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Sports


SPORTS 10/24/12 7:00pm

Women's soccer season ending, first place in sight

With the season almost over, the women's soccer team has not disappointed, posting an overall record of 10-6-3, including an impressive 7-2-1 mark in Conference USA play. The Owls' improvement from non-conference play to the team they are today is no easy feat, and the team is reaping the rewards of this progress. The Owls are tied for first in the C-USA standings entering the final week of conference play and are trying to not only wrap up a conference championship, but also secure the first seed in the upcoming C-USA tournament, which begins on Oct. 31. Women's soccer began during the middle of August with nine non-conference games against competitive teams from other conferences. The Owls came out of the gate with a tough non-conference schedule, playing teams such as Baylor University and Oklahoma State University. These games were set up the team's success in conference play this year, Head Coach Nicky Adams said."There's a reason that we go out and schedule really tough teams - so that we are prepared for the conference," Adams said. "With us having such a young team, I think it was good for us to mold really early and be able to do what we have this second half of the season." This is Adams' third year as head coach, and she is one of the reasons for the team's success this season. Since Adams took over the women's soccer program in 2010, the Owls have constantly improved, and her players agree that Adams has been key to Rice women soccer's recent rise in C-USA. "Since [Adams] took over, we've definitely had a different mindset because our style changed a little bit and became more of a team," team captain and senior midfielder Julia Barrow said. Barrow has played for the Owls both before and during Adams' tenure.With the non-conference games behind them, the Owls turned their attention to the heart of their schedule and conference matchups. The women opened conference play at home on Sept. 21 and 23 with victories against both the University of Tulsa and Southern Methodist University. These two games not only opened conference play with a demonstration of the strength of Rice's team, but also displayed one of the keys to the Owls' success this season: the freshmen.Freshmen forwards Lauren Hughes and Holly Hargreaves are a major reason the Owls are tied for first in conference play. Hughes and Hargreaves have each scored nine goals so far this year, making them responsible for 18 of the 23 overall goals scored by the team.  Additionally, both women have set Rice women's soccer all-time records for a single season. Hargreaves set a record for the most game-winning goals in a single season. She has scored six so far, including the epic game-winner against Southern Methodist University that helped her net the honor of C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week of Sept. 24. Adams said that even before the season she knew Hargreaves and Hughes could possibly play crucial roles this year.     "We knew coming in that they were going to be impact players for us, but any time with freshmen, you do not know what you are going to get," Adams said. "But those two just came in and we have been on fire ever since the beginning, and both of them took their roles seriously. The thing is, they're working really good together as well." With the emergence of both Hughes and Hargreaves, the Owls continued to win, following up their Tulsa and SMU wins with a split on their first conference road trip. The team defeated the University of Southern Mississippi but fell 1-0 to the University of Central Florida, which was ranked No. 10 in the nation at the time. Next, the Owls defeated Marshall University before tying with East Carolina University the same weekend, leaving the Owls tied for second place in conference behind the University of Memphis and setting up a pivotal matchip in Memphis, Tenn., on Oct. 11. The game was picked up for national television and was named Fox Soccer Channel's National Soccer Coaches Association of America Game of the Week. The Owls defeated the Tigers  2-0 with goals from Hughes and sophomore midfielder Gabriela Iribarne. The victory also culminated in Hughes winning C-USA Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 15. The win jolted the Owls into first place in C-USA, where they have remained. Adams herself stressed the importance of the win and getting into first place as crucial. Following the Memphis win, the women ended the road trip by defeating the University of Alabama at Birmingham, leading to the final home weekend of the season. This past week's games were the final home games for seniors Barrow, Amy Beger, Alex Burton, Lauren LaGro and Andie Obermeyer. Last week's play resulted in a split with a 1-0 win versus the University of Texas at El Paso on Oct. 19 and a 1-0 loss to Colorado College last Sunday.  The loss left the Owls tied with Colorado College for possession of first place in C-USA as they head into the final regular-season game tonight against rival University of Houston. For the Owls, the game means more than just bragging rights this year. Also on the line is the C-USA championship and a possible No.1 seed in the C-USA Tournament, based on Colorado College's result in its final game. However, the Owls need a lot in order to have both these things take place. First and foremost, they must defeat UH. A loss to the Cougars, and the Owls' chances of a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament are gone. Also, UCF is right on the heels of Rice and Colorado College and plays a weak University of Southern Mississippi team in its final match of the year. If both the Owls and Colorado College lose and UCF wins in Hattiesburg, Miss., UCF will win the C-USA championship. In essence, the Owls must win today for a championship trophy this season, making today's match the most critical of the year. 


