Owls Football dominates Southern Mississippi, 44-17
There is definitely something magical about Rice Stadium for the Owls: Something different seems to happen when the team is at home. The offense seems more efficient, the defense hits harder - and all of this results in more wins on the field.
In their four home games this year, the Owls have played noticeably better than on the road, beating and competitively playing some teams that logic says they would not. But, on the flip side, the team has struggled mightily on the road, with its win against a one-win University of Kansas team as their only victory. A loss against University of Memphis on the road is one of the largest blemishes so far this season.
This weekend, the Owls lived up to their reputation at Rice Stadium, rolling over the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Hurricanes, the defending Conference USA champions. The game was an absolute rout, with Rice clicking on all cylinders.
"I'm really proud of this football team," Rice Head Coach David Bailiff said. "Proud of how we started the game, and really proud of how we started the second half. I thought the defense today, with five forced turnovers, was where the separation really started h appending in the second half. When you looked up on the scoreboard, we had 17 second-half points."
By halftime, the score was 21-10. The Owls finished 44-17 and their biggest win of the season.
Turner Petersen, a junior running back, led the way for the Owls without an impressive 136 rushing yards. He had a rushing and a receiving touchdown, helping stoke the offense for Rice. Petersen ended without an average of over seven yards per carry.
Both Rice quarterbacks contributed, with junior Taylor McHargue going 7-12 80 yards and a touchdown before being slammed to the ground on a nasty horse collar. Freshman backup Driphus Jackson entered the game, contributing 92 yards and two touchdowns.
"I was so proud, offensively, of Driphus Jackson, who came in and played early and then finished the game," Bailiff. "McHargue could have come back in, but we opted to keep out with the score being where it was."
The Rice defense was ferocious, allowing only 116 rushing yards out of a good rushing team. Gabe Baker, a sophomore starting in only his second game, led the way with nine total tackles. Red shirt juniors Cody Bauer and Hosam Shahin and red shirt senior Jared Williams all contributed two tackles for losses.
"I think defensively as a whole, we worked better each week," safety Paul Porras said. "With Tulsa, they ran the ball, and with Southern Miss, they tried to air the ball out a little more. I think it's really preparing us to go against [Tulane University]. They have a very pass-oriented offense, and our defensive backs are going to be ready."
Tulane, the Owls' opponent this week, presents a decent passing offense but is one of the worst teams inside C-USA. With only two wins on the season, Tulane could be an easy Owls victory - if Rice shows up to play on the road.
The Green wave has a decent passing offense, averaging over 250 yards per game, but has struggled both on the run and defensively. Tulane seems to handle every position, with a large number of quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers all getting touches on the ball.
The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where Tulane plays, has a rough atmosphere. Not necessarily because Tulane fans pack the stadium, but because the NFL-sized dome presents an atmosphere in which most college teams are not used to playing.
If Rice can adjust to the challenging dome environment, this is a very winnable game. With a 6-6 record needed to be eligible for a bowl, the Owls need to win their next three games to have a possibility of playing December football. The big problem is that two of those games come on the road.
Surely, it has snuck into at least a few of the players' minds that a bowl appearance, which would be the first since 2008, is still on the table if t he team can just win. After the Southern Miss game, McHargue was feeling optimistic about the team's chances.
"Great team win," McHargue tweeted. "No reason why we can't rip [three] more off and make a bowl!"
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