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'04 Rice-Texas week

University of Texas at Austin 35, Rice 13
Banged-up Owl offense
no match for Texas
UT's size, speed, talent too much for Rice

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Raymorris Barnes and Clifford Sparks team up to sandwich UT's Cedric Benson as quarterback Young looks on

AUSTIN (Sept. 26) – Reality set in quickly on the multi-million-dollar turf of Texas Memorial Stadium here Saturday evening as a Rice offense, short of three of its most potent weapons, had no chance to keep up with a Texas running attack that ran rough-shod over a game but outmanned Rice defensive unit, in a 35-13 Longhorn win.  It was a game that was elusive to peg, as either a blowout loss or a sturdy, inspired effort for the Owls.

In fact, it was a little of both.

Afterwards, UT head coach Mack Brown led a media chorus that honked like a flock of geese over the apparent ease in which the Texas offense marched with precision into the end zone its first four possessions, while the 'Horn defense simply gunned down the Rice running game like, well – remember that Indiana Jones movie where Harrison Ford idly regards his air-chopping Kung Fu opponent for a second or two, then pulls out his .45 and shoots the guy between the eyes?

That’s kind of the way the Texas defense played the Owls’ option attack Saturday evening. Never mind the fact that it was an offense that was without the services of its top two rushers, in Thomas Lott and Quinton Smith, and its top receiver, in Marcus Battle, all out with injuries.

All the finesse, deception and machinations in the world don’t count for much when you have real college students going against bermenschen like UT linebacker Derrick Johnson, who disrupted the flow and created mayhem in the Rice backfield all night.

"Derrick Johnson is as good a linebacker as we've ever played against," Rice head coach Ken Hatfield said afterwards.  "Even when we blocked him, he just defeated us."

The stampeding Johnson, said to be a shoo-in for the Outland Trophy, was matched in oomph and intensity by the entire Texas offensive line, which broke holes in the usually stingy Rice defensive front wide enough for Heisman candidate Cedric Benson to run through with a television set beneath both arms.

"Texas was very big  and very physical and made a lot of big things happen in the running game," Coach Hatfield added. "We had a hard time getting off blocks."

"The whole idea of a defense is to be in the right place, defeat your man, and then get off and make the play. They're so big that we had a hard time getting separated."

Yet, as ‘The Eyes’ and ‘Rice’s Honor’ sounded in the stands after the game, most of the Owls trudged off the field with smiles on their faces, for they knew they’d given the fifth-ranked  Longhorns a game.

Of course, Coach Mack said that really wasn’t the case.

Owls played Texas even in second half -- with Rice's reserves, too

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Greg Henderson tries to get away from UT's Rodriques Wright

Although the 32-point ‘dog Owls nabbed three turnovers and outscored Texas, 7-0, after UT’s first possession of the second half, that was only because Mack is such a nice guy, you see.

"It was actually even only because we took everybody out," the world-beater said. "We played some really, really young guys."

"I thought that Rice played hard, and I thought they played well, but I thought the score wasn't indicative of the game. We didn't have a starter in during the fourth quarter except for a couple of secondary guys."

Well, let’s go back and check the participation report. Seems Cedric Benson played a full three quarters, and starting quarterback Vince Young played longer than that. Second-stringer Chance Mock took over for Young with exactly 12:41 left in the game, set up in the shotgun, and threw the ball all over the field. And Mock’s a former starter.

Meanwhile, Rice’s redshirt freshman quarterback, Joel Armstrong, got the first experience of his collegiate career starting at 2:53 in the third, and when he motored in for a quick-as-a-cat 44-yard touchdown run as the clock ticked down, no first-unit men were on the field for the Owls, and Joel was, in fact, surrounded almost entirely by redshirt freshmen.

Not former starters.

We weren’t going to do this, but, emboldened by the look at that participation report, let’s do a little ‘what-iffing’ to see how this game might accidentally have turned out if a couple of bounces had gone better for the Owls.

For starters, let’s say the crowd noise doesn’t cause a false start – or the refs don’t call a phantom false start – and Ed Bailey’s fourth-and-two dive for a touchdown counts. That’s seven points instead of three, right before the half.

Speaking of phantom calls, let’s just pretend Will Wood’s roughing-the-passer infraction doesn’t get flagged, so that Clifford Sparks’ broken-field interception return goes into the books as a TD. That’s seven more.

And imagine Andray Downs manages to avoid the last-gasp tackle put on him by the place-kicker, and his kickoff return goes for 100 yards instead of 52.

With those points on the board, then, Coach Hatfield goes for the field goal, late in the third, instead of going for it on fourth down at the Texas 23.

And let’s assume the Rice defense is on the alert when Mack tries the cheesy fake field goal on fourth and goal in the second quarter.

OK, that’s seven, less three, carry the one, add back the four – and, whaddayaknow? Rice wins, 34-28.

