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Although they headed into the tournament hot, winning four of their last five games, the season ended for the Rice women's basketball team in disappointment Wednesday night, as the Owls fell to the University of Tulsa in the first round of the Conference USA tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
If there is a time to get hot in college basketball, it is March. The women's basketball team has won three out of its last four games and is now looking like the team that was picked to finish in the top half of the conference.
Things are quickly deteriorating for the Rice women's basketball team, and it only has five games left this year to fix the season. After losing two more games this past weekend, the Owls find themselves tied for last in Conference USA, far from where they were originally predicted to finish this year. It may take a massive run in the C-USA tournament for this to be anything but a forgettable season.
With only one game this weekend, the Rice Owls had a lot of time to prepare for the arrival of the University of Houston Cougars to Tudor Fieldhouse this past Sunday. Coming off their first win in quite a while, the Owls were hoping to use their victory against the University of Alabama, Birmingham, as a stepping stone to leave the basement of the conference standings. Unfortunately, the Cougars had other plans.
The Rice Owls women's basketball team drew a line in the sand. This Rice team is just too talented to lose six in a row, and the team must have realized that heading into a big weekend of games.
It was another rough weekend for the Rice Owls women's basketball team, which lost both games it played to fall to four straight losses. The Owls, whose conference record of 1-5 places them at No. 11 in Conference USA, are consistently struggling to score points.
Since the Owls first received their Conference USA schedule, this past week has been circled as one they knew was going to be difficult. Tulane University, currently in third place in the conference, visited Tudor Fieldhouse, followed by a road trip to Dallas to take on conference leader Southern Methodist University. Both teams had more than 10 victories already this season.
Things were merrier in 2012 for the Rice women's basketball team than in 2013 so far. After a long Winter Break home stand, the Owls lost their first game of the new year to 37th ESPN ranked Texas A&M University team, ending a five-game winning streak. The team then opened Conference USA play with a fall to Eastern Carolina University before rebounding with a victory against a bottom-of-the pack University of Tulsa team.
For only the second time in 50 years, the Rice Owls football team has a bowl victory to celebrate. After winning five of their last six games to be eligible for the postseason, the Owls beat the Air Force Academy in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl by a final score of 33-14, providing the program an opportunity to be proud.
For the third time in 50 years, the Rice University Owls will be traveling to a bowl game. After a big away win against the University of Texas at El Paso this past weekend, the Owls met the six-win requirement to go bowling - capping the improbable four-game winning streak needed for postseason play.
Two games under .500, with two games left; logic says both games are must-wins for the Rice Owls, who have set their sights on bowl eligibility. For the first time since 2008, there is a real possibility of Rice playing itself into a December game.
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.
Last season, the University of Southern Mississippi football program was the only thing that stood between the University of Houston and a BCS bowl. With 11 wins and a conference title, the 2011 season surpassed everyone in Hattiesburg's wildest dreams. With 18 consecutive winning seasons under their belt, it seemed that Southern Miss was a storybook mid-major program - and then 2012 struck.
Going into the fall season of women's tennis, sophomore Natalie Beazant was ranked 15th in the country for singles matches and eighth for doubles with partner junior Dominique Harmath by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Beazant completed a great performance during the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational in Midland, Texas, Sept. 14-16. She was the top-seeded athlete in the tournament and proved she was deserving of this ranking.
Perhaps playing the worst football team in college football is just what the Owls need after a disappointing outcome at Reliant Stadium last Saturday against the University of Houston. Despite a strong effort that showed grit toward the end, Rice failed to match the Cougars' offensive attack, letting the Bayou Bucket leave the hedges once again.
