Quadruple doink: Owls drop home opener
Photo courtesy: Maria Lysaker | Rice Athletics
This past Saturday afternoon, the Rice football team opened their season at an empty Rice Stadium against the Middle Tennessee State University. The Owls came back from a 15 point deficit in the second half to force overtime, but bad luck spelled defeat for Rice as they lost 40-34 in double OT. This loss dropped Rice to 0-1 while MTSU is now 2-5.
Rice failed to capitalize on an MTSU mistake in the first overtime of the game. After pushing back the MTSU offense back 10 yards on the first possession of overtime, the Rice defense forced MTSU to miss a deep field goal. After gaining possession and knowing that the next score would win the game, Rice remained in field goal territory as they believed that they could make the game-winning field goal.
On the field goal attempt, graduate kicker Collin Riccitelli’s ball bounced four times off of the field goal posts as the ball failed to make it through the uprights. The later named “quadruple doink” went viral, even making it onto ESPN’s SportsCenter. Had that kick gone in, Rice would have won the game. According to head coach Mike Bloomgren, Riccitelli’s field goal kick was very unlucky.
“The statement that the ball didn’t bounce our way has never been truer,” Bloomgren said. “We could have come out victorious, but that is always the case if we go into overtime or double overtime. There are so many plays that if one goes the other way or we make one more play, the game ends.”
On their next possession in the second overtime, Rice failed to score and put Middle Tennessee in a great position to win the game. MTSU quarterback redshirt junior Asher O’Hara ran through the Rice defense and squeezed his way into the end zone, winning the game with a 14-yard TD run.
Despite being down for most of the game, Rice came back in the fourth quarter, quarterback Mike Collins, a graduate transfer from Texas Christian University, engineered a quick drive down the field to take the lead in the game in the final minute. Collins and senior Austin Trammell connected three consecutive times to help Rice take the lead late in the game.
Down 31-25 with 47 seconds left, Collins threw an improbable 48-yard dart to Trammell on 4th and 24 and subsequently threw a 20-yard touchdown to Trammell to take the lead 32-31. As they opted for the two-point conversion, Collins, once again, threw a short pass to Trammell to add on to their lead 34-31 with 34 seconds left to go in the game. Prior to this sequence of events that changed the outcome of the game, ESPN’s win probability chart gave MTSU a 99.6 percent chance of winning. These highly improbable plays impressed Bloomgren.
“There are a lot of things that I can appreciate from these guys even without watching the film,” Bloomgren said. “If you think about that fourth down play where Mike Collins gives our captain [Trammell] a chance to change the game and we go down to score and we get the two-point conversion and we’re right there.”
However, after MTSU regained possession with such little time on the clock, the Owls’ defense conceded major yardage to the Blue Raiders as they marched down the field in the remaining 34 seconds on the clock and made the tying field goal as time expired.
Collins had a shaky start to his Rice debut but became more coherent with the Rice offense as the game progressed. In the first half, Collins went 7-19 with 75 yards, a TD, and an interception. However, in the second half and in overtime, Collins’ performance improved as he finished the game with 18-35 for 242 yards, threw for four TDs and an interception.
In the first half of the game, the Rice defense, similar to Collins, underperformed and failed to keep up with the Blue Raiders. However, in the second half, the Owls’ defense played well in the fourth quarter and made several key stops to give the Rice offense more opportunities to score and get back into the game.
The Owls’ defense was led by several key contributors like senior linebacker Blaze Alldredge who had the sixth double-digit tackle game of his career, tallying a total of 13 tackles with one tackle for loss and one sack. Sophomore safety Kirk Lockhart had the first multi-tackle game of his young career with 12 combined tackles. According to Alldredge, a team captain, the defense still needs to improve.
“The defense didn’t play well enough,” Alldredge said. “In fact, I would venture off and say that we played poorly. We’ve got to do better, I was happy about some things that we saw. We played a bit scared and we can’t have that as a team.”
Next Saturday, the 0-1 Owls head to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to face off against the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (1-4).
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Rice lost to the University of North Texas on Saturday by a score of 27-17. The loss dropped the Owls’ record to 1-2 on the season. Meanwhile, the Mean Green improved to 3-3 with their win.
When Rice takes the field against the University of North Texas on Saturday, it will be the Owls’ first game in 21 days. After a 30-6 win over the University of Southern Mississippi on Oct. 31, Rice has seen their last two games postponed due to COVID-19 cases within their opponents’ programs. The 1-1 Owls now have to regroup from their unscheduled two week break in order to face a Mean Green team that enters the game with a 2-3 record. Head coach Mike Bloomgren said he is proud of how his team has been able to improve despite these challenges.
The Rice Owls football season has encountered several major hurdles this season. The team has played only two games thus far, and has had two games postponed due to COVID-19 safety precautions. However, a bright spot for the team has been its consistent offense, which has scored 32.0 points per game on average, ranking No. 45 in the nation. A key player contributing to the success of the Owls’ offense is senior wide receiver Austin Trammell.