Texas still has talent edge -- but Owls are closer

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Rice deep men Andray Downs and Joe Moore both want the ball on kickoff return

Obviously, any serious contention that the Owls were but a couple of bounces away from a win is a bad case of la vie en rose, for the talent differential between these two teams was considerable – thought not nearly so enormous as it appeared to be in last year’s 48-7 blowout win for Texas.   Remember, this time, our second unit beat their second unit, 7-0. And we play again next year.

But the next time we win the opening coin toss, Coach, how about let’s take the ball?

For the second straight game, the Owls gave up a long touchdown drive on the opening kickoff, and then later went three-and-out, followed by a Bad Guys’ score, to begin the third quarter.

The Rice defensive front held sway on Texas’ first two plays from scrimmage, but a third-down draw play caught the Owl defenders just slightly unawares, and Cedric Benson picked up a seam and stormed for 58 yards down the home sideline.

Two plays later, Texas tried the same gambit, but this time Terry Holley was in the backfield to drop Sir Cedric for a loss of two. That made it third and goal from the nine. Then, Young dropped back three, and lofted a quickie to tight end Bo Scaife, eight yards deep in the end zone.

Once again, Terry Holley was there to deliver a crushing blow to the numbers (it’s pictured on page one of the Sunday Chronicle). But the tough-as-nails Owl defender bounced harmlessly to the turf, as Scaife cradled the ball and slowly turned as if to ask, ‘what was that?’

Scaife bedeviled the Owls from the onset, although it's doubtful the Flock will see very many tight ends with comparable skills during their conference run.

"Both their tight ends were giving us a whole lot of trouble all night,"   Clifford Sparks told reporters afterwards. "They gashed us across the middle the whole time."

Having thus given up that opening marker, it was obvious  the Owls needed to come back and make a  statement of some kind on offense if they expected to be able to make any kind of game of it. And that, they did.

Starting at the 19, the Owls ripped off ten straight rushing plays to carry them as far as the Texas 22. But fullback Ed Bailey got none of those carries, and it immediately became clear that the UT defensive front was burly enough to negate the fullback drive without excessively tying up the linebackers.

"(UT defensive coordinator) Dick Tomey knows in triple-option football, you stop the fullback first," Coach Hatfield told press afterwards. "They did a good job seeing to it that Ed didn't run the ball. Every time we had a 'read play,' they had someone take the fullback. Their defensive front is so big and strong, and we just couldn't sustain our blocks."

Nonetheless, at least at first, Greg Henderson and Marcus Rucker did an creditable job of moving the ball to the outside.

The biggest play of the Owls’ opening drive was a 22-yard pitch-and-run by Marcus that set up the Owls with first down at the Texas 44. That one quieted down the frat boys, just a bit.

Rice's play calling system didn't hold up in big crowd noise

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Marcus Rucker turns the corner and picks up 14 tough yards

What killed this opening drive, however, had a lot to do with crowd noise. Once again, it was demonstrated that Rice’s scheme of delivering play calls on offense – first by hand signals from the sideline; then by audibles from quarterback to backs and receivers – may work fine when you’re playing in a stadium that’s quiet as a church. But it doesn’t function so well when your guys are on the field in front of 83,000 fans screaming their lungs out trying to keep the call from being heard.

The closer the Owls got to the Texas goal line, the louder the crowd noise got. By the time Greg faced third and seven at the Texas 22, he was faced with running around yelling in his backs’ helmet earholes to convey the play. That didn’t work just all that well, and Rice had to settle, at that point, for a 39-yard field goal try, which Brennan Landry boomed cleanly through the uprights.

So at least something of an offensive statement was made. Now it was time for a defensive stand.

But it was not to be. The Texas offensive line functioned like a particularly violent X-Box game, and Texas was not to be deterred, despite the best efforts of the Owl defense, until only a couple of minutes remained in the second half, at which point the Feathered Flock found themselves down, 28-3.

Meanwhile, the UT defensive front keyed on Ed Bailey, and all-world ‘backer Derrick Johnson and the rest of the Longhorn linebacking corps contineud to flood the Rice backfield like a Category 4 storm.

There were only a couple of noteworthy exceptions to those revolting developments.

First, was Andray Downs almost-touchdown kickoff return. After Texas' third opening-quarter TD, Andray took kicker Richmond McGee’s floater at the two yard line and sprinted down the home sideline, dodging tacklers as he went. It was only the desperation grasp of the UT kicker himself that saved the touchdown.

Working from the Texas 46, instead, the Owls went nowhere.

After Jared Scruggs punted 44 yards for a touchback, Texas methodically ground out a six-minute drive that set them up, first and goal, from the Owl six yard line five minutes deep into the second quarter. At that point, two Cedric Benson rushes were shut down for little or no gain by Chad Price and John Syptak, consecutively. A third down quick-out pass from Young to wideout Will Matthews was next snuffed out by Andray Downs, who securedly pinned the UT receiver, open-field, at the three yard line.