Rice University has been playing well in the fourth quarter so far. The Owls have moved the ball down the field, found big defensive stops and made game-changing plays. The Owls look like a team that could win football games - if you only watch the fourth quarter. Unfortunately for Rice, that comes with the team typically down a couple of touchdowns and hoping to mount an improbable comeback. To the Owls' credit, they pulled it off against the University of Kansas. In their only win so far this season, the Owls were down nine headed into the fourth. The team has been outscored 50-13 in the first quarter this year - not a recipe for football success. Last week, against Louisiana Tech University, the Owls ended up down 21-0 before fans even had a chance to turn on the television, putting themselves in a hole they simply could not escape. Once the offense started stringing drives together, Rice scored consistently, but it was not enough to make up for the early deficit. The Owls ended up losing 56-37. "We're obviously coming off a game where offensively we had some production," Offensive Coordinator John Reagan said. "But obviously not as much as we needed." Kicker Chris Boswell had another strong game, however, breaking the school record for most career field goals while also tying the school record for the longest field goal, booting a 57-yarder that had a few extra yards in it. "It was a great hold, snap, and he did get through the ball," Assistant Head Coach Darrell Patterson said. "Our kicking game has been consistent for the most part." This was also Boswell's seventh field goal of more than 50 yards, another school record, and a total that places him in a tie for first in the country from 50 or more yards. Fortunately for the Owls, their opponent this week - the Marshall University Thundering Herd - has not exactly been earth-shattering in the first quarter of this season. With only 17 points in the three first quarters of this season, the Marshall offense has also taken some time to acclimate to the game - something in which Rice fans can potentially take solace. However, the team has scored abundantly once they got going, averaging just over 27 points per game on the year. "If we continue to work on starting fast and continue to keep doing what we're doing, we'll be able to get better and continue to progress throughout the year," junior running back Charles Ross said. "As a team, even though we lost, I feel like we'll be able to bounce back this week." Marshall, coming off a 20-10 win in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl against Florida International University last season, is one of the favorites to make the Conference USA championship this season. This game should be another shootout for Marshall, which has one of the best offenses in the conference. Marshall began the year with a prime-time 69-34 loss to West Virginia University, which is ranked eighth in the country. Marshall, however, showed its depth and scored 34 points on a strong team. The Herd followed up the defeat with an impressive 52-24 victory against Western Carolina University before being losing to Ohio University 27-24. The Thundering Herd currently ranks first in the nation in passing yards per game, with sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato throwing for over 1,200 yards in three games. After a streaky freshman year, he looks like the leader Marshall always suspected he could be. Look for Marshall to take advantage of a banged-up Rice secondary by going deep early and often. The running game for Marshall has been more sporadic, with four different running backs all getting more than 10 touches this season. Marshall's defense has struggled at times and will most likely give the Owls scoring opportunities. Whether or not Rice can capitalize on Marshall's young defensive line and backfield will be one of the deciding factors of the game. Without former star Vinny Curry, who is now playing on Sundays, the Marshall defense looks drastically different than it did last year. "I'm so glad that Vinny Curry isn't playing against us. He had the game of his life against us," Reagan said. "He may have gotten drafted based on his game against us last year." The Thundering Herd does have some difficulties lining up against Rice and its wealth of offensive weapons. It will be difficult for them to stop the combined running attack of Ross, averaging over seven yards per carry this season, and junior Turner Petersen. In addition, every team is worried about quarterback Taylor McHargue, who looks much improved in his junior season. "We have our work cut out for us and have to have a great week of preparation," Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday said at his Monday press conference. "It starts with the quarterback with Rice. He can beat you with his feet. He has rushed for over 200 yards, and he can throw it. He created issues for us a year ago with the different options and types of plays he runs. We will have to do an extremely good job on defense to contain him." This is a winnable game for the Owls, which is crucial before the Bayou Bucket rivalry game against the University of Houston the following week at Reliant Stadium. The game could very well be won in the first quarter, by whichever team starts off with an early lead and does not lose momentum. "We want to be able to make a bowl game this year," Ross said. "Starting off conference strong would be a big help, so hopefully we can come out with a win."
After finally getting the Big 12 monkey off their backs against the University of Kansas, the Rice Owls look to take some momentum with them down to Ruston, La. The Owls - who have been defeated against Big 12 teams since the formation of the conference - played up to their potential this past game, coming up with big plays in the clutch. This weekend, the Owls battle the Louisiana Tech University Bulldogs (1-0), who will enter Conference USA next season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference. The Bulldogs, coming off of a WAC Championship and Poinsettia Bowl, have high expectations for this season. The Bulldogs had to cancel their season opener against Texas A&M University, a neutral site game in Shreveport, La., due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac. They then opened their season last weekend against the University of Houston Cougars, traveling to Houston and beating the Cougars in a 56-49 shootout. Even coming off a big victory, the Bulldogs know that Rice will be a difficult opponent. "They will be much more confident, probably, than we would like for them to be after going on the road and beating a Big 12 team and playing the way they did against UCLA," Bulldogs Head Coach Sonny Dykes said this past Monday. "They will come