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Football earns first victory

By By Evan Neustater     10/1/14 9:58am

The Rice University football team claimed their first victory of the season on Saturday, Sept. 27 by defeating the University of Southern Mississippi 42-23.


The Owls (1-3, 1-1 C-USA) outgained the Golden Eagles 393 to 323 in yards, including a 217 to 40 advantage in rushing yards. Sophomore running back Jowan Davis led the team in rushing for the third time this season, gaining 131 yards on 29 carries and adding two touchdowns. Davis now has 400 yards rushing on the season and 281 over the past two conference matchups.


Sophomore quarterback Driphus Jackson also threw for 178 yards and two scores on the night, bringing his season total to 728 yards and six touchdowns. Up 20-16 with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter, Jackson hit redshirt senior wide receiver Mario Hull on a 40 yard pass into the endzone, giving the Owls an 11-point lead that would help secure the victory. According to Jackson, the play was critical to the game’s outcome.


“We needed those big plays,” Jackson said. “Mario [Hull] came through for us, and at the end of the day, that’s what we expect out of him. Obviously Mario is a great receiver for us, we just have to do a better job of capitalizing on all the opportunities in the game.”


Head Coach David Bailiff said the team’s success is a result of the trials the team has gone through since the season began.


“We’ve hung together since the opening game at Notre Dame, and we’ve just continued to work and continued to improve,” Bailiff said. “Even though we were not winning, we were getting better.”


Senior defensive back Jaylon Finner said the team’s improvements have stemmed from practice and their desire to avenge the three consecutive losses that began the season.


“We knew that we didn’t perform our best last week against Old Dominion, so we just put it on ourselves,” Finner said. “We came out and practiced hard this week, put it on ourselves to perform and get turnovers this week. That’s why we work hard to do it, so we can show out on Saturday.”


Senior kicker James Hairston was removed of his kicking duties after beginning the season by making two of six field goals. Redshirt junior kicker/punter James Farrimond, who has only punted thus far in his career, replaced Hairston for field goal duties and made both of his field goals and all five of his extra point attempts against Southern Miss. According to Farrimond, the new position has been a frightening yet exciting transition.


“That was my first collegiate, actually high school or anything, field goal, so that was pretty nerve-wracking at first,” Farrimond said. “But once it went through [the goalposts], I was just like, ‘Wow, I really can do this.’”


The Owls will return home next week to take on the University of Hawai’i, a non-conference opponent who is also currently 1-3 on the year. Hawai’i has not lost by more than 12 points this season, including one-point and eight-point losses to Pac-12 opponents the University of Washington and Oregon State University, respectively.  


Despite defeating Southern Miss, Bailiff said the team will have to remain focused on its next opponent and winning its second game of the season.


“It was a big win, the first one in conference,” Bailiff said. “We got Hawai’i coming to town so we’ll enjoy this one on the flight home, and then everything is about getting that winning streak at home going again.”


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