A chip-shot field goal would’ve made it 24-3 at that point. But Coach Mack decided it was time for his team to make a statement -- such as, 'up yours.' A fake field goal wound up with the ball given to UT’s Tony Jeffrey, who looks to be about eight feet tall. And leaping, he managed to crease the goal line before Rice’s defenders had time to fully react.

So instead, that gave Texas a 28-3 lead, still with 9:45 left in the first half. It looked as if the game could wind up getting as out of hand as last year’s contest, if not worse.

Rice outscored UT, 10-7, in last two-thirds of the game

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Andray Downs securely wraps up UT receiver Will Matthews for a short gain to the Rice three yard line -- notice the height disparity

But do take notice that, for the last 39:45 of the game, the Rice Owls outscored Texas University, 10-7.

Hey, you’ve gotta take your goodies where you find them.

For starters, Rice was able to cut the lead to 28-6 just before the half, after Clifford Sparks picked off a Vincent Young pass at the Texas 40 and returned it 17 yards to the Texas 23.

Then on second and five, Mike Falco took the pitch and ripped off a nine-yard gain to the Texas 9, and the Owls were facing first-and-goal.

Ed Bailey got the call the next two plays, and his efforts took the Owls down to the Texas two yard line. But once again, the crowd noise bugaboo raised its head. On third down, Greg’s cutback was stopped for no gain. Against any other opponent on Rice’s schedule, he’d likely have scored on that play. But going against Texas’ behemoths, before 83,000 noisy fans, he couldn’t quite get it in.

Then came the false-start call on fourth and goal. The Big-12 refs must have measured the Rice line jump with calipers – by golly, they were going to be johnny-on-the-spot and find someone moving.

So instead of seven points, the Owls got only three, and that’s the way the half ended.

The Owls, then, were completely throttled on their opening possession of the third quarter. Derrick Johnson nailed Greg Henderson and Marcus Rucker for consecutive tackles-for-loss.

After a 47-yard Jared Scruggs punt was returned to the Rice 46, the ‘Horns drew ten for holding. But the second play from scrimmage, Young hit David Thomas on a crossing route and he threaded over and through several Owl would-be tacklers, turning about a 15-yard gain into a 49-yard, broken-field TD run.

Armstrong immediately showed he knows how to run the option

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Terry Holley zooms in and drops Sir Cedric for a loss of  two

Joel Armstrong took over the reins for the Owls two possessions later. First time out, results were mixed. On first and ten from the Rice 32, Joel optioned left and made a pitch to Mike Falco that was a thing of exquisite timing, and Stallion deftly took the ball 15 yards down the sideline to set up the Flock near midfield.

But next play, Armstrong cut back down the middle and had the ball stripped from his grasp by UT’s Aurmo Satchell, and the incipient drive was snuffed.

The fourth-quarter Rice touchdown drive began at the Owl 44 when UT was flagged for 15 on a personal foul on the fair catch by Andray Downs.

Joel picked up five on the first-down keeper, and then zipped a quick sideline route to Ryan Simonak for seven more. It was Ryan’s third reception of the day, as he turned in a noteworthy performance subbing for the injured Ben Wiggins, who went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury early in the first quarter.

From there, on a quick option left, Joel dodged a couple of would-be tacklers and suddenly burst into the clear, scoring easily from 44 yards out.

We buttonholed a pumped-up Joel Armstrong after the game and asked him how it felt to get the score before 80,000-plus hostile onlookers. "It just felt good to get my feet wet," he told us. " I’ve been waiting for a chance to get out there. I know I’m number two on the depth chart, but my job is to always be ready to play. I know Greg’s number one."

The suggestion was made that, after that slick TD run, the alumni might just want to elevate the redshirt freshman  to number one-and-a half on the depth chart.

"Hey, that’s good enough for me," Joel said, grinning. "I tell you, I just want to do anything I can to help our team win."

"But it’s always the biggest thing, you know, to get the feeling that your team has confidence in you. When they have that confidence, it gives a quarterback a better chance to come in there and get the job done."

Ryan Simonak, who had ample reason to be pleased with his own performance on the evening, assured us that Joel’s teammates do, in fact, have that confidence.

"We’ve always know that Joel could do it," Ryan said. "It’s just that Greg is a senior and he’s such a strong competitor. But Joel’s going to do very well; he’s going to be just fine, actually, when he gets his chance.

Of course, we know, really, that Joel’s run was nothing. We know, because Coach Mack told us so.

--Paul T. Hlavinka
Webletter Editor



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"We're going over there to win the game. Starting Monday and all week, we'll be preparing a gameplan to win the game. That's what our goal is."

 

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"We're number one. We've given up fewer yards rushing than any college team in America. There's only one way you can take it. That's it."

