he knows Wagner will give their best effort to try and upset a bigger-name program.“This is the first time in 100 straight games that we’re playing a [Division 1-AA] team,” Bailiff said. “That’s one where we know that we’re going to get their best. I used to coach at that level. We used to play the [Texas] A&M’s and I remember how motivated our guys were to make a point. We know that Wagner is going to be challenging for us.”Rice is 7-3 all-time against Division 1-AA opponents. The Owls last played such an opponent in 2007, a 14-16 loss which came at the hands of Nicholls State University. Rice will open its season against Wagner on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 2:30 p.m.  at Rice Stadium.

Hoot’s move will damage their revenue

(09/01/15 2:31pm)

The Hoot seems to be very proud of their new move to the Rice Memorial Center, and at a cursory glance, it makes sense. The hot food will arrive in stages, preventing it from running out in under two hours, as it did far too often last year. The Hoot’s new location will help people at Pub find food, and will also nourish the night owls at Fondren.However, it ignores the incredible convenience the Hoot represented on campus. Prior to this year, both north and south colleges had easily accessed late night food and drink in their nearby servery, but now students must factor in a much greater distance to get food. It may seem like a minor inconvenience to have to walk to the RMC for the Hoot, but I argue the new distance will discourage many students from making the trek.When I first visited Rice during Owl Days, I thought the Hoot was the coolest thing. The college cafeteria turned into a Chick-fil-A at night, just seconds from my dorm room! Over the last two years my opinion has not changed. I cannot count the times I was doing homework in the McMurtry commons and suddenly craved a pizza or chicken sandwich. I practically went into tetra debt from the Hoot’s convenience. The greatest thing about the Hoot was its ability to incite spontaneity.Now, the decision to go to the Hoot will be much more involved. Is the walk to the RMC worth it, especially if I have a lot of work to do? With mobile apps like Postmates and Favor allowing for food to be delivered essentially to your door, it may now become more convenient — and cheaper — to just order food from my phone. I doubt the Hoot’s move will encourage people to work and study near the RMC, since college commons are already too established for the Hoot to create that kind of culture shift.That being said, I completely understand the Hoot’s rationale. Maintaining a profitable food reselling business at two different locations must have been extremely difficult. Without considering how the relocation of the business will affect customer behavior, the move seems to be the most viable economic option. The move will, however, discourage people from going to the Hoot. How that will affect the Hoot’s profitability remains to be seen. I think this move will hurt their sales; I see the inconvenience of the new location strongly discouraging business.

The Fifth Quarter: We are all Rice Owls

(08/27/15 12:42pm)

For years I have been a proponent of increasing Rice pride. I’ve said it to friends, family and I’ve even used this column to increase awareness of this issue. Rice students are often too focused on schoolwork or the happenings in their residential colleges to realize that we all have something in common: We’re all Owls.The administration seems to agree. Having participated in this year’s Orientation Week, that much was readily apparent. It seemed the administration tried to cultivate a unity within Rice that may have been lacking in the past. During O-Week, it was clear that Rice tried to increase school pride, but at the expense of residential college pride. Seeing it first hand, my attitude toward the issue changed. The two are not mutually exclusive, and the assumption that they are has a negative impact on our college experience.I do and will always stand by my belief that Rice students need more pride in their school. That does not mean, however, that they cannot simultaneously have college pride. With the elimination of cheer battle and the deferral of teaching anti-cheers until the very end of the week, it was clear the administration sought to promote a unified campus focused on inclusivity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the concept, but the execution was flawed. Events such as Rice Rally during O-Week are fun and effective in cultivating Rice pride, but eliminating other events designated to promote college pride are not helping the issue.Part of the reason many of us came to Rice is the residential college system. Trying to tone down college rivalries and understate the differences between colleges is counter to what Rice has been and should be. We need to protect the college system that makes Rice special. There is no reason college and university pride need to be exclusive. Have pride in your college, but understand what binds us all together. Our colleges are all great, but there is something even greater than that. As Rice students, we are afforded the ability to live in our colleges, obtain a great degree and continue to have a connection to our university. One of the best ways to stay connected to your alma mater is through athletics.When we all graduate, are we going to watch college powderpuff games or Rice football games? Both are great, but a college represents around 400 students while the university represents every Rice student and alum the world over. Love your college and love your university. They are both incredible institutions that need to be preserved and improved. One does not need to improve at the expense of the other.I consider myself both a Rice student and a Murt. The two are not mutually exclusive. Trying to decrease the influence of individual residential colleges to increase Rice spirit is not a solution. It is trying to fix a problem in an ineffective and potentially harmful manner. Go to Rice games. Go to college games. Root for both with spirit and pride. In the end, remember your college and how it acted as your home for four years. But never forget what we all have in common: We are all Rice Owls.The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his own.

