The Season in Review
Looking back at the year’s most prominent sports
Published: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, May 23, 2012 16:05
2011 was not supposed to be a rebuilding year. It was supposed to be the year that Head Coach David Bailiff’s team excelled, building on the successful end to the 2010 season. It was supposed to be the year that the Owls clicked on both sides of the ball – and that just never happened.
The season opened up in Austin, with the Owls taking on the Texas Longhorns, historically one of the best programs in Texas. They Owls looked strong in the first half, driving at one point only down by a touchdown, with quarterback Taylor McHargue passing crisply and finding the open receivers against the speedy Longhorn defense.
Unfortunately, the Owls slowly unraveled in the closing minutes of the third quarter. The first half was perhaps the best the team played all season, giving hope to Owls fans everywhere. Texas went on to win the game 34-9; a far cry from what was actually seen on the field.
The next week, the Owls welcomed the Big Ten’s Purdue Boilermakers to Houston. Rice, which had not beat a BCS Conference team in years, knew this was an opportunity to make a statement.
They played the Boilermakers strong, winning the game off of a dramatic last minute punt block. Justin Allen (Sid Rich ’12) got past the Boilermaker defense on the last snap of the game, sticking his hand up and sealing a 24-22 victory for the Owls that was in doubt seconds before.
Rice then headed to Waco to take on Baylor and eventual Heisman trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Griffin played like a Heisman winner, throwing for five touchdowns and running for one more. He was too much to contain, as Rice lost 56-31, falling to 1-2.
The next week, the Owls opened up conference play, falling to Southern Miss 48-24.
Returning home the following week, against a bad University of Memphis team, was just what the Owls needed, with Rice winning 28-6 led by running back Tyler Smith’s (Baker ’12) 102 rushing yards.
After the Memphis game, Rice still had bowl hopes. With two wins, and the seemingly difficult
part of their schedule out of the way, Rice thought that bowl eligibility was still in reach.
The next three games, however, were disasters for the Owls, who lost control of their season. After a tough 24-20 loss to Marshall on the road, the Owls returned home to lose 38-20 to Tulsa, a blow for a team that needed the game.
The next week, in a nationally televised night game, the Owls laid a defensive egg against Houston, letting fifth year quarterback Case Keenum throw for nine touchdowns and over 500 yards. The 73-point Cougar total was a low point for the Owls, putting them at 2-6 for the season.
Relief came the following week, with Rice hosting UTEP in Houston. It was a back and forth game, and both teams struggled for momentum. A pass from quarterback Nick Fanuzzi (Will Rice ’12) with less than three minutes left sealed the deal for the Owls, who had their third victory.
In the final three weeks, the Owls were playing for pride, as seniors hoped to leave a legacy off which next year’s team could build. They hosted the Northwestern Wildcats, another Big Ten team, but could not find the Purdue magic, falling 28-6.
On Senior Day, the last home game of the season, Rice hosted Tulane, holding the Green Wave to only 7 points. It was by far the best effort for the defense which had struggled since the first half of the Texas game. The 19 points the Owls scored was enough for their fourth victory of the season.
A 27-24 loss to SMU the last week left the Owls at 4-8, a disappointing end to the season.
Kyle Martens (Martel ’12), the punter who was the constant of the Owls this season and was named an All-C-USA selection, signed this month with the San Diego Chargers. Scott Solomon (Sid Rich ’12), the constant on the Owls line, was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans.
The Owls have plenty of question marks heading into the 2012 season. With a looming quarterback controversy, and a variety of questions surrounding the poor defensive play from the previous season, 2012 will begin with the Owls having a lot to prove.
After years of highly-touted recruiting classes brought in by Coach Braun, the 2011-2012 Rice men’s basketball team rode a successful combination of veteran leadership and young talent to their first postseason berth since 2005.
The Owls got off to a strong start in non-conference play, winning nine of their first 13 games of the season, including a seven-point win in College Station to bring an end to Texas A&M’s historic 67-game home nonconference win streak.
After going 9-6 outside the conference, Rice went 8-8 in one of the more competitive C-USA regular seasons in recent memory, one which saw the Owls have eight games decided by four points or less.
Among the most notable games for the Owls on the season was a 50-49 win at Tulane, on January 14 when Connor Frizzelle (Wiess ’12) hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to propel Rice to the victory. Frizzelle and juniors Arsalan Kazemi and Tamir Jackson, became the 29th, 30th and 31st members of the 1000 point club in Owls’ men’s basketball history during the season, a testament to the value of the team’s proven upperclassmen.