 

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"Are they gonna run? You really think so? They doin' that this year?"

 

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"They just wanted to say, 'We love you, and we're just gonna hug you to death to show you how much we’re gonna miss ya’.' They're being very nice to us, out there. I'm glad to know that they care that much about us, to hug us the way they did."

'We're going over there to win'
Long time since Owls,
Horns both clashed
with perfect records

HOUSTON (Sept. 23) Question of the week, both around The Drag and up and down South Main has got to be: when was the last time Rice and Texas both went into their game undefeated?

Though they're both only 2-and-0, that turns out to be exactly the case as The Institute and The University tee it up 6 p.m. Saturday in Austin's DKR Memorial Stadium, the 86th such meeting between the two venerable institutions.

The recently-renewed series has been disgustingly one-sided since the mid-sixties, Rice winning only one time since 1965, that being a 19-17 thriller in the Rice Stadium rain Oct. 16th, 1994. Yes, Horn fans, we still have that date memorized.

Of course, that's not so if you count the time Rice actually did win in '89, 30-29, only to have a last-second two-point attempt by UT's Peter Gardere be ruled a score, although  Owl defenders sent him sprawling out of bounds several yards short of the goal line. That so-called 31-30 Texas win is one long-time Owl fans will never recognize.

Last year's bout in Reliant Stadium was about as exciting as a game of canasta, when, although the Owls hung on gamely for a quarter, the Horns scored 34 points in the second period to take a 41-0 halftime lead. UT head coach Mack Brown called off the dogs in the second half, and Texas went home 'only' a 48-7 winner.

Can Rice actually match up better against UT this year?

But the scuttlebutt around South Main this week is that the sledding just might not be quite so slick for the T-Men this time around. It's a different Rice team than the one they faced last September in Reliant Stadium, it's said. Last year at this time, Rice was struggling on both sides of the ball, with an injured senior quarterback and a tentative offensive line on the one hand, and a green, untested group of defensive players, on the other.

This time around, it's a Rice team that has come out and contained, if not completely shut down, two of the most prolific offenses in the country in Hawaii and the University of Houston. Even though both of those teams tend to emphasize the passing game, the Owls completely negated the rush.

Houston gained 8 yards rushing on the day. Hawaii didn't do quite as well They got only seven.

Even if you're going up against Little Sisters of the Poor, those are some pretty impressive stats. In fact, quite obviously, they're good enough for number one in NCAA Division 1A. That's not to be scoffed at, head coach Ken Hatfield told press earlier this week.

Aw, com'on, Coach. Shouldn't there be some kind of asterisk next to that statistic?

"No, we can only take it one way," Coach Hatfield deadpanned right back. "We're number one. We've given up fewer yards rushing than any college team in America. There's only one way you can take it. That's it."

.But Texas features a fearsome running attack, headlined by do-everything quarterback Vincent Young and Heisman candidate halfback Cedric Benson. Those guys got their yards in a 22-20 UT win at Arkansas two weeks ago.  And they've had a couple of weeks to rest up!

"Are they gonna run? You really think so?" Coach Hatfield once again deadpanned to his fourth-estate questioners. "They doin' that this year?"

"I tell you what, it's a whole different challenge when you play someone who's committed to the run," the Hat reflected. "The last two teams -- Hawaii has always emphasized the pass. Houston, you never know what to expect, depending upon what personnel grouping they had in there, whether or not they wanted to run the ball with Anthony Evans.  Once he got well you saw what he can do." (Evans gained 282 yards rushing against Army Saturday.)

No doubt about Texas' proclivities       Dictionary link for UT fans....  

"But this Texas team here, there's no doubt about 'em," Coach said.   "I mean, they went up to Arkansas and pushed Arkansas around running the football. They did a tremendous job with it -- which they will attempt to do in their game plan this week. .There's no doubt. We're playing the fifth-ranked team in the country and they're the number-one rushing offense in the nation. They are an excellent team."

Both Rice’s wins thus far have been considered by the ‘experts’ to be nothing in the way of flukes. The Owl defense totally manhandled UH, and the Rice-Hawaii game might have turned into a Rice blowout, had the Owl offense not left the ball on the ground six times. Writers asked Ken Hatfield whether wins like that can make his team a bunch of believers – believers, that is, that they can come back this week and knock off a top ten team like Texas.

"Well, we better believe it," Coach Hatfield said, "because that's who were playin' this week."

"We're going over there to win the game. Starting Monday and all week, we'll be preparing a game  plan to win the game. That's what our goal is."

"This will be a fun game. Most of the guys on our roster are from Texas and they are looking forward to it. I think they'll be at their very best this week."

The Rice mentor added his staff will be working with the squad trying to improve on the things it did not do well in the Hawaii game. That means, first and foremost, eliminate turnovers.

