Football swept aside by Golden Hurricane passing
An offense being forced to score more than 30 points every single week in order to win will lead to a disastrous season, one with a definitive losing record. And, with the Owls failing to hold an opponent under 30 points all season, including Saturday's 64-27 loss to the University of Tulsa, it is clear that that burden is one the offense has failed to overcome.The defensive bloodletting continued this week for the Owls, as opponents have scored an astronomical 105 points in the last two games, 20 more than Texas Christian University has given up in 10 games this season. In their trip to Tulsa, Okla. last weekend, the Owls continued the trend by going down 41-7 at the half. Rice had hoped Tulsa would still be reeling from their emotional victory over the University of Notre Dame at Notre Dame Stadium the weekend before, but the Golden Hurricane was clearly ready to play.
The Owls started out with a bang, getting a quick three and out and a three-play touchdown after a 50-yard strike from junior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi to senior wide receiver Patrick Randolph. The extra point from redshirt freshman kicker Chris Boswell pushed the score to 7-0, the last lead the Owls would hold in ?the game.
The Golden Hurricane scored three times through the air, including two touchdown passes to wide receiver Damaris Johnson, in the first quarter, moving the score to 20-7 at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter continued exactly as the first finished, with Tulsa punching in two running touchdowns and another touchdown pass from quarterback G.J. Kinne, his third of the day.
Rice was demoralized going into the locker room, down 41-7, a drubbing for a game, not to mention just a half. However, they responded well out of the locker room, as the offense was resilient in their efforts by coming out and scoring a touchdown on a 55-yard pass from backup redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Cook to redshirt sophomore tight end Luke Willson. Cook completed six of 11 passes for 122 yards including his touchdown strike to Willson.
The Boswell extra point was blocked and returned, however, resulting in another two points for the Golden Hurricanes and ensuring yet another game with a disastrous special teams miscue. On the ensuing kickoff to Tulsa, Johnson decided to add to his aforementioned receiving touchdowns by returning the ball 94 yards for a touchdown, giving the Golden Hurricane 50 points for the day, the highest total given up by Rice this year.
Kinne had another passing touchdown, but redshirt sophomore running back Sam McGuffie ran for a 5-yard touchdown to finish off the third quarter at 57-20. The fourth quarter was just a formality, as the Owls and Golden Hurricane traded touchdowns again, bringing the score to 64-27. Head Coach David Bailiff was not pleased with the defense, especially the secondary.
"We didn't have any turnovers defensively. We had one blown coverage lead to points, but the other scores we had people there and we just didn't make plays," Bailiff said. "We've got to get our confidence back; when we are running with those receivers, we turn and break it up, or we turn and get the interception. Sometimes we worry about getting beat deep: that you get beat underneath and they can turn it up just as fast."
McGuffie had his most productive game of the season, running for a career-high 178 yards, further solidifying his role as the Owls' best offensive player. With the Owls' final three opponents giving up an average of 189 yards per game on the ground, McGuffie has a fair chance of becoming the first Owls' running back since Quinton Smith (Baker '06) to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Cook also played well in backup, leading Bailiff to put the signal caller's job up for grabs after reiterating for weeks that it was Fanuzzi's job.
"You watch the video, and Taylor really did do some nice things," Bailiff said. "It's one where we are going to let [Cook and Fanuzzi] compete this week. Every week in football there ?are changes."
This loss ensured the second losing season in a row for Rice and another year without bowl eligibility, a preseason goal for the Owls. Junior nose tackle John Gioffre understands the challenges Rice faces in staying motivated through the final few games of the season without anything to really play for.
"It is really frustrating at this point. We have had a lot of tough games and a lot of scenarios where we are right on the line between doing really well and things not going our way," Gioffre said. "Especially with the talent we have on this team, having things not go our way is frustrating, but we still have three games left. We have to play our hardest. This is about getting morale up for next season and coming together as a team."
This weekend, the Owls travel to the Crescent City to take on Tulane University, the team that is currently sharing the basement of the Conference USA West Division with the Owls. Hopefully, the Rice team that defeated the University of Houston will show up to play the game and will forget about the efforts at the University of Central Florida and Tulsa.
A vote of confidence was given to Bailiff by Athletic Director Rick Greenspan, who stated Wednesday that "David is our coach, and he's going to be our coach" in 2011. Bailiff's contract runs through the ?2013 season.
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