Soccer to receive new grandstand

(08/27/15 12:39pm)

The stadium that, prior to last year, hosted Rice’s soccer and track and field teams was destroyed over the summer, a precursor to the rebuilding of a new $2 million stadium.According to the university, the new stadium will feature 1,500 seats for fans. The seating will include a mix of bleacher and chairback seating, an asset largely missing from the previous stadium. Additionally, the new stadium will have an enclosed press box and facilities for the teams, both improvements over its predecessor. The renovation, which is being fully funded by the university itself, is the next of several stadium improvements Rice has witnessed in recent years. Last year, Rice began construction on the Brian Patterson Sports Performance Center in the north end zone of Rice Stadium. Additionally, the new George R. Brown tennis complex finished construction last year and Tudor Fieldhouse underwent renovations in 2014.The new stadium will replace the previous stadium which served for nearly 50 years. Built in 1966 on the original site of Rice Stadium, which moved to its current location in 1950, the Ley Stadium was deemed unsafe last season and spectators and athletes alike were forced to avoid using its facilities. For the entirety of the 2015 soccer season, fans will be seated in temporary bleachers and standing room. The new stadium will be designed by Jackson & Ryan Architects and is expected to be completed in January 2016. Athletics could not be reached for comments.

The Fifth Quarter: Weekend series shows potential for the Hill to be a lively student section

(02/18/15 4:06pm)

The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his.Simply referred to as “The Hill,” the grassy elevation behind left field of Reckling Park used to be a staple of student attendance at Rice baseball games. Students would bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets before relaxing for an afternoon or evening watching a ballgame. It’s not that this tradition is dead; in fact, it was reinvigorated on Friday night.On Friday, Feb. 13, Rice baseball held its opening night matchup against the University of Texas. Baseball season was back. Students and alumni flocked to Reckling Park to watch the annual ceremony celebrating the beginning of America’s pastime. 4,755 fans packed Reckling on a beautiful night to watch the matchup from the stands, and many students went to the Hill behind left field to watch the game as a student community.Last season, I don’t remember there being a sizeable event on the Hill. Sure, from time to time you could see a small scattering of fans sitting on the bleachers out there. But on Friday night, we saw the potential this space has. Thanks to the Rally Club’s pre-game tailgate and advertising efforts, a large number of students came out to sit on the Hill, eat, drink and watch our Owls take on the Longhorns.As a student body, we need to re-establish the Hill as a formidable baseball student section. It offers a good sight line from leftfield and allows for some pretty good heckling of the opposing team’s leftfielder. Furthermore, it allows for Rice students to have a common area to sit, converse and root on our nationally-ranked team. Instead of students scattering throughout the stadium, they could come together, enjoy a beer, and watch some baseball.The weather in second semester (a.k.a baseball season) is usually pretty stellar. Baseball is meant to be watched outdoors with friends, a drink in hand and three hours of relaxation with the occasional moment of excitement. People complain all the time about baseball being boring, but those people don’t understand the calming effects of the game. No, baseball isn’t as fast-paced as basketball and doesn’t have the hard-hitting action of football. But baseball is meant to be more than just a game to watch. It’s a social event, a way for people to come together, relax and root on a team. Also, if you’ve ever watched a ninth inning of a game, you understand baseball can be as exciting as any sport out there.This season, come out to Reckling Park and find a nice spot on the Hill. Bring friends, food and some beer (only if you’re over 21 and it’s in a can, of course). It’s unreasonable to think the Hill will ever be as crowded as it was opening night against Texas, but there are 25 home games remaining this season, and there’s no reason we, as a student body, can’t replicate a similar experience at Reckling on a Friday or Saturday night. 