into this place and have a ton of confidence. It is going to be up to us to play well, and if we have a chance to close things out, we have to get better at doing that." The previous week against Kansas looked a lot like the Owls' first win of the previous season against Purdue University. After junior Chris Boswell's field goal and three straight turnovers, the Owls seemed like they were going to struggle during the game, giving up 10 points to the Jayhawks in a matter of minutes. A long drive to start the second quarter put the Owls within striking distance again, leaving the score at 17-13 headed into the half. In the winding minutes of the fourth quarter, down 24-16, junior quarterback Taylor McHargue faced a must-score drive. He led the team down the field on a seven-play, 93-yard drive bringing the Owls within two. They missed the extra point, leaving Kansas with the ball with a little under five minutes left. An interception by sophomore defensive back Bryce Callahan, his second of the game, earned the Owls the ball back with a little over three minutes left. "To know we have a kicker like Chris Boswell, we knew we just needed to get to that 40-yard line." Head Coach David Bailiff said. "We thought if we could get to the 40 without the wind, we would be good. We knew if we could get to the 40 with the wind, he is pretty automatic from that range. So we felt good when we got the ball to the 40. We were trying to just get extra yards and burn clock." The Owls did just that, setting Boswell up with a 45-yard field goal. Despite being iced by the Kansas coaches twice, Boswell nailed the field goal and gave the Owls the win. It was their first road victory since a win in against the University of North Texas in 2010. "You feel really good about the progress. You're excited, and then you put that Louisiana Tech video on," Bailiff said. "They look so similar to U of H a year ago. Their quarterback, Cameron, just runs that offense so efficiently. You know they've got a massive offensive line. They run the ball for over 200 yards. I mean it was a great offensive performance. They're a good, good football team." The previous week against Houston, Louisiana Tech totaled 598 yards on 93 plays, including over 200 yards from their two freshman running backs. Their defense struggled to contain Houston, but it will be hard for the Owls' offense to outscore the Bulldogs in a pure shootout. The Owls' defense will have to continue to develop, but the younger players have really solidified the backfield, giving the Owls big play potential. Junior Cameron Nwosu, who had seven tackles against Kansas, is continuing to shut down the running game up the middle. On the offensive side of the ball, turnovers remained a problem against Kansas, but it was hard not to feel good about the Owls in the closing minutes. Despite throwing an interception, McHargue still had 236 passing yards, in addition to 37 yards on the ground. Junior Charles Ross and senior Turner Petersen both had a pair of touchdowns, with Ross having an impressive 6.7 yards per touch. Special teams continued to be the Owls' strength, capped off by Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week Boswell. Anytime the Owls can get big plays out of this unit it will greatly improve their chances of wnning games. If the Owls can win this week against the Bulldogs, the 2-1 start will be impressive for the team heading into a weaker C-USA than it saw last season. With the only remaining (and very winnable) non-conference game against University of Texas at El Paso, the Owls can put themselves in the best position for a bowl game in years.
Any time anyone mentions University of Kansas football this year, there is only one name that really gets mentioned - new Head Coach Charlie Weis - in his first head coaching job since the debacle at Notre Dame University. For a man who has Super Bowl rings, Lawrence may seem like an odd place to end up, but few doubt Weis's ability to create explosive offenses.That ability to build an offense is just what the Jayhawks need after a miserable 2011 season, going 2-10 and losing every single game inside the Big 12. Despite one of the most difficult schedules of any team in the nation, that record did not cut it at Kansas, an athletic program with a tradition of winning. Coming off a streaky performance against the University of California, Los Angeles, the previous week, expect the Owls to understand the stakes in this game against an automatic BCS-qualifying opponent.If this team is going to be in competition for a bowl game in the latter half of this season, they have to win some of these non-conference games. Much like the Purdue University primetime game last season, this is the Owls' chance to defeat a reputable opponent. "We're gonna take this video, we're gonna learn from it, and we're gonna get better. And we're gonna get to Kansas and play a heck of a football game," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "I thought Kansas looked extremely solid against South Dakota State University. They created five takeaways defensively. They were very solid offensively. It'll be a challenge - but we're looking forward to getting on the road and getting to play." Rice started out terribly the previous week, with seemingly everything going wrong to start against UCLA. However, led by the strong firsthalf performance of junior quarterback Taylor McHargue, Rice managed to claw its way back into the game, going into the locker room only down 11. UCLA shut down the Owls offensively in the second half, eventually winning the game 49-24. On the bright side was the play of junior linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who blocked three extra point attempts and tied a Football Bowl Subdivision record. He was later named Conference-USA Special Teams player of the week. "As an offense, I think we've just got to keep going, be a little bit more aggressive at the beginning," senior tight end and punter Taylor Cook said. "I think this week you'll see a few changes and see our aggressiveness as we step up and get after Kansas." The previous week against South Dakota State, Kansas performed well - especially on the ground - racking up 263 total rushing yards. Tony Pierson, their sophomore running back, racked up 124 of these yards with two touchdowns. The defensive backfield for Kansas had a big game, picking off four passes and holding South Dakota State to 207 yards. Rice's key to the game will be not allowing the bigger Kansas team to physically push them around and opening up holes for the Rice running game to continue to develop. If Rice plays up to its potential, this could be a real opportunity for the team to build some confidence in a part of the season with which they have historically struggled.