SPORTS 10/24/12 7:00pm

Rugby wraps up preseason and prepares for a promising year ahead

The Rice Rugby Football Club will play its first regular season game tomorrow at 2 p.m. against Texas State University. Though only the season opener, captain Agha Nkama said he thinks the game will be a good indicator of who will win the league championship."I look forward to the game against Texas State because it practically determines who's going to win the league," Nkama said. "It looks like we're the favorites, and I'm looking forward to success."Last year, the rugby team finished second in the Southwest Conference to the University of Texas. This year, the Owls are favored to win the Division I-AA conference championships since UT has since moved up to Division I-A. However, the rugby men are not taking this season for granted. In addition to practicing on Tuesdays and Thursdays like last year, the team has added Monday and Wednesday morning runs and conditioning to its regimen.The true test of the team's fitness will come tomorrow as the team expects to beat the only other team, after UT, that beat the Owls last year. "Last year, we weren't prepared physically so we ended up losing [to Texas State]," Rugby President Shaun Haby said. "Now, we have stepped up our training, and I think it shows."Not only have the Owls trained harder this year, but they have also, for the first time in Rice rugby history, prepared for the regular season by participating in the 7s (7 men on each side) preseason in an effort to gain extra practice entering the year.  Despite finishing as the seventh overall seed after playing in two round-robin tournaments, the Owls are optimistic about their upcoming 15s (15 men on each side) season."7s wasn't too kind to us, but 15s is what we've always done, so it should be our bread and butter," Haby said. "We didn't lose too many guys from last year, so we should have a strong team."Nkame, who has been in the rugby club since his freshman year and played on the team that went to Division II national championship two years ago, said this team looks like it has the most potential since he joined it."We have strong senior and junior classes that make up all the starters," Nkame said.Haby, who spent the past summer playing rugby in New Zealand, he said he wants to end his career on a high note by winning the conference championship and going to nationals. Though Rice lost to Texas State in the 7s conference championship tournament earlier this year, Nkame and Haby have confidence that their strong returning roster will play to win.


SPORTS 10/24/12 7:00pm

The Fifth Lap

In a New York Times column published last week, William Rhoden lambasted the idea of an idealized "sports hero." Citing the fall from grace of stars ranging from Tiger Woods to Michael Vick to, most recently, Lance Armstrong, Rhoden argued that the definition of a sports hero as an example or a role model needs to be thrown out. At one level, I agree with Rhoden that we often incorrectly equate greatness on the field with greatness off it. Athletes and coaches, like all people, are incredibly complex and often face vices just as impressive in magnitude as their athletic talent.  There is value in being able to separate out and praise someone's admirable characteristics without projecting that across their entire person, whether that person is an athlete or holds a different position of influence. The principle holds just as well for Michael Jordan as it does for Steve Jobs.  However, Rhoden begins to take the path a step further, implying that at some level we shouldn't hold athletes to a standard of conduct. It is here that I strongly disagree.  Rhoden begins his article by citing an old commercial with Charles Barkley where Barkley asserted that he is "not a role model," that instead the responsibility is on parents to be role models and raise their kids. Rhoden then goes on to infer that the not-a-role-model idea is fundamentally right, that society should not have expected Barkley to be a role model because he can shoot a basketball. But role model or not, Barkley was, and had no choice but to be, a representative of the organizations and cities that he played for. And it is because of this that we can and should hold athletes to a standard of conduct outside of competition as well as in it. This idea is particularly clear when applied to our Rice student athletes. By putting on the Rice uniform, they become representatives of the university, its alumni, its students and its values. They become representatives of us. And, realistically, that representation doesn't end when the uniform comes off. Instead, personal interactions and off-the-field headlines (positive or negative) add significantly to the public perception of Rice athletics, and therefore Rice University. Social media has added a new dimension to off-the-field interaction between fans and athletes, and therefore applies in this area as well. What student athletes post reflects to a certain extent on this university, whether that works to build its reputation or tear it down. Critics will argue that athletes are compensated for their athletic performance, not for the quality of their character or conduct. Rice does not give out athletic scholarships to individuals because they are "good people," and even star athletes whose personal misconduct has tarnished their and their organizations' reputations are often still rewarded for athletic performance. Michael Vick still makes a lot of money playing football. Tiger Woods still is rewarded handsomely by golf tournaments and his myriad endorsement deals.  But even though we reward athletes primarily for their athletic prowess, being a representative is part of the job. Therefore, their organizations and endorsers should hold them to a certain standard of conduct, encourage them to go above it and not tolerate if they fall too far below it. In practice, this idea seems to still hold. Tiger Woods did lose endorsements. Michael Vick did spend time in jail. Olympic athletes who posted racially inflammatory comments were dismissed by their countries.Athletes are going to make mistakes, sometimes egregious mistakes. Inevitably, we will at some point be blindsided by personal revelations about an athlete whom we admired. I already have been, many times over. But expectations drive behavior, and therefore we should continue to expect athletes to be positive representatives of their organizations and fans. Just because they sometimes fail does not mean that the expectation should be lowered. We wouldn't lower them on the field. We shouldn't off the field, either. 