"We want to improve each and every week. Winning is fine, a great confidence and morale booster, but we have to take the view today that there are things we have to do to improve, to get better. Texas has had two weeks off, so we know they will be a lot better and they'll be fresh. That's just one of those things."

"What we've got to do is improve, because we had nine penalties in the Hawaii game, and that's not good. We had six fumbles in the game, and that's really not good. Luckily we only lost two of them, but we had four others where the ball was on the ground, and we had to come up with it. And a good team doesn't do those things, and that's what we have to work on. If we get better, it gives us the greatest chance for victory this week."

"The attitude is there, the hustle is there, the enthusiasm's there -- the feedback's there -- but we have to be better at the fundamentals. If we do that, then we'll make improvement this week as a team, and that's all our goal is -- to try to get better each week."

Mid-term exam question:  how to keep up with UT QB Young?

For starters, it’ll take no small measure of improvement for Rice’s defenders to be able to keep up with UT quarterback Vincent Young. Young is so athletic, and can be so unpredictable in his moves, that it’s hard to develop a containment concept that has a chance to work against him, Coach Hatfield said. "I don't know, we've haven't decided just yet," he quipped. "We'll come up with a game plan Friday night."

"He had a great coming-out party against us last year here in Houston, as you well remember.  He's an exciting performer. You have to figure out a way to get near him, and if you get near him, hopefully you can get him on the ground. That's the fun part, that's the challenge, and if you're a competitor, you'll like the opportunity of playing this week."

"It will be a totally different challenge -- Cedric Benson and Vincent Young and all the great offensive linemen they have, too. They have great talent at every position. So it'll be a different challenge than what we've seen in the last couple of games, there's no doubt."

By the way, in answer to the original question, of when was the last time these two teams were both undefeated going into their game?  Don't know about Texas, but the Owls were last unbeaten -- but tied once -- in 1934.

The last time Rice entered the Texas game with a perfect record? 

1932.

Honor Roll

Coach Hatfield was profuse in his compliments to Owl players on both sides of the ball, for their efforts in the win over Hawaii.

"A lot of those good, young players have come in and helped us on defense and made a big difference," he said. "Thadis Pegues is putting pressure on the quarterback, and he didn't play all last year. Buck Casson, a linebacker, has come in to give us a little bit more. All the defensive backs -- Chad Price, Terry Holley, Andray Downs -- give us more team speed on defense this year. And that's very evident, I think, watching them play."

"Chad Price had a tremendous ball game, playing on three special teams and making a lot of big plays. He was all over the field. He's a yeoman of a guy; he wants to play on any special team and he wants to play the whole game."

"Lance Byrd really gave us a shot in the arm with his punt returns. We're sorry that we had two bad penalties that really were very close on those; I don't think they affected the outcome of the plays. I think we'll get some good out of the results of those plays, even though we didn't get the yardage. We'll gain a lot of confidence in knowing that Lance has that ability to go all the way with it. That really helped us."

The only way Rice junior DE John Syptak knows how to play is flat-out, Coach Hatfield said. That’s why he seemed constantly to be losing his helmet the other night. " I think the intensity will be there, because that's the only way John knows how to play," Coach said. "We've been very fortunate because he missed about three weeks of our preseason practice with a pulled hamstring and we didn't know when he'd be able to get back, at all. And I think John has played extremely well."

"Courtney Gordon has give us a good push at defensive end. Jeremy Calahan played great, as usual, throughout the game. And on the last play, Jeremy is the one who forced Chang to run the ball, and actually run the clock out, with seven seconds left. I was glad about that, I didn't want him to throw it, and them have a touchdown with a prayer to get another on with an onside kick."

On the offensive side, the kudos, naturally, had to start with the 234-yard rushing performance of Ed Bailey. "We're appreciative of Ed Bailey being recognized as the WAC player of the week," Coach said."Coach (Larry) Brinson said he had 14 knockdown blocks, in addition to carrying the ball as well as he did. He was in on a lot of critical plays. He takes a lot of pride in his blocking."

"It's a great tribute to all the team and the linemen who really blocked for him so much , for him to have that kind of game. In fact on offense we had six guys who made our 'Champion' board. Three of them were offensive linemen, because pretty much our whole left side blocked well: Joe Don Wood at tight end, Scott Mayhew at left tackle and Greg Wilson at left guard, all provided a lot of super blocking which gave Ed a big chance of making something happen."

"For all our young players out there watching, Greg Henderson and Ed Bailey having the kind of games that they did, it is a direct result of the amount of time they put in the weight room. They are strong as bulls, they lift weights all the time, and you could see as the game wore on, the leg strength that both of them had. They pulled out of some arm tackles and really made a lot of extra yards after they had been hit the initial time. So it just shows that it pays off; you get in there in the weight room , it will pay off, and this game showed that."

