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After a big win against crosstown rival University of Houston, it looked like the Owls' football program was finally turning the corner. It looked like it was all coming together, with a running game, a defense and a quarterback who could hold it all together. So much for that.
It all played out like a movie script on Saturday. A battered football team, struggling through their season, comes face-to-face with their much more talented rival on homecoming weekend. Their embattled quarterback, who had seen the bench only a few games before, storms forward to take control of the team along with the emergence of the running game that had been hiding all season. A third-quarter blowup, a perfectly choreographed go-ahead touchdown, a defensive stand on fourth down, fans storming the field; basically everything college football is meant to be. The Owls were struggling after their game over fall break at the University of Texas-El Paso (5-2, 2-2 C-USA), in which they fell to the Miners by a final score of 44-24. The final score ended up being closer than the game actually was, as the Owls were dominated from the start and were held hostage by the Miners' passing attack. Miners quarterback Trevor Vittatoe broke three career passing records in the game, moving into first place on the Miners' all-time list for touchdowns, passing yards and total offensive yards.
If football games only consisted of the first and fourth quarters, Rice would have tied or won every game this year. For some reason, the football team has not come up with the same sterling results in the second and third quarters of their contests, including last weekend's game against Southern Methodist University (3-2, 2-0 C-USA), which the Owls lost 42-31. Whether it is conditioning, coaching or something else, Rice simply cannot continue to be so soundly defeated on the bookends of halftime if the team hopes to win games. With the predictability of the rhythm of the games, this season almost seems scripted. Rice plays great in the first quarter, giving up an average of 4.8 points - a pretty respectable number with its difficult schedule.
There really could not be a better time for the football team to start playing Conference USA games. After one of the most punishing non-conference schedules of any non-BCS conference team in the country, Rice (1-3) is looking for a little bit of relief. Outside of their win against the University of North Texas, the Owls have consistently gone up against teams that were bigger, faster and stronger. "It's been a tough stretch all four of these games," Head Coach David Bailiff said. "The good news is we're getting into conference play. I think we're continuing to get better, even if we're not winning."
A football offense is a complicated system, requiring exact precision of every moving piece in order to put together lasting drives. An offense is not merely a collection of talent but rather a group of players who can unite and play together. This precision is something that has yet to happen for the Owls (1-2) in any of their three games, most recently in last weekend's 30-13 loss to Northwestern University (3-0). Head Coach David Bailiff echoed these sentiments when talking about the offense's progress this week against Northwestern.
Playing special teams for a football team is no easy task. There is little glory for successes, and any failure is costly. However, last weekend, special teams made the difference for the football team in Rice's 32-31 win over the University of North Texas last Saturday. Head Coach David Bailiff took note of special teams' contribution.
The football team learned Saturday they just are not a good enough football team to make big mistakes and still win football games.The Owls (1-2) hosted Northwestern University (3-0) in their first game at Rice Stadium of the year. It was the first time the Owls had played a Big Ten team since 2002.
As President John F. Kennedy once said, "Rice does not play Texas because it is easy, but rather because it is hard." As the Owls learned last Saturday, it's really, really hard. But, despite the national media giving them absolutely no chance, the University of Texas' (1-0) roster being infinitely more athletic and Vegas' placing the line at 31 points, Rice (0-1) fought valiantly under the bright artificial lights of Reliant Stadium, managing to put a scare into the Longhorns and remind them that sometimes David can get some shots in against Goliath.
Let's face the facts: Last football season was a rebuilding year.After a disappointing 2-10 season in 2009, in which Rice returned only three starters from their 2008 Texas Bowl win, the Owls football team hopes that they have enough talent added to the program that this year will be a different story.
A college soccer game lasts 90 minutes. The soccer team (1-3-0) played a strong second 45 minutes, but it was too little, too late, as they were down 2-0 in the first half of the game last Sunday against in-state rival Texas Tech University (4-0-0) and never recovered. Head Coach Chris Huston said she had hoped the team would have not repeated its previous mistakes.