SPORTS 10/24/12 7:00pm

Tulsa squeaks past floundering Owls, 28-24

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.With a coaching change and a brutal non-conference schedule that has to be considered one of the hardest in the nation, the Golden Eagles find themselves seven games into the season without a win. Seemingly everything that could go wrong has, with injured quarterbacks, a defense that cannot stop anyone and one of the worst turnover ratios in the nation.And yet, this team still has some fight. With a few games that have only been decided by one possession, a running attack that still can be dangerous and special teams that have been playing well, Rice cannot simply look at this team as an easy victory, especially with the team's recent performances."We're very close, but we're very close to the season being over," Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue said. "You can only be close for so long and then you are out of chances."Last weekend, Rice lost another heartbreaker on the road against the University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. Tulsa, tied for the C-USA lead with five straight conference wins, was heavily favored against the Owls.Rice got on the scoreboard first with a huge special teams play, as wide receiver Sam McGuffie blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. Rice and Tulsa traded touchdowns for the rest of the half (two short touchdowns from McHargue), sending Rice into the locker room 21-14, having never trailed the conference leader.Both defenses came out to play in the second half, with the first 14 minutes of the third quarter going scoreless. But a Rice interception led to great Tulsa field position, and one good throw from Tulsa quarterback Kalen Henderson tied the game back up at 21-21.Rice put together a strong drive in the fourth, leading to a 35-yard field goal from kicker Chris Boswell. Boswell, the best kicker in the C-USA, had previously missed from 47 yards in the third and would miss from 36 in the closing minutes of the fourth.Tulsa, down three with only three minutes to play, knew they needed to put together a full-field drive to have a chance at winning the game. The big play struck the Owls, with running back Jaterian Douglas snapping off a 75-yard run, setting Tulsa up at the five-yard line. A one-yard run was be the nail in the coffin for the Owls, falling 28-24.The most impressive performance of the evening came from freshman running back Luke Turner, with 102 yards, mostly out of the Wild Owl formation, all coming in the second half. He provided a needed spark to the Owls' offense and seemingly fooled the Golden Hurricanes, giving them one more thing to worry about.McHargue played well, with one rushing touchdown and one passing touchdown, but struggled at times against a great Tulsa defense. The sudden revelation of Luke Turner really helped open up the field for him, providing a much needed lift for the recently-struggling quarterback.With the season-ending injury to cornerback Bryce Callahan the week before, Head Coach David Bailiff was forced to slide safety Malcolm Hill to corner, starting sophomore Gabe Baker at strong safety. The move appeared to work well, with Baker recording seven tackles. Baker had seen a lot of repetitions over the season in second-string duty, so he was prepared to play a bigger role.The game was Rice's 14th consecutive C-USA loss on the road. Despite the progress of some players, the entire Rice team was still upset with losing another close game.  "It was a heartbreaking game," Bailiff said. "This team played well, and we led the whole game except the last minute and 30 seconds. It was one where we had some opportunities out there, and we have to take advantage of those opportunities when you play a team like Tulsa. They were there, but we didn't finish."Hopefully, having beat UTSA their last game at home and playing well against a good Tulsa team will provide a needed boost for the Owls in their return to Rice Stadium against Southern Miss.The offensive look with Luke Turner (who played quarterback in high school and can also throw the ball) out of the Wild Owl really changes the game plan for those playing Rice. Now, with a mobile quarterback, a successful history of running the option and the Wild Owl, there is no shortage of gadgets in Bailiff's arsenal.


