Rice wins 34-14 at Centennial Homecoming
The weather and the football team were the two things the Centennial Commission could not control this past weekend. Luckily, both turned out nearly perfect.
"How nice was that?" Head Coach David Bailiff asked. "All we had going on this weekend was a football game, a 100-year birthday party, Tommy Kramer coming in with the College Football Hall of Fame and Homecoming. If you could pick one [game] you definitely wanted to win, it would be that one."
The Owls, after falling short of winning a game in the past four weeks, including a rough loss to a struggling University of Memphis team, were desperately hoping for some homecoming magic. The Owls knew that a loss to undefeated University of Texas at San Antonio would leave them in a bad place for the rest of the season.
Rice scored before UTSA could register a first down and never stopped. With 318 rushing yards, the Owls simply overpowered the Roadrunners, constantly moving the ball down the field. The Owls won the 34-14.
Running back Charles Ross led the rushing staff with an impressive 117 yards on only 16 carries. Junior redshirt quarterback Taylor McHargue, finally healthy after suffering a shoulder injury three weeks ago, only threw for 144 yards, but combined that with 68 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.
"[McHargue] just knows the game really well," Rice center Nate Richards said. "Like that long scramble for a touchdown. He kind of has in-game savvy. It's like a moxie you can't explain. It's just - he's the guy."
The Rice offensive line managed to keep pressure off McHargue, with UTSA registering no sacks. Linebacker Cameron Nwosu had a huge day on defense with eight tackles, five of which were unassisted.
This week, the Owls take on a team with Conference USA championship aspirations - the 6-1 University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes - at Tulsa in a challenging matchup.
The Hurricanes, undefeated so far in C-USA, lost their only game of the season to Iowa State University in the first week of the season. Admittedly, Tulsa has not exactly challenged itself in its non-conference schedule outside of Iowa State (with games against Nicholls State University and California State University at Fresno).
Tulsa is led by second-year Head Coach Bill Blakenship, who led the team to a loss last year in the Armed Forces Bowl against Brigham Young University. Blakenship, who took over after former Owls coach Todd Graham left, is much more tolerant of the Owls fans and especially the Marching Owl Band than Graham.
Tulsa's main attack is its rushing game - currently 10th in the nation in average yards per game - which uses an arsenal of three different backs.
With 24 rushing touchdowns over the team's first seven games, the Golden Hurricane lights up the scoreboard regularly. Using two speedy backs and one short-yard powerhouse, Tulsa seemingly has the answer to every running situation.
"We're going to have to prep on all three of them," Owls linebacker James Radcliffe said. "Look at their tendencies and see what they do. Then we're going to have to play well and tackle well."
Junior quarterback Cody Green, originally from Texas and a transfer from the University of Nebraska, is prone to mistakes, having posted 10 touchdowns and six interceptions, this could be a potentially big game for the Owls secondary.
Green has thrown for more than 250 yards once this season with a completion percentage occasionally dropping below 50 percent.
Defensively, Tulsa has been hit-or-miss, holding Tulane University to only 10 while letting Marshall University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham run up more than 30 points each. Most of the bowl team from last year is back, giving opponents an improved team to play against.
The defensive ends for the Golden Hurricane are especially dangerous, meaning Rice will need to have another solid week of offensive line play.
Last week was a much-needed, emotional victory that the Owls simply had to have to keep this season afloat. With Centennial events going on around them, the Owls were amped up to play in a very crowded Rice Stadium. Official attendance was over 28,000.
"It gives us confidence," Richards said. "You just want to build on this confidence, keep it going into Tulsa, and pick up the win there."
The real question is which Owls team will show up. If the team can play like it did last week, with passion and enthusiasm, Tulsa is a team that can be exploited - its weaknesses are obvious. But if the same Owls team that traveled to Memphis comes out to play, it could be a difficult game to win.
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