Football inks 18 on National Signing Day

(02/11/15 7:06am)

Each year, the first Wednesday in February is celebrated nationwide as the first day high school athletes can accept an athletic scholarship from a university. The day has become something of a spectacle in recent years, with recruiting websites and large networks such as ESPN joining in on its coverage.This year, Rice football signed 18 players to football scholarships beginning in the 2015-16 academic year. The class includes four defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, three cornerbacks, two safeties, two quarterbacks, two running backs, one tight end and one kicker.Additionally, 16 of the 18 seniors come from within the state of Texas. Three of the sixteen Texans hail from the Houston metropolitan area. Head Football Coach David Bailiff said Signing Day was the culmination of nearly a year’s work of recruiting and establishing relationships with the players. 16 of the 18 players who signed either went to Rice’s Junior Day workouts or attended Rice’s annual summer football camp.“It has been a fabulous day for Rice, but today has been a process where this really started back in March on Junior Day,” Bailiff said. “We’ve been developing relationships with a lot of these young men for quite some time and that really makes it special.”J.T. Granato, a local quarterback prospect from the Kinkaid School, has already garnered high expectations from the coaching staff. According to Bailiff, Granato, who threw for over 9,000 yards in his career, may be the future starting quarterback for the Owls due to his athletic and leadership abilities.“Not only is [Granato] a great quarterback, he’s a great leader,” Bailiff said. “We just think our future is bright at that position.”Bailiff and his staff added two more skill position players in Emanuel Esukpa and Nahshon Ellerby. This past season, Ellerbe had over 2,000 yards rushing and 700 receiving yards. Bailiff said Esukpa, who scored five touchdowns in a game this past season, reminds him of former Rice running back, Charles Ross, who led Conference USA in rushing in 2013.“He’s a powerful running back,” Bailiff said. “When you see him run ... he’s powerful, he’s explosive, but he’s still got the speed and agility to outrun you.”Defensively, Rice signed five defensive backs and four defensive linemen. According to Bailiff, the new defensive line recruits may be the best defensive recruits in the program’s history.“We have four of the best future defensive linemen we’ve ever signed here going into my ninth year,” Bailiff said. “The first young man, Zach Abercrumbia, had a lot of offers; he’s very disruptive and incredibly powerful with his hands. Blaine Plaggent is a kid when you watch his film you see how much he loves football. Carl Thompson is another guy like Zach Abercrumbia. We really think these three young men could play early for us if we needed. Carl is very explosive; he can play from sideline to sideline.”One of the players from outside of Texas, kicker Jack Fox, hails from Missouri and received high praise from Bailiff. Fox, the no. 28 kicker in the country according to ESPN, also played quarterback in high school but was recruited as a two-position player as a kicker and punter. Fox broke the Missouri high school record for field goals in a season this past year with 17. According to Bailiff, Fox’s athletic ability and leg strength made him an exciting signee.“He’s got an unbelievable leg when he punts,” Bailiff said. “We really liked the fact that he was also a quarterback, so he’s very athletic. He threw for 1,900 yards this year but we’re just going to ask him to get his foot to go to work for us.”According to Bailiff, Rice only wants student athletes who have a commitment to excellence both on and off the field.“We want young men who are serious about winning and serious about graduating,” Bailiff said. “We tell them all, ‘In five years we expect you to be a boss, and in ten years we expect you to pay your scholarship back to Rice and in 30 to 40 years we expect you to name a building after yourself.’ We have high expectations here, and I think we’re looking at a Conference USA championship-caliber class.”According to ESPN, 13 of the 18 signees are ranked as three-star prospects. However, not a single player on either Super Bowl team this year, the New England Patriots nor the Seattle Seahawks, was ranked as a five-star prospect out of high school. Bailiff said he believes in this class and believes they will help the team continue its winning ways. “It was a fabulous year,” Bailiff said. “We’re just excited for what these young men have stood for in their community, what they’ve stood for academically and athletically. They’re great fits and the future is bright.”