"There's no doubt that if you're going to run the football, you've got to have a good offensive line. We are really appreciative of Cotey-Joe Cswaykus and Greg Wilson stepping in and playing new positions. Also, Rolf Krueger played right tackle and did a fine job. And so if anything it's a real credit to all of our players."

"Coach (Scott) Wachenheim moved a couple of people around after we lost Ross Huebel and Micah Meador early in the game against Houston. We made some adjustments on the run in the Houston game and it took us a while to get going; that's why we didn't move the ball quite as well."

"But we had an extra week to get ready for Hawaii with the same guys at the same positions. Greg Wilson's unselfish move from tackle to guard, and he wound up being one of the players of the game."

"Also, Greg Henderson played like a champion at quarterback running and throwing. And Marcus Battle, getting well – we really didn't know until warmups how much he would be able to play. As it turned out, he made one of the plays of the game, the long pass on third-and-long. He also caught a couple of slant routes for key first downs. But all of 'em did a tremendous job."

Probably the key play of the Hawaii game, Coach Hatfield said, was when Clint Hatfield recovered a fumble on the Hawaii six-yard line on Rice’s game-winning drive. "When it's 29-28, and Greg dropped the ball, and kicked it down there, Clint came up with a big, big recovery."

Hold that line

Is there something in the WAC make that says, since it’s a a pass-happy league, that offensive holding calls in pass-blocking situations are going to be a virtual no-show in the game stats -- by design of the officials' committee? In the Owls’ win over Hawaii Saturday, Warrior coach June Jones called 56 passing plays (counting the five Owl sacks), and the Warriors were touched for zero – zero – holding calls.

Puts a running team at quite a disadvantage, doesn’t  it?

"You're asking the wrong guy," Coach Hatfield told us. "You ought to be talking to the commissioner or the head of the officials. Because obviously I agree with you and I do not agree with the officials."

But there does seem to be some truth the concept, the head Owl said. "Once they create the excitement of the passing game, and the people using their hands, usually the only time you get called for holding, nowadays anymore, is when when you reach out and grab somebody, and he's beating you."

But Coach Hatfield had a different slant on Hawaii’s up-close-and-personal contact.

"I think in this case, here, they just loved us," he said. "They just wanted to say, "We love you, and we're just gonna hug you to death to show you how much we’re gonna miss ya’. They're being very nice to us, out there. I'm glad to know that they care that much about us, to hug us the way they did."

Paul T. Hlavinka
Webletter Editor

Interview:  Ed Bailey
'The win was worth a lot more'


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'About halfway through the fourth quarter, Chad Richardson came up to me, on the sideline, and told me that I had broken his record. But I had no idea what he was talking about!'

 

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'A record doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the game. Just for our team to come together – to pull ahead, then fall behind, but then to come back at the end and win it like we did, that was great. In previous years we didn’t do that'

 

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'Really, it’s just a matter of doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. My main job is to help our offense be consistent. Whatever it takes to do that, is fine with me. If they want me to block the whole game, then I’ll block. If they need me to carry the ball again, then I’ll carry the ball'

HOUSTON ( Sept. 22) – Fifth-year senior fullback Ed Bailey had a pretty good night against Hawaii Saturday. Yeah, you could say that – as in rushing for 232 yards, the fourth-highest, all-time, for a Rice ball carrier and the gaudiest total during the Hatfield era. Just about everybody in the arena was tremendously impressed with the feat – except Ed Bailey. Seems he went down to the film room Sunday morning to see how many good blocks he’d laid. He was more worried about that, then he was over his yardage totals. (For the record, Coach Hatfield said Ed had 14 takedowns.) Have to keep improving, you know. The soft-spoken, but well-spoken, young man from Houston- area Klein High School uniformly impressed gathered media Monday when they spoke to him about his big feat.

Q: What went through your mind when you were racking up all those yards?

I really wasn’t thinking about it during the game. I was only thinking about what was going to happen next: ‘I hope we get this first down,’ "I hope we get it into the end zone,’ ‘I hope the defense stops them.’ Then about halfway through the fourth quarter, Chad Richardson came up to me, on the sideline, and told me that I had broken his record. But I had no idea what he was talking about!

Q: Did the win mean a little bit more?

Oh, yes, the win was worth a lot more. A record doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win the game. Just for our team to come together – to pull ahead, then fall behind, but then to come back at the end and win it like we did, that was great. In previous years we didn’t do that.

Q: Did you have any idea you were going to get the number of carries you did against Hawaii, based upon their defensive set, and what the coaches told you during the week before the game?

Our coaches touched on the kind of splits that they run, and leading up to practice I felt very comfortable with the defenses that they were running. I even called my roommate and told him that I had a good feeling about this game. I really didn’t know why, I just felt like it was going to be a good game. I was thinking more team-wise, though. And turned out to be the case. But I didn’t think I was going to have the kind of game that I did.