While the scoreboard did not necessarily go their way, it was still a good day to be an Owl on Saturday.The football team kicked off their season on Saturday at Reliant Stadium against the University of Texas, ranked 5th in the nation. Over 70,000 filled the stadium, making it the most-highly attended Rice season opener since 1961.
Despite having few experienced players on this year's soccer team, the Owls still hoped to get a win under their belt in the first week of play. The soccer team played two games this past weekend, traveling to Waco, Texas to take on Baylor University (1-0) Friday night, followed by their home opener against Stephen F. Austin State University (1-1-0) Sunday afternoon. Both games were possible wins for the Owls, a rarity in this year's difficult schedule, designed by Head Coach Chris Huston so as to prepare the team for a possible NCAA tournament run.
In the 10 years since Head Coach Chris Huston founded the Rice soccer program, the team has made large strides toward success. This is the year that the team hopes to take that success to new levels.The disappointments in the 2009 campaign have motivated the team to greater heights in 2010. The team is practicing with a new motivation and swagger, confident in their ability to put the ball in the back of the net.
One day after defeat at the hands of the University of Texas in the NCAA Regional on June 6, the baseball team had to start worrying about the Major League Baseball draft and the possibility of losing their prized players to the pros. Despite the earlier-than-planned exit from the NCAA Tournament, the Owls still had an exciting season, posting a final record of 40-23, which included winning a conference championship for the 15th-straight year.
When a team loses their first seven games but still manages to come back and find thirteen victories in a season, what else can you do as a coach but pat them on the back?"I did the team a disservice by scheduling five straight tough road games," Head Coach Greg Williams said. "I'm so proud of how they rebounded and pulled together. We knew we were a young group at the beginning of the year, but they really grew and we're really excited moving into next year."
On Feb. 23, 2008, George W. Bush was still president, half of the undergraduates at Rice were still in high school and Duncan College and McMurtry College were mere glimmers in Leebron's eye. That date was also the last time the women's basketball team won a Conference USA road game, a streak that had to be reversed if the Owls were to have any hope of climbing into the top half of the C-USA standings. Rice (12-14, 6-7 Conference USA) had two prime opportunities to break the 15-game losing streak this weekend, facing two struggling teams. The Owls began the swing with a contest against the University of Central Florida, then heading to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on the University of Southern Mississippi.
The baskets on the women's basketball team's road games are still 10 feet high, just as they are at Tudor Fieldhouse. The courts are still 94 feet long, and there are still five players out on the court for one team at any time. The rules and the dimensions, of course, remain the same. But it sure doesn't always seem so, which is why Head Coach Greg Williams may want to buy a tape measure and a rule book to show any doubting Owls before their next road game. Something, anything, to break the women's road swoon, a run that has seen them tumble to 1-9 in road games, 0-5 in the conference.
Consistency is one of the main goals of any athletic team. For the women's basketball team, it has been one of the toughest to reach. The Owls (11-11, 5-4 C-USA) have suffered humiliating losses against teams that should have been easy victories, but have simultaneously managed to rally to defeat some of the elite teams of Conference USA.
Had you told women's basketball Head Coach Greg Williams in July that his team would get off to the worst start in the program's history, he probably would have been shocked. Had you told him that over the next 14 games, his team would find 10 wins to get back to the .500 mark, he might have called you a liar. Williams' disbelief may be hypothetical, but these situations are all too real for the team this season. The Owls (10-10, 4-3 Conference USA) captured two key C-USA games this weekend - one against Southern Methodist University, the other against the University of Tulsa - to earn not just a .500 record but, for the first time this season, more conference wins than conference defeats.
With adrenaline running high and expectations continually rising, the women's basketball team had all the momentum in the world coming into its only game of the week, a weekend road match-up with University of Memphis last Saturday, an elite program in Conference USA. Unfortunately, the Owls (8-10, 2-3 C-USA) needed just a pinch more momentum, as they fell 59-58 in an overtime thriller that was just as entertaining as it was close.