The Fifth Quarter

(02/04/15 4:05pm)

The Fifth Quarter is a column written by Sports Editor Evan Neustater. The opinions expressed in the column are solely his.As I sat in the McMurtry Commons watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie in sports that Rice students rarely experience.The commons’ lights were dimmed and the big game was displayed on the projector screen in HD, large enough for anyone in the room to see. Fans of both the Patriots and the Seahawks sat in the commons and glued their eyes to the screen as the servery made chicken wings, beans and nachos. Even fans of neither team, including myself, packed the commons to watch the game. After any big play the crowd either erupted with approval, disappointment or both. Watching the game with all those people gave us all insight on how sports can bring a community together and unite people with a common cause.In the future, I believe Rice or the individual colleges should put in a greater effort to replicate events like this. Not just for the Super Bowl, but especially for Rice athletic events. This past football season it was almost impossible to find a group  watching a Rice football game. Willy’s Pub hosted a watch party for Rice’s game against the University of Notre Dame. Pub was packed with screaming fans who were all united around a desire for Rice to pull off what would have been one of the biggest upsets in school history. Even though Rice ended up losing the game, it showed that Rice students can come together under the banner of athletics and share a common interest in a goal that unites us as Rice Owls.If Rice athletics has an away game that is televised, Rice or the colleges should show them in a common place where everyone and anyone can watch it. Far too often the student body shows apathy toward sporting events, and perhaps this can be a solution to that problem. A little school spirit can go a long way in improving our quality of life and community.

Former Owl heads to second Super Bowl

(01/28/15 7:39am)

Few National Football League players ever get to play in a Super Bowl, and even fewer get to do it twice. Rice University alumnus Luke Willson has accomplished that in just two years.With the Seattle Seahawks becoming the first team in 10 years to make consecutive Super Bowl appearances, Willson, the Seahawks’ starting tight end, will represent his alma mater in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.Willson, a former member of Lovett College, graduated from Rice with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science and a minor in business. Willson capped his Rice career with a victory in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl. Willson was then drafted the fifth round of the 2013 NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.According to Willson, his time playing football at Rice helped him prepare for his NFL career, as he learned how to move on from losses.“My first few years [at Rice] everyone faced a lot of adversity, so that really prepared me for the NFL,” Willson said. “Especially this year when we were struggling a little bit early on and going through some challenges. We kind of fall back on times when we faced adversity before and how we got through it and how we learned from it.”Willson also said he learned his work ethic during his time in Houston.“There’s a lot of hard-working guys on that Rice team and that’s kind of what the program is built on, and that’s what I took into the NFL,” Willson said.Last season against the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, Willson recorded two receptions for 17 yards in a winning effort. This time, Willson will look to improve upon those numbers, but remains focused on winning the big game. Willson has improved on his rookie numbers this season, posting 22 catches for 346 yards and three touchdowns during the regular season, and making six receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown during the Seahawks’ playoff run.Willson has already made a name for himself in the NFL as the starting tight end for the reigning Super Bowl champions. In last week’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, Willson made a play that may have saved the Seahawks’ season.With 1:25 left in the game, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch scored a rushing touchdown to put Seattle up 20-19. Seattle elected to go for a two-point conversion to put them up three points, and Willson ended up catching the ball in the end zone after a broken play. According to Willson, he was not even supposed to be going for the catch on the play.“It was kind of just a backyard football play; not exactly how we were planning to go,” Willson said. “I was actually involved in protection and [Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson] scrambled around. I really thought I was out of the play and the next thing I knew the ball was in the air. It hung up there a while and I was able to come down with it, and it turned out to be a big play in that game.”The touchdown put the Seahawks up 22-19, and after the Packers scored a game-tying field goal near the end of regulation, Seattle was able to win the game in overtime.Only seven teams in NFL history have ever won back-to-back Super Bowls, and no team has accomplished that feat since the 2004 New England Patriots, who will be Seattle’s opponent in the game. According to Willson, the team will go into their second consecutive Super Bowl with the same mindset as last year’s, although they will be more aware of the off-field hype that surrounds the biggest annual event in the United States.“It’s a little bit different, but at the same time a lot of it is the same,” Wilson said. “We have a pretty good idea of how this game is going to as far as distractions go. But on the football side of it, it feels very similar. We’re playing a great team just like we did last year. We just have to come out and execute.”Despite being an NFL starter on the verge of playing in his second Super Bowl in two seasons, Willson hasn’t forgotten his roots. He still follows Rice football closely, and said he has some interesting, if not controversial, ideas about its future.“I hope one day we’ll be in the Big 12 Conference,” Wilson said. “Especially nowadays with everyone realizing how short NFL careers are and how important education is. I feel if we went to the Big 12 we could attract some people. The way the program is headed and how we’ve been able to win a bunch of games the last three years could send us into a Power 5 conference, and that would really get the ball rolling.”Willson and the Seattle Seahawks will face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, Feb. 1. The game will be televised around the globe on NBC at 5:30 p.m.

