Football prepares to face Army
The Rice University football team (2-3) defeated the University of Hawai’i on Saturday, Oct. 4, winning 28-14.
Tied at 14-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Owls scored the go-ahead touchdown with 4:18 remaining on a four-yard touchdown run by sophomore Darik Dillard, his second of the night. Hawai’i then received the ball and failed on a fourth-down attempt, giving the Owls the ball back with 2:55 remaining. On a fourth and 13 play with 18 seconds remaining on the Hawai’i 31-yard line, junior quarterback Driphus Jackson found senior wide receiver Jordan Taylor for the game-winning score.
Jackson completed 10 of 23 passes on the night for 248 yards, two touchdowns and one interception; 105 of those yards went to Taylor, who had his first 100-yard receiving game of the season and the fifth of his career. Dillard also had his first 100-yard rushing game of the year, going for 141 yards on 23 carries and two touchdowns.
Rice’s sophomore running backs Dillard and Jowan Davis have now combined for 784 yards and seven touchdowns on the season, averaging nearly five yards per carry. According to Head Coach David Bailiff, having both running backs with different running styles adds versatility to the team’s rushing attack.
“Darik’s running style is so different than Jowan’s,” Bailiff said. “Jowan is more of a slasher, and Darik is going north. They’re both very special; they truly are. They’re both every down backs. No matter if it’s running with the ball, they’re great catching the football, and they’re also great in pass protection.”
According to Taylor, Rice’s offense still has room for improvement despite recording consecutive victories.
“We’re not by any means where we want to be as an offense,” Taylor said. “We’re starting to click, we’re starting to come together, but we’re a long way from where we want to be, and that just comes week-by-week, practice-by-practice. We just try to get a little better every day.”
Bailiff said the team’s defensive play was critical to the team’s victory, particularly with the offense struggling in the first half.
“We held them defensively to their lowest output of the season [with] 261 yards,” Bailiff said. “We got seven sacks, 12 tackles for loss and two turnovers. We’re really proud of our defense; we needed that type of performance from that side of the ball.”
According to senior defensive back Malcolm Hill, the defense has improved over the course of the season and is reaching its potential.
“After Southern Miss, I think the defense got its groove back,” Hill said. “We’re out there talking, communicating, and even though we had a couple mishaps, it was kind of overshadowed by our confidence and guys making plays.”
Rice will next head to West Point, New York to face Army. Army runs a triple-option offense, which is uncommon in the modern game. The triple-option offense revolves around the quarterback either handing the ball off to the fullback, pitching it to the halfback or keeping it himself to pick up rushing yards. Although they have the third-overall rushing offense in the nation at 338.2 yards per game, they also have the worst overall passing offense in the country, throwing for 82 yards per game.
Hill said the defense remaining focused on their assignments is critical to stopping an unconventional offense.
“We have to tackle the ball carrier, we have to stay sound and we have to stay committed to our jobs,” Hill said. “This week, more than any other week, we all have to do our [part]. We can’t get beat, we can’t get bored with the game. [We want interceptions], we want pass breakups, but it’s about tackling, about staying focused on your job and keeping your eyes on the right spot.”
Army will be the first academy school Rice has played since the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl, in which the Owls defeated the Air Force Academy 33-14. According to Bailiff, whose father served in the Korean War, playing Army has special significance to him and the team because of the players on the other side.
“What those young men do for this country when they graduate … they’re headed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and they’re letting guys like me be football coaches,” Bailiff said. “You look at what those academies stand for, and it’s an honor to stand on the same field and play those guys.”
Rice will look to even its record and earn its third victory of the season against Army, before returning to conference play against the University of North Texas on Oct. 25. The game against Army will kick off at 11 a.m. in West Point.
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