SPORTS 10/18/12 7:00pm

The Fifth Lap

Last weekend, Austrian daredevil skydiver Felix Baumgartner paused. There he sat for a moment, on the edge of his high-tech space balloon, 24 miles above the surface of the earth, on the verge of doing something no human had ever done before. Over a hundred thousand feet below and several hours removed, Rice athletes paused. There they sat for a moment, in a locker room, on the bench or on the starting line, in Texas, Carolina, Kentucky or Alabama on the verge of doing something many people had done before. Then, Baumgartner literally did what the Rice athlete then did figuratively: He jumped. One of the reasons I am so passionate about sports specifically, and extracurricular activities more generally, is that they teach lessons and develop skills that are incredibly difficult to cultivate in other settings. One of those hard-earned lessons is how to take a step away from the safety of the known into an unknown full of risk and possibility. Obviously, the stakes that come with starting a game or a meet are not the same as those that come with free-falling from the edge of space. And this is not to say that sports are transforming kids around the world into a generation of daredevils (I've competed for years but still have a hard time jumping off a six-foot diving board, much less an airplane). The parallel, however, is a great visual illustration of this important lesson. Whenever an athlete (or a musician or performer) steps into competition, he takes on the very real risk of an extremely public failure in something he cares deeply about and has worked hard for. This idea was on full display in Rice sports last weekend. Football faced the weight of being one of the central pieces of the Centennial Celebration.  Soccer and volleyball faced the increased scrutiny and pressure that come with being near the top of the conference standings. And both men's and women's cross country competed in their most visible, high-profile non-championship meets of the season.All of these competitions provided great opportunities for success. But in order to have a chance at those successes, they required taking on the accompanying risk of failure. This ability to take on challenges despite the risk of failure is applicable far beyond the realm of athletics. It applies to everything from starting a new business, to pioneering a new medical procedure, to taking an unconventional diplomatic approach, to just asking out that cute girl that lives down the hallway. Those who have competed or performed have taken on such risks before and have almost certainly having failed at some point along the way. They are therefore much better prepared to take on opportunities when they come about. This lesson is just one of the reasons continued support for competitive athletics and other competitive extracurricular activities is critical, especially at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.  Being competitive is one of the key elements for truly impactful extracurriculars. Yes, the fun, fair, positive soccer leagues of the world where everyone plays, everyone wins and everyone gets a trophy probably have their place. But every kid deserves the chance to lose, whether that's losing the game, getting benched or cut from the team, not making All-State band, or not getting the lead in the play. It is the best way for children to learn how to take on that risk, how to thrive under that pressure, and if they do fail, how to get up and go after it again. As we become parents, little-league coaches and community members, the responsibility will fall to us to raise the next generation. If we are going to be successful, we have to continue to let them compete, to let them learn to take those risks. The responsibility falls to us to prepare them to make the jumps no human has ever made before.



SPORTS 10/4/12 7:00pm

Beazant continues recent run of dominance

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.  




SPORTS 10/4/12 7:00pm

Rice unable to recapture Bayou Bucket from UH

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. 