Defense leads Rice to bowl victory

(01/14/15 10:40am)

Two touchdown passes from redshirt junior quarterback Driphus Jackson in the last 19 seconds of the first quarter gave Rice all the momentum it needed. After throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor with 23 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Fresno State University junior quarterback Brian Burrell threw an interception to sophomore cornerback J.T. Blasingame on Fresno’s first play back. Jackson threw his second touchdown pass in as many plays on the next down, a 69-yard strike to senior wide receiver Mario Hull with four seconds remaining in the quarter.The two touchdowns took Rice’s lead to 16-3 at the end of the first quarter, and the Owls never looked back. Rice went on to cap its 2014 season with a postseason bowl victory in the Hawai’i Bowl, defeating Fresno State 30-6 Dec. 24. The win took Rice’s record to 8-5 overall, including winning eight of their last 10. Rice earned its second bowl victory in three years and its 18th win over the last two seasons, the best two-season stretch in school history.The offense stagnated in the second quarter, but went on to score a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters, while only sacrificing two field goals in the game. It marked the first time since 2011 Rice did not allow a touchdown from the opposing team.Coming off a 71-36 loss against Louisiana Tech in which they allowed 677 yards of offense, the Owls’ defense looked to rebound against Fresno State, allowing 27 yards through three quarters. Fresno State finished with 93 yards passing on 38 attempts, and Burrell completed 10 of 20 passes for 44 yards and two interceptions. The defense also added four sacks on its way to holding Fresno State to 158 yards and 22 points under its season average.Senior safety Julius White said the team was out to prove something after the school’s worst defensive performance since allowing 77 points to Louisiana State University in 1977.“Defensively, everybody had a kind of chip on their shoulder,” White said. “[The Louisiana Tech game] wasn’t the way we wanted to go out in the regular season. We didn’t really play much like ourselves that game, so wemade this game like there was something we had to prove. We needed to make a statement on national television that that’s not the defense that Rice wants to be.”According to Head Coach David Bailiff, the team saved its best defensive performance for last.”[It was] probably one of the best defensive performances we’ve had all year,” Bailiff said. “I thought our front four was very disruptive and really thought our secondary was just outstanding. I thought we tackled really well.”Jackson won the game’s Most Valuable Player award after having his best statistical game of the season, completing 15 of 24 passes for a school bowl-record 318 yards, three touchdowns and zero turnovers. Jackson also added 41 yards rushing and finished the season with 2,842 yards passing and 24 touchdown passes, good for the third-best mark in Rice single season history.Senior wide receivers Mario Hull and Jordan Taylor and junior wide receiver Dennis Parks each had a touchdown catch in the game. Parks recorded his first career 100-yard receiving performance, catching five passes for 109 yards and a touchdown. In Taylor’s final game, he caught five passes for 61 yards and a score. The senior finished his career with 176 receptions, 2,588 yards and 20 touchdowns. Taylor finished his career third in Rice history in receptions, second in receiving yards and second in receiving touchdowns.According to Jackson, his passing statistics were inflated by the play of his wide receivers.“I had to be on point when it came to reading coverages, but the receivers did a great job of adjusting to balls,” Jackson said. “I get a lot of praise for the touchdown to [Mario Hull], but Mario made a great adjustment to that ball because it was short and he ended up making a play on it. I get a lot of praise for what’s going on, but I’m just doing my one-eleventh and everybody else did their part and it came out the way it was supposed to.”Bailiff, however, had more praise for the quarterback. Bailiff said Jackson led the team to victory through his play and decision making.“I thought Driphus did an incredible job of not only managing the game, but at times taking it over,” Bailiff said. “With his big plays and some of the reads he was able to do, we’re really excited he’s coming back next season. It really seemed every time we needed a play Driphus made one for us.”The bowl victory was Bailiff’s third win in four attempts, and he is now currently tied with Jess Neely for the most bowl wins by a Rice head coach. Rice will now shift its focus to the offseason and preparing for the 2015 season. The team will lose five starters from this year’s offense and seven from the defense. The team will look to reload around rising senior quarterback Jackson, who will look to build upon his first year starting. 