I think maybe the Hawaii defensive players were surprised a little by my strength and by how low to the ground I run. I’m only five-nine, and those linebackers were looking at me and kind of laughing among themselves. I get a kick out of it, then, when my assignment is to go out and block them, and I can knock them down on the ground.

It’s a challenge, going up against bigger guys all the time. But that makes it all the more fun when you can have a little success. Oh, and I’m about 210, now – so I’m not little, anymore.

Q: As a fifth-year senior, have you ever had a change to stop and consider what the game of football has meant to you? And in that light, what this performance Saturday means to you?

Mmmm. Well, it’s been uplifting. I’ve been getting calls from friends and family members. You know, they’d say, ‘Good game, good game.’ ‘Great, you broke the record.’ That was nice, but it was almost a distraction. I was up here in the film room first thing Sunday morning trying to see how I’d blocked. That’s just what I’ve always done as a matter of habit. It turned out I had a pretty good game blocking – and I was pleased with that.

Q: Does your performance give you extra confidence going into this week’s game with Texas?

UT’s a giant in the football world. They’re certainly giants in this state. But we just want to go into Memorial Stadium and play our game, and play it well. We have to have the confidence that we can take it to them, give them fits.

Q: Your team got out of the blocks with a solid win against U of H. Now you win over a pretty good Hawaii team. Are you learning something each week about this team?

Yeah, I think we’re learning some things about ourselves. We’re learning that our teammates, the guys we’re playing alongside, are fighters – that we’re going to fight to the last play. I was really proud of the way we bounced back against Hawaii. We bounced back – we had six fumbles in the game, but only lost two of them. It took fight to get four of those back. I just feel like our guys know not to get down on themselves, and stay at it. That speaks volumes about everybody on this team.

Q: Rice enters the Texas game a 31-point underdog. What does Rice have to do, to gain respect from the broader audience that follows UT?

Well, to start with, I hope we’re able to play them a lot better than we did last year. Last year we had a good game plan coming in, but we got some breaks that went against us early and it seemed as if it just kind of fell apart. This time around, our guys have more experience, especially on defense. We know they’re a great team, but we’re not intimidated by playing against a team of that caliber. We have to execute, we have to stay sound.

We just have to play solid defense, first of all. Our defense has been playing great. I checked the paper, and it said we’ve got the number one rushing defense in the country. Those were mostly passing teams, but one UH back had, like, 300 yards rushing against Army last week. So it’s phenomenal that the defense has been able to put up those numbers. It speaks volumes about the character of the defense. That’s a good U of H team. Hawaii, I know, is going to pass the pass just about every chance they get – but to just shut them down completely in the running game makes them one-dimensional. Then you can contain them.

Offensively, we need to be sound and know our assignments. We need to make our blocks, and I’m talking about the backs just as much as the line. If we do that, and just play as hard as we can, things will take care of themselves.

Q: Ed, for most of your career, you’ve played mostly the role of blocking back. You haven’t had that many carries, per game. Now, all of a sudden you get 37. Do you see yourself playing that role, week in and week out, for the rest of the season?

Oh, I would love to. But really, it’s just a matter of doing whatever the coaches ask me to do. My main job is to help our offense be consistent. Whatever it takes to do that, is fine with me. If they want me to block the whole game, then I’ll block. If they need me to carry the ball again, then I’ll carry the ball.

My junior year I played predominantly at tailback the whole year. Then last year I played pretty much at the ‘H’-back position. I was sort of a utility man. They’d line me up at the ‘H.’ Or they’d put me up in the line as sort of a stand-up tight end. I’d line up wide sometimes, I was a tailback, fullback – everything they needed me to do. That was fine with me. It’s good to be versatile.

But you always see how those top backs perform, and how well they do. And you can’t help, maybe, comparing yourself to them just a little. Last time I saw Cedric, he looked pretty decent running the ball against Arkansas. He sure did. Our defense is going to have to be up to the task. But I think they’ll step up.

Q: Have you heard any stories that start, ‘Once upon a time, ten years ago, Rice beat Texas....’?

Yeah, we know all about that. Pretty much, if you go to Rice, that’s one of the games you’re going to hear about. It was a great game. That’s what legends are made out of. That’s the kind of thing that makes you want to play college football.

Interview:   Chad Price
'This week is 'Show Time' for us'


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'Our confidence level is definitely ‘up.’ We really believe that we have a good defense, one of the better defenses that we’ve had, here, in a while.'

 

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' I believe that we really felt we were going to win, all through the game. At the end, after they scored, we just got more serious and came out the next time more prepared.'