SPORTS 9/27/12 7:00pm

Bayou Bucket up for grabs at Reliant

The Bayou Bucket, the annual contest for college football bragging rights in Houston, will be played tomorrow at Reliant Stadium. Both the University of Houston Cougars and the Owls have been struggling as of late, but their records fail to capture both teams' potential on the field. This week's matchup will provide the two teams a chance to right their respective ships. However, this game holds deeper meaning than most weeks. The Rice football team views this game as a battle for respect.


SPORTS 9/27/12 7:00pm

The Fifth Lap

During my time at Rice, our rivalry with the University of Houston has seemed, for lack of a better word, forced.




SPORTS 9/19/12 7:00pm

Powderpuff Scouting Notebook: Week 2

Jones vs. Will Rice (19-0) - Jones' running game looked impressive and absolutely lit up Will Rice. They were able to score three touchdowns. The defense also looked strong, holding Will Rice's offense in check throughout the game. Will Rice went 2-5 last year, scoring just 31 points during the season, and looks to be in trouble this season after their struggles last week. Jones seems much improved after an 0-7 record last season. Jones' freshman class looks strong offensively, and the 19 points from Week 1 were more than they scored in any game last season.  Sid Richardson vs. Brown (20-12) - Brown held Sid to 13-12 for most of the game.  Sid was able to put together long drives for most of the game, while Brown scored on two big plays. Maybe Brown is just extremely explosive, but it's more likely that they should have lost by more than eight points. Sid's defense looked out of sorts in the first half and allowed 12 points but tightened up for a scoreless second half. Sid will be tested this week against a Baker team that has come out firing on all cylinders.  Wiess  vs. Martel (20-0) - Wiess again looked markedly improved from last season, showing a vastly more potent offense. Despite a respectable defense last season, Wiess still had a -86 point differential, mostly due to an offense that struggled to get on the board most games. All of that seems to have changed this season, with the defense looking as strong as ever and the offense appearing to have found much-needed help in the freshman class. It should be noted, however, that Martel was missing its starting quarterback. After coming into the game as 9.5-point underdogs, Wiess has put the rest of the league on notice that they're going to be much more of a threat this year. The South continues to look absolutely loaded, with Baker, Sid, Lovett, Wiess and Hanszen all projecting to be at least respectable.  Lovett vs. McMurtry (7-6)  - This game was paused after three quarters on Sunday night to be completed Monday. Lovett got ahead early but was unable to extend the lead, with McMurtry scoring in the third quarter but unable to convert the extra point. Lovett's defense made critical stops throughout the game but seems to have lost some of its explosiveness offensively. Teams also should not discount McMurtry this year, as the team looks significantly better through two weeks after its sub-par performance last season. With a spread of 13.5 points, this game was much closer than anticipated. Either Lovett is not as good as expected or McMurtry is much better than originally thought. My guess is that the truth lies somewhere in between.  Baker  vs. Duncan (7-0 at halftime) -  The two will continue the game this week, though it has yet to have been rescheduled. Through the first two quarters, Baker's run game still looks as solid as ever. Baker also has an interesting match coming up this week against Sid. 


