Football snatches defeat from the jaws of victory
Another week, another tough loss for the football team, which was, for once, only a few key plays away from a well-fought victory. While it is a tough road trip up to Marshall University in West Virginia, the team that now sports a 2-3 record simply looked unprepared in the first half.
"We are making progress," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "We are better than we were a year ago but it is just not showing up in the win-loss column right now. These young men will come over here today and they will work hard and they will work to represent themselves and this university the best they can."
Rice, which at this point last year was 1-5, is continuing to struggle with winning games. While it can be argued that this team is one turnover away from being 3-3 team, it can also be said that they are old blocked field goal away from being the same one-win team they were at this point last year.
The first half looked bleak for Rice, as Marshall got off to a fast start, scoring the first two touchdowns of the game. Rice had trouble moving the ball offensively in the opening quarter, as their three drives only totaled 32 yards.
Marshall put together two field-long drives however, scoring on two short running plays. The dichotomy between the offenses and their preparedness was quite apparent.
Rice got it together in the second quarter, moving the ball more effectively and at least showing up on the scoreboard, with two field goals to move the score to 14-6. Marshall made one more field in the closing minute to make the score headed into the locker room 17-6.
Bailiff must have said something at halftime, as he lit a fire under his team that came out and scorched down the field on an 86-yard drive. Sophomore quarterback Taylor McHargue broke two runs to set the Owls up around midfield. McHargue then found junior tight end Vance McDonald on a long touchdown pass that would send the score to 17-13.
Another touchdown followed on the next possession after junior running back Sam McGuffie, who had his best game of the season, punched the ball in from the four-yard line. The touchdown put the Owls up 20-17.
"Our offense in the third quarter was just roaring alive" Bailiff said. "Then we get into the fourth quarter, made some mistakes and had two turnovers. You can't make those on the road."
The teams traded punts in the fourth quarter, with everything looking like the Owls were going to enjoy their third victory of the year. They were simply looking to kill time by giving the ball to McGuffie, who is typically a very reliable ballhandler.
However, deep in Owls territory, McGuffie was stripped of the ball, giving the Thundering Herd one last chance at victory.
"Sam [McGuffie] has never had a contact fumble since he has been here" Bailiff said. "I'll give him that ball every time. But I think Sam just wanted to win so bad. But that is why we will continue to give him the football."
Marshall capitalized on the turnover, scoring in five plays and taking the lead. Rice fell short of the end zone on its final drive of the game, ensuring the Marshall victory by a final score of 24-20.
Senior linebacker Justin Allen was especially upset about the loss.
"We expected to go up there and carry out what we planned to do all week. We had a great week of practice last week, and when it came time we just didn't finish," Allen said. "We're going to go back to work and look ahead at [the University of] Tulsa."
This weekend, the Owls take on the 3-3 Golden Hurricane back home at Rice Stadium, looking to turn around their C-USA chances.
Tulsa, which played one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in college football — with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Boise State — has one of the best rushing games in C-USA.
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