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Owls outplayed in second half; doubled up by USM

By Teddy Grodek     10/5/11 7:00pm

Maybe it was because it is a long drive to Mississippi. Maybe the Owls were intimidated by having Brett Favre analyze their game. Maybe the team had a Robert Griffin III hangover. But no matter the cause, the Rice Owls simply were not ready to play when they took the field against the University of Southern Mississippi last Saturday in Hattiesburg, Miss.

"It was a tough loss, a loss I take full responsibility for," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "I didn't have them ready to play. Offensively, we were not in rhythm from start to finish."

Rice started the game off on an awful note — with a quick three and out in which they only obtained one yard. Southern Miss moved the ball down the field effectively after the punt, but missed a field goal, leaving the game scoreless.

Rice, on their next two possessions would still fail to get a first down, giving Southern Miss fantastic scoring opportunities.

The Golden Eagles took advantage of both of these chances, scoring two touchdowns on their next two possessions, leaving the game at 13-0 after a missed extra point. Two long plays — a 47- yard run by running back Kendrick Hardy and a 46-yard pass from quarterback Austin Davis — would be the Owls' undoing.

Sophomore quarterback Taylor McHargue jump-started the Owls' offense for a moment at the end of the first however, pushing the team on a 7-play, 80- yard drive that would conclude in him finding junior tight end Vance McDonald in the corner of the end-zone for a two-yard touchdown pass.

Following the offensive touchdown, the Owls' defense did not want to be outdone. Sophomore linebacker Michael Kutzler jarred the ball loose from the Golden Eagles, taking it back 17 yards and putting the second Rice Owl touchdown on the board. It would give the Owls a one point lead and an astonishing swing in under a minute.

The second quarter had little scoring, outside of a Rice fumble that Southern Miss ran in for a score and a 41-yard field goal by sophomore kicker Chris Boswell.

After a disappointing first half, but still leaving themselves in the game, Rice simply failed to come out of the locker room. Southern Miss would put up 260 yards en route to three touchdowns in the third quarter.

Two short runs and one long touchdown pass would be the Owls' undoing; they had no offensive response for the Southern Miss attack. By the end of the quarter, the scoreboard would read 41-24, with the momentum in the game looking much more lopsided than the scoreboard.

One more touchdown pass in the closing minutes of the game would seal the game for the Golden Eagles with a final score of 48-24.

Rice was thoroughly routed in the statistics, as Southern Miss had 340 more rushing yards, with an impressive 370. Add in the 284 passing yards and that leaves a combined total of 654 yards for the game for the Golden Eagles.

"The thing that really hurt more than getting stalled out in those first drives was having those turnovers right after the defense had the takeaway," Rice senior offensive lineman Jake Hicks said. "That is a big part of the o-line, making sure those guys don't get hit in the backfield. That is a lot of what happened. We have to take care of business up front and that didn't happen the way we wanted it to during the game."

Tomorrow, the Owls play their first home conference game against the University of Memphis, another team that has been struggling so far this year. With their only win against Austin Peay University, Memphis is a team that the Owls can get a win against.

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