SPORTS 9/19/12 7:00pm

Exodus: Arsalan sixth player to leave Rice

Rice senior Arsalan Kazemi requested a release from the basketball team and received it on Monday, according to Rice Athletics, making him the sixth player to leave the team since the conclusion of last season. The 6-foot-7 forward had been the Owl's most valuable player, averaging 12.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in 2011-2012. He was one of only 21 NCAA division I players to average a double-double last season. While Kazemi declined to comment on his decision, his departure was met by confusion from some teammates. "I don't get it because this is his last year and also because all his stats were going to sky-rocket," shooting guard Tamir Jackson said. Athletic Director Rick Greenspan also expressed his disappointment in Kazemi's departure."We take pride in the high graduation rate of our Rice student-athletes, and we're always sad when a student-athlete leaves without finishing his or her degree, but we wish Arsalan all the best," Greenspan said. While head coach Ben Braun said that Kazemi had attended all pre-season conditioning sessions and individual work- outs, the Owl's star forward is now looking to play at Kentucky, Texas, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida or Cincinnati. Profesional European leagues also remain a viable option for Kazemi, but there has been no indication yet that he intends to go overseas to play. The competition at these high-profile schools will be much more challenging than that of the C-USA. However, Kazemi has always held NBA ambitions, even telling VOA News in 2011 that he would like to move on to the NBA after his junior year; his performance in a stronger conference could dictate whether he ever makes it to the highest level of professional basketball. Kazemi's departure is a resounding blow for a team that seemed to be on the up and coming after attaining a Collegeinsider.com Tournament playoff berth last season - its first postseason appearance since 2005. However, since the conclusion of last year's campaign, a massive exodus has taken place with six players leaving Braun's squad. The team had previously lost Jarelle Reischel to Rhode Island, Dylan Ennis to Villanova, David Chadwick to Valpariso and Ahmad Ibrahim to overseas play. Last week, Omar Oraby, a friend and room- mate of Kazemi, received a release to leave for USC as previously reported by the Thresher.  Head Coach Ben Braun acknowledged that there was a problem with the large number of departures and stated that he and Athletic Director Rick Greenspan are on a C-USA committee analyzing the current state of college basketball, including why so many players are transferring. Braun believes that a number of the transfers occurred because of a lack of playing time or a desire for an expanded role on the team. "We're in an instant gratification type society," Braun said. "There's a feeling sometimes that if you don't contribute immediately, you're failing." Braun also added that some players talked about a desire for more visibility and getting noticed by professional scouts more often. Jackson, the only current senior on the team, said he was unsure why the team has endured so many transfers, but he feels that the team chemistry is not the problem. "I don't really know why so many players left," Jackson said. "I'm guessing they feel it is better for them individually. But we all are friends and have lots of love for each other. We all consider ourselves as a family." Jackson also said he feels that Braun is not a part of the problem. "Coach Braun is a great leader," Jackson said. "He's been coaching for a very long time and has a lot of pro play- ers that came out of his program and changed the Rice basketball program tremendously. I feel he is a great coach and connects to his players very well, and I stand by him with no hesitation."The transfers of Kazemi and Oraby occur on the heels of Marco Morcos's departure from the team. During his time at Rice, Morcos, an Egyptian native, played a major role in recruiting - particularly in bringing Kazemi, Oraby and many of last year's recruiting class to the team, according to the Houston Chronicle. While Braun declined to comment on any potential role of Morcos in the departure of the players and Morcos could not be reached for comment, Jackson said he felt that Morcos was a reason behind the player exodus.  "His relationship with the players he recruited was great," Jackson said. "I do think their departure had to do with Coach Morcos ... I'm guessing because they were close to him."Morcos has left schools amid scrutiny over his recruiting practices in the past. Morcos previously coached high school ball at the LEAP Academy, a charter school in Newark, NJ. According to a document from the Commissioner of Education in New Jersey, while there, Morcos was involved in a scandal where three basketball players were ultimately deemed ineligible.  Two of the players came in from out of state and were wrongfully registered at the school, and a third was wrongfully given a  "Katrina waiver" to play immediately after transferring, although it was later discovered that the student was not affected by the hurricane. Marcos left the school for a position as Director of Basketball Operations at University of Alabama at Birmingham, and the LEAP academy was put on probation.  This infraction concerning the wrongful Katrina waiver is of particular interest since Oraby is currently seeking his own "hardship waiver" to forego the one year he would have to sit out according to NCAA rules.  Morcos has been invested in Oraby's career since his departure from Rice; according to Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle, Morcos actually joined Oraby on his trip to the USC campus.  Morcos' assumption of the position of Director of Basketball Operations at UAB coincided with a commitment from a player named Terrence Roderick, whom Morcos coached in AAU ball, according to Morcos' biography on the UAB website. When Morcos left for Rice after a year he was followed almost immediately by Roderick.  Moving into the future, Braun said he believes he needs to sell students on the true value of Rice. "We want to put together a staff and players who I believe will really succeed at Rice and really value their experience here," Braun said.  "We have to build that culture and then solidify it. We want players to think 'Maybe playing a few more minutes isn't worth transferring from Rice.'" Jackson also acknowledged the difficulty associated with retaining players. "There isn't really much a coach can do" Jackson said. "Players leave schools every year due to multiple reasons, and most of the time it is because of playing time.  But I guess players should always keep this in the back of their heads when deciding to leave a school or not: The grass isn't always greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it." In looking forward to next season, Braun said he and his staff will have to work toward rebuilding the team. The roster officially has six open spots, and the coaching staff will have to make the best of the situation by finding walk-ons or other athletes who can contribute at a high enough level to help the Owls overcome the loss of a the team's superstar and multiple promising players from last year's freshman class.  Jackson, however, is not deterred by the huge player turnover and its impact on the upcoming season. "The only problem I think that we are facing is people counting us out and talking down on us because of what is happening and not having faith in the guys we have" Jackson said. "Because we have already heard negative things about us on the internet and on campus, I just want to say, don't count us out just yet." Ryan Glassman and Bhagwat Kumar contributed to this article. 


