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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Football embarrassed at home by Big Ten foe

By Teddy Grodek     9/23/10 7:00pm

A football offense is a complicated system, requiring exact precision of every moving piece in order to put together lasting drives. An offense is not merely a collection of talent but rather a group of players who can unite and play together. This precision is something that has yet to happen for the Owls (1-2) in any of their three games, most recently in last weekend's 30-13 loss to Northwestern University (3-0). Head Coach David Bailiff echoed these sentiments when talking about the offense's progress this week against Northwestern.

"We had some opportunities in the first half to score: We moved the ball, but we'd get a holding penalty," Bailiff said. "We'd move the ball again and get a turnover. We need to work on keeping our drives alive."

The Owls' explosive firepower has not emerged as hoped this season, as all of the play-makers in the offense have yet to build any cohesiveness. This lack of coordination has made gaining yardage difficult.



The Owls have been playing against some of the premier defenses in the country, but a lot of Rice's mistakes have also been self-inflicted, caused by penalties and turnovers.

This past weekend, the Owls took on Northwestern to open up their three-game home-stand.

The Rice defense started out strong, limiting Northwestern to a pair of field goals in the first half. The defense forced three three-and-outs and six punts in the first half, providing the offense with the possessions and field position they needed to score.

The offense could not capitalize in the first half, however, as it had a trying time moving the ball down the field. Quarterbacks redshirt junior Nick Fanuzzi and redshirt sophomore Taylor Cook shared time in the half and found their receivers but failed to find the one play to set up momentum. Cook threw an interception from Rice's goal line that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by Wildcat Quentin Davie, the defining play of the first half.

Senior linebacker Justin Hill was proud of the way the defense played throughout the half.

"Coming into halftime, [Northwestern] had to go in and make some adjustments to things they saw we were doing," Hill said. "We played well in the first half."

Northwestern dominated the beginning of the second half. After forcing a Rice three-and-out from the kickoff, the Wildcats only needed one play to find the endzone, a 27-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Dan Persa. The ensuing extra point gave the Wildcats a 20-3 lead.

Rice fought until the end, as Fanuzzi led another long drive down the field right as the clock was expiring, resulting in a touchdown.

Despite the loss, Bailiff is still proud of the way his team played.

"The team is playing extremely hard," Bailiff said. "I think we've just got to keep on improving and I think we'll be all right."

Northwestern scored 17 points on offensive turnovers, caused more often than not by Rice's missed hand-offs and blown routes. These turnovers were enough to tip the margin in favor of the Wildcats.

Big 12 member Baylor University (2-1) travels to Rice Stadium to take on the Owls tomorrow night. Baylor has one of the best quarterbacks in America, Robert Griffin III, who is just as dangerous with his feet as he is with his arm. He has accounted for eight of nine Baylor touchdowns this year and the Owls must stop him if they plan on winning the game.

"I think everybody in Texas knows about Robert Griffin and what a great athlete he is," Hill said. "But we've seen that all fall and spring. We have some quarterbacks that can run and throw."

This weekend's contest is far from being the first face-off between these two Texas schools, as Rice and Baylor used to battle each other yearly in the old Southwestern Conference, which disbanded in 1996. Since then, this will be the second time the two teams have played, with Baylor besting Rice in 2007 by a score of 42-17 in Waco, Texas. The Bears are coming off a crushing loss last week to national powerhouse Texas Christian University by a final margin of 45-10.

Bailiff knows exactly what he is going up against this week.

"Baylor has a lot better team speed than they've had in the past," he said. "Griffin is someone you'll see play on Monday Night Football. They're building a great program and doing it out of team speed.



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