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Friday, September 30, 2022 — Houston, TX

Rain puts damper on football's offensive attack

By Teddy Grodek     9/30/10 7:00pm

There really could not be a better time for the football team to start playing Conference USA games. After one of the most punishing non-conference schedules of any non-BCS conference team in the country, Rice (1-3) is looking for a little bit of relief. Outside of their win against the University of North Texas, the Owls have consistently gone up against teams that were bigger, faster and stronger. "It's been a tough stretch all four of these games," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "The good news is we're getting into conference play. I think we're continuing to get better, even if we're not winning."

Rice's non-conference opponents over the last month have combined records of 11-5, playing some of the best teams in college football. Playing a schedule against these tough teams does a few different things for the Owls, such as trying out new offensive and defensive schemes, but it also makes life easy once conference play starts.

When Baylor University (3-1) came into Rice Stadium, which celebrated its 60th anniversary this weekend, Rice hoped that it would maintain the same intensity that it played with against Northwestern University the previous weekend, minus the mistakes.

On the contrary, an hour-long rain delay killed any Owl intensity from the start of the game. The Owls scored on their first drive, with freshman kicker Chris Boswell making a 42-yard field goal after seven completed passes by redshirt junior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi. Baylor responded, scoring on its next drive to make the score 7-0 off of a touchdown pass by quarterback Robert Griffin, one of his three on the day.

Headed into the second quarter, Mother Nature decided to impact the game, forcing an hour-long delay for lightning. The Owls did not look the same coming out after the break, yielding 13 points to end the half.

Sophomore safety Corey Frazier was underwhelmed by his team's play at the end of second quarter.

"When we came out after the rain delay, the defense was pretty high and ready," he said. "We just couldn't hold down the fort. We've got to execute and not beat ourselves."

Coming out of the half, the Owls' defense forced an interception inside Baylor territory but only got a field goal out of the field position. Griffin and Baylor would then respond with a 46-yard touchdown pass, putting the game out of reach at 27-6 headed into the fourth.

The Owls scored in the fourth to set up an onside kick and a possible opening, only to have the ball carom off the hands of redshirt freshman wide receiver Donte Moore, allowing Baylor to recover the ball at its own 44. Baylor chipped in a field goal to bring the score to 30-13, the final margin of the game.

Fanuzzi almost had as many passing yards as Griffin, minus Griffin's three passing touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore running back Sam McGuffie had arguably his best game of the year, rushing for 67 yards and a touchdown to go with 33 receiving yards, putting him at 100 total yards on the game. Ten different Owls caught balls on the day, keeping with Bailiff 's strategy of spreading the offense.

Returning to C-USA and a 2-2 Southern Methodist University team will be exactly what the Owls will be looking for. Rice has a 10-game winning streak against the Mustangs at Rice Stadium, last losing in 1986. The Owls knew at the beginning of the season that their goals of postseason play would have to be reached with wins inside C-USA.

"When you look at your preseason schedule, you hope to win them all," Bailiff said. "But when we talked as a staff, we would've been thrilled with 2-2. But we've got to continue to improve. We've been here before."

SMU is no pushover, staying strong with national powerhouse Texas Christian University for three quarters on a nationally televised game on ESPN on Sept. 18. The Rice-SMU series is in its 22nd consecutive year, the longest of any opponent for Rice.

Junior nose tackle John Gioffre hopes the tough games the Owls have played will prepare them for the rest of the season.

"We haven't been favored in any of our games," he said. "We've been the underdog. We're fighting for our reputation.

"We have this tough schedule so that we're already prepared for the rest of our season. We won't see anything we haven't seen already.

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