SPORTS 9/19/12 7:00pm

Owls falter early, unable to overcome deficit

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."


SPORTS 9/19/12 7:00pm

The Fifth Lap

For Rice Men's Basketball, it feels like the dream has been put on hold. I won't say it's over. The program has made too many strides in the five years since their 3 win season in 2007-2008 to just give up on it. But with the recent departures of Arsalan Kazemi and Omar Oraby, the fifth and sixth players to have left the team before the end of their eligibility since last season, the dream feels at least postponed. The dream, for me as a fan, had two basic pieces. Piece one was watching Rice become a specific type of team. Piece two was seeing that team achieve great results. When I say type of team, it's the oldschool, romanticized, story-worthy type of team. It's a team mixing hungry, timetested veterans with fun loving, dynamic young players. It's a team that's cohesive and passionate and plays hard from start to finish. It's a team that can overcome adversity, and that has players who know when to take a game over and when to help a teammate star. It's a team that combines all these things, and goes out to beat teams far more talented on paper. The second piece of that dream is the result. For Rice, that result could be an NCAA or NIT berth, depending on how ambitious you're feeling, but either one would be an exciting step forward. And what's tough to swallow is that at the end of last year, the dream seemed like it might finally be tangible for Rice's men's basketball team. You had the veterans in Kazemi and guard Tamir Jackson. They had been through the growing pains of this program. They had taken the bruising losses, and celebrated in the hallmark victories. And on the court, they seemed to complement each other perfectly. Jackson was cool, collected, and always confident. Kazemi was exciting and contagiously passionate. You had Oraby, the story of untapped talent being transformed. The 7-foot-2-inch Egyptian national came here as a very large man, and grew into an effective player. And you had the young, impact players in Dylan Ennis (who made the C-USA Freshman team), Jarelle Reischel, and Julian DeBose. Last year, they put together a winning record (including a win at Texas A&M), and claimed a post-season tournament berth. And as the season came to a close, you couldn't help but feel like maybe it was a stepping stone to even greater things.Now, of those above, only Jackson and DeBose are left. The reality is that this kind of turnover is more the rule than the exception in college basketball. According to Athletic Director Rick Greenspan, the NCAA saw over 450 basketball transfers in the past year. This is a world where talent isn't expected to stay put, where coaches recruit players with the expectation that they won't stay four years. This is the world where Kentucky wins the national championship with a group of teenage, future first-round picks whose plan was always to turn pro the next year. But at Rice, as with so many other things, to be successful we have to be the exception. We have to recruit and develop players who want to contradict the prevailing trends, players who want to be Rice athletes and Rice students, with everything that comes along with that, for four years. We have to recruit and develop players who understand all the costs and rewards that come with Rice basketball, and are excited by them. The 2012-2013 Rice Owls basketball team might still be exciting. On paper they look undersized and unproven. They are definitely young: the only upperclassman besides Jackson is junior college transfer Austin Ramljak. But it's a team that should be playing with a chip on its shoulder, which should be relishing its opportunity to redefine Rice basketball. It's a group of guys who will be scrappy, creative, and will play hustle basketball. It's a unit with a confident, undisputed leader in Jackson, and with followers who don't know any better but to win basketball games. If they put together a good run, this team could be one of the best sports stories of the spring, even of the year. Until then, though, we're left waiting and wondering about the dream that could have been, the dream could now be coming to a premature end.