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Football: Turnovers and defensive lapses doom Rice

Photo by Michael Wade/Wade Event Photogra | and Michael Wade/Wade Event Photogra The Rice Thresher
November 4, 2017: Rice Owls vs UAB Blazers

By Spencer Moffat     11/8/17 4:45am

The Rice offense has frequently let good defensive performances go to waste in conference play this season. But against the University of Alabama, Birmingham, it was the defense’s turn to let the game get out of hand. The Owls allowed six touchdowns on the way to a 52-21 loss that dropped Rice to 1-8 on the season and 1-4 in Conference USA. The Owls have now lost seven in a row.

Sophomore defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia said the defense’s play was frustrating.

“From the jump, we just got hit in the mouth,” Abercrumbia said. “I feel like this was by far one of our worst games with the amount of rushing yards they had. We have to do better in allowing the secondary in the backfield to make plays.”

The defense allowed 28 points before the offense got on the board early in the second quarter. After getting the ball on a handoff, junior running back Austin Walter dodged defenders and ran all the way for a 70-yard touchdown. The Owls then ran a surprise onside kick and recovered, gaining possession around midfield. Unfortunately, freshman quarterback Miklo Smalls, who replaced starting freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann in the first quarter, threw an interception on the next play. UAB returned it for a touchdown to go up 35-7. The Owls added two more second-half touchdowns but fell by 31 points, the fifth time this season they have lost by 30 or more.

Rice gave up three turnovers in the game, and the defense did not force any turnovers. Head coach David Bailiff said Rice needs to get takeaways if it wants to start winning games.

“I was really proud of how the guys fought back in the second half,” Bailiff said.

“[But] we’re not going to win games till we start winning the turnover battle.”

Smalls said he believes the Owls are talented enough to improve.

“We always knew that we had the talent and we had the coaches [to win] and we have the players that can make big plays happen,” Smalls said. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen most of the season.”

The Owls will look to win their first home game of the season as they face the University of Southern Mississippi on Nov. 11 at 2:30 p.m. Southern Miss is hoping to end its two-game losing streak and become bowl eligible with its sixth win; the Golden Eagles are 5-4 on the season. After they play the Golden Eagles on Nov. 11, the Owls will have two more games left on the schedule as they play Old Dominion University on Nov. 18 and the University of North Texas on Nov. 25.

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