Football accepts bid to Hawai'i Bowl

(12/07/14 7:12pm)

The Rice University football team has accepted a bid to play in the 2014 Hawai’i Bowl, according to reports. The Owls (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) will head to Honolulu, Hawaii for their third consecutive bowl appearance, a school record.Rice will take on Fresno State University (6-7), who lost to No. 22 Boise State University on Saturday, Dec. 6, in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Junior quarterback Brian Burrell leads the Bulldogs offensively and has thrown for 2,576 yards and 22 touchdowns, good for second in conference. Junior running back Marteze Waller is third in the MWC in rushing, recording 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns for the season.Fresno State has the No. 101 ranked defensive unit in the country, allowing 32.6 points per game, and has given up at least 20 points in each of their last seven games.The Hawai’i Bowl is scheduled for Christmas Eve (Wednesday, Dec. 24) at Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and will air nationally on ESPN.

Bowl destination difficult to predict despite eligibility

(12/03/14 2:43pm)

With Rice University’s regular football season in the books, the Owls now await their postseason bowl destination. For the first time in school history, Rice will head to its third consecutive bowl appearance after winning the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl over the Air Force Academy 33-14 and losing last season in the Liberty Bowl to Mississippi State University 44-7.According to NCAA Bowl regulations, a team must earn six wins to become bowl eligible, although it does not ensure a bowl appearance. Seven wins in a season essentially guarantees that a team will earn a bid to a bowl game. With Rice’s seventh victory against the University of Texas, El Paso on Nov. 21, Rice practically guaranteed itself a position to play in a number of possible bowl games.According to postseason bowl procedures, the winner of the Conference USA Championship automatically chooses which C-USA-affiliated bowl game to participate in. This season, Marshall University and Louisiana Tech University will play for that right in the C-USA Championship Game in Huntington, West Virginia on Saturday, Dec. 6. C-USA is one of the only conferences in the Football Bowl Subdivision that does not have a pecking order for bowl games. Typically, teams are assigned to bowl games depending on their final rankings within their conference. For C-USA, however, bowl-eligible teams (programs with six or more wins) must wait for an invitation from each bowl’s representatives and accept or decline the invitation. Each of the bowls will typically offer invitations to the schools that they believe will bring in the most revenue via ticket sales and television deals. Therefore, larger schools will usually receive invites from more prestigious bowls over smaller programs, even if they have fewer wins, because of their larger fan bases that are often willing to travel to bowl games.C-USA has five primary bowl tie-ins: the Gildan New Mexico Bowl, the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Boca Raton Bowl, the Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl, the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, and is secondarily affiliated with the Duck Commander Independence Bowl. The Boca Raton and Bahamas Bowls are both in their inaugural seasons, and this is the first year the New Mexico Bowl has been affiliated with C-USA.For Rice, any of those bowl games are possible destinations, although some think certain bowls are more likely than others. Rice football beat writer Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle said he believes Rice’s most likely bowl destinations are the New Mexico or the Hawai’i Bowls. According to Phil Steele, a college football pundit with the most accurate bowl predictions for the past 16 years, Rice will most likely head to the Hawaii Bowl to face Fresno State University on Dec. 24.  The article originally stated that the winner of Conference USA could choose the Liberty Bowl, which is no longer accurate as of 2014. Furthermore, the Independence Bowl is only secondarily affiliated with C-USA.

Not Your Average Joe: Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard hopes for big payoff from four-point athletics initiative

(12/03/14 2:42pm)