 

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' If we really are a good team, and if we really are that good on defense, then this is the week to prove it'

HOUSTON (Sept. 23) Chad Price is a sophomore defensive back from Bay City who’s been among the mainstays of Rice’s defensive effort thus far this fall. The former Class 4A all-state DB from Bay City is Rice's top tackler with 20, including 18 unassisted. In last week's 41-29 win over Hawaii, Chad had 12 solo tackles and 13 overall. He was on the field for all of Hawaii's offensive plays and also played on the Rice punt and kickoff cover teams, and return punts. No truth to the rumor that he also took tickets and sold programs. "Chad Price had a tremendous game, playing on three special teams and making a lot of plays," Coach Hatfield said of his effort against Hawaii. "He was all over the field. He wants to play on any special team and he wants to play the whole game." But now comes Texas, and the effort to be required on part of the Owl defenders is going to have to ascend to an entirely different, more rarified level, if the Feathered Flock hopes to bring home a win Saturday. Can they do it? Chad Price thinks so. He spoke with a couple of reporters after this week’s media luncheon.

Q: What was the feeling you guys in the secondary had about your performance against Hawaii?

Defensively, I think we performed well. We accomplished what we came into the game to do. Our main focus was stopping the yardage after the catch. Timmy Chang is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation; he’s going to complete some balls, every game. The thing we had to do was to tackle the receivers as soon as the completions were made. And I feel like, the defense as a whole, completed that goal.

Q: Two games in a row with solid defensive performances....how high is the confidence going into the Texas game?

Our confidence level is definitely ‘up.’ We really believe that we have a good defense, one of the better defenses that we’ve had, here, in a while. We believe that, as long as we play together as a team, on defense, that we can play against anybody.

Q: The defense has gotten the job done against two teams that aren’t particularly known for running the ball. Texas is going to present, in that they are going to come right at you. Stopping the run has been the strength of the team so far. Do you feel you’ll be able to get the job done on the run defense against Texas?

Houston and Hawaii are a lot different than Texas, and I think that there’s definitely going to be a change in how we prepare Texas’ running attack this week.

Q: Do you believe you can keep Texas’ receivers boxed in like you did in the Hawaii game?

That’s what I was meaning. We knew Timmy Chang was a great quarterback; we knew he was going to complete some passes. So our main goal was to stop them after the passes were made, to give them as little yardage as possible, every catch. We ran a lot of ‘man’ coverages where we tried to stay underneath the routes and try to prevent over-the-top passes. Our main goal was to prevent that – and then also to come up and make tackles on the short passes.

Q: What do you think a strong defensive performance against Texas could do for your team’s confidence -- and its reputation?

I feel like definitely this week is ‘show time’ for us. If we really are a good team, and if we really are that good on defense, then this is the week to prove it. A strong effort Saturday would give us a little credit, nationally.

Q: In the Hawaii game, when they got ahead, 29-28, it looked that, for the first time all season, that the defensive secondary guys had gotten their daubers down, at least a little. But the Coach Farrar went crazy on the sidelines for a couple of minutes, and the secondary was completely ready to play the next time it stepped onto the field.

I don’t if we had our daubers down. I just feel like it may have been visible that we were a little disappointed in ourselves for letting them score. We weren’t necessarily like hanging our heads because we thought we were going to lose the game. I believe that we really felt we were going to win, all through the game. At the end, after they scored, we just got more serious and came out the next time more prepared.

Q: Does Barney’s enthusiasm make a difference?

Barney’s definitely a great motivator – definitely.

Q: The first two games, the Rice defensive showed a much more aggressive style of play than in years before. Can we expect to see that again on Saturday?

We definitely are a lot more intense, as a defense. We play with a lot more emotion; we play with a lot more aggressiveness, as you said. I just think we’re a unit out they’re; we’re closer than we were in years past. That definitely helps you play more aggressively as a team – you can trust the other person next to you.

Some teams just naturally blend together better than others. This is just that kind of team.

Q: Did that really start last November, when you began your win streak?

Yeah, I think it did, definitely.

Q: You talked about staying behind the wide receivers. In your mind, what are some of the things the Rice defensive secondary is going to have to do, to avoid the big play against Texas? Just fundamentally, what do you think it’s going to take this week, to be competitive against a team like Texas?

Definitely stop the run. If we can stop their rushing attack, then their passing attack is nowhere close to Hawaii’s or U of H’s. By that, I mean that they’re not that type of offense, and their pass protection is not going to be at the same level. I feel that we faced two great passing attacks, and we’ve done well against those. So I feel that, if we can stop the run and force them into the passing game, then it’s possible that they’re going to be in trouble.

Q: What kind of challenge is Vincent Young going to present defensively.

He definitely presents an extra challenge. He’s a little more mobile than Kolb and Timmy Chang. So he definitely presents a greater challenge this week. We’re going to have to stay with our assignments; stay at home on the back side. We’re going to have to play a lot more – how can I put it? – I don’t want to say passively, but we’re going to have to be more disciplined and stay closely with our assignments. Because Vincent Young has the potential to break for the big play, every down.

 

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