When he came to Rice University in the summer of 2013, Athletic Director Joe Karlgaard knew the limitations he had to work with. Having worked in the athletic departments at Stanford University and Oberlin College, Karlgaard knows what it takes to run an athletic department at a school that values academics as its first priority.Karlgaard said Rice was an appealing destination to him due to the school’s emphasis on academics as well as the potential to increase the visibility of the athletic programs.“What brought me here was the academic profile first and foremost and the fact that Rice has a long and very storied history of competing at a high level in Division 1 athletics,” Karlgaard said. “Those two things together coupled with the idea that athletics is a little undervalued and that we could be a bit better than we are now — all of those things in equal amounts drew me to the program.”Karlgaard released a new “Vision for Rice Athletics” this past summer. Upon being hired from Stanford where he was an assistant athletic director, Karlgaard came to Rice as the university’s new athletic director in September 2013. Since coming to Rice, Karlgaard has made his goals for the program publicly clear. In his “Vision for Rice Athletics,” Karlgaard listed four principles that he hopes will drive the future of Rice Athletics. First, Karlgaard said he wants Rice to have athletic competitiveness. That is, all 16 varsity sports should compete for conference championships and national Top 25 rankings. Second, there should be an emphasis on academic success. According to Karlgaard, Rice student-athletes should graduate at or above the Rice average percentage.The third principle is life education and achievement. According to Karlgaard, this will work to prepare student-athletes for life after collegiate athletics.The fourth and final component of the Vision is what Karlgaard refers to as “Rice Values.” This will consist of having the athletic department’s goals remain consistent with the goals of the university and the “Vision for the Second Century” outlined by President David Leebron.According to Karlgaard, he has spent his first year acquainting himself with Rice students, student-athletes, alumni and fans to gauge interest and get ideas on how to move the athletic department forward. Karlgaard said while he had goals coming into Rice, he wants to make sure his actions reflect the interests of the Rice community.“I had one overarching original goal, and that was to make the place better,” Karlgaard said. “But I didn’t quite have a feel of how to do that and what would be important to our community and people in the surrounding community.”According to Karlgaard, his plan on gauging the interest of the Rice community has lasted longer than he originally anticipated.“I thought I’d spend 90 days going around talking to people, finding out what was important to them, testing things then synthesizing that information,” Karlgaard said. “It turns out, it took way longer than 90 days. I wanted to make sure I got it as right as I could get it.”According to Karlgaard, talking to people in the Rice community has increased belief in the future of athletics.“I think there’s a healthy sense of optimism around Rice,” Karlgaard said. “People believe in the vision we have for Rice athletics, and people believe things can get better.”With Karlgaard’s Vision in place, the Rice athletic department will be looking to conduct fundraising and employ new economic strategies to help programs succeed. Karlgaard said his goals include generating revenue, which will in turn help programs achieve athletic success.“My main goals include putting new facilities and endowments in place, selling more tickets, arming coaches with the tools they need to be successful and developing better relationships with our students athletes,” Karlgaard said.With such a small student body and alumni base, Karlgaard said raising funds for athletics can be a challenge. However, Karlgaard said he embraces the challenge and believes he can achieve his goals.“I think it’s challenging to try and fund what we do given our size,” Karlgaard said. “If you’re at a large state institution, you’re the beneficiary of tax dollars and student fees. However, when we’re out raising money from our alumni, we only have around 45,000 living alumni. In order to raise enough funds, we have to think about how we sell Rice athletics to other people in the Houston community. The funding issue is not insurmountable, but it’s challenging.”Despite the challenges of fundraising, Karlgaard has extensive experience in the field. At Stanford, Karlgaard was responsible for balancing a $90 million annual budget and led the Athletics Department’s efforts in raising $52 million in 2012, the greatest single-year increase in the school’s fundraising history.One of Karlgaard’s primary concerns for the near future is the renovation of Rice Stadium, a 64-year old facility that has not had improvements in decades. The plan for renovation includes a $30 million dollar project that calls for a new North end zone facility that will replace the otherwise empty endzone and scoreboard on that side of the field, in addition to other minor improvements. The design calls for a 60,000 square foot facility in the end zone that will attract recruits and fans.Karlgaard said the fundraising for the project is almost complete.“We are 85 to 90 percent through fundraising with this,” Karlgaard said. “We just have a few verbal commitments we need to button up.”Other tangible accomplishments during Karlgaard’s tenure include the hiring of new men’s basketball Head Coach Mike Rhoades from Virginia Commonwealth University and generating a new five-year contract for head football coach David Bailiff. Rice has also claimed six conference titles during Karlgaard’s tenure. Last academic year, Rice won five conference titles, a school record. This year, Rice has already claimed a conference title in soccer after winning the Conference USA Tournament. According to Karlgaard, the end goal is to have athletic programs that are competitive on the local and national stages. Karlgaard said he believes that goal is attainable in the near future.“Everyone has a chance to win the conference,” Karlgaard said. “We won five conference titles last year and I think we have a chance to win five more. We are a relevant player on the national level; we want to be in a conversation with our peer institutions both regionally and academically.”