|'06 Florida State week
Florida State 55, Rice 7
'Noles show just how
offensive a Bowden-
coached team can be
Owls' Brandon King gives chase to FSU ball carrier (PTH
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Sept. 23) -- A decimated Rice Owl squad hung
around early, but faded over the run of the course here Saturday, falling 55-7 to a
Florida State team that was desperate to prove to its carnivorous fans that it was
sufficiently skilled and adequately coached to be able to pile on the points against,
well, against somebody.
In this case, the victim was a Rice team that has now endured a veritable Bataan
Death March of top-ranked opponents over the past three weeks.
After being given a scare early, and then given half a chance to run up the score,
FSU head coach Bobby Bowden did just that, acting, one would presume, to bolster the
precarious position of his son, Jeff, as the beleaguered Seminole offensive coordinator.
Beleagured, good ol' boy Bobby and son Jeff were not, this particular evening, as,
while sprinkling in substitutions, they kept in the heart of their respective offensive
and defensive units the entire game, throwing a long TD bomb to their 6-5 star wideout
Greg Carr late in the fourth quarter, while nursing, at the time, a 47-7 lead.
Some football coaches would be p-o'ed over such blatantly chicken-feathers
tactics. But not Todd Graham. This is a game for grownups, he retorted.
"That doesn't bother me a bit," he said. "You know, I don't worry
about things I can't control. I don't want people to do us any favors. I want them to play
their best and compete agains us at their highest level. So that doesn't bother me a
Basic execution is not at acceptable level, Coach says
Andrew Sendejo forces downfield fumble after FSU pass reception (PTH photo)
Coach Graham, instead, pointed to matters that he and his staff are firmly
convinced they can control, and that involves things like tackling, blocking, and proper
execution of the game plan.
"There were some sloppy big plays going on out there," Coach Graham
said, "like just allowing the 6-5 kid to execute on us. Things like that were really,
Of course FSU did show against Rice the sort of size and speed that stands
the equivalent, or better, or anyone in the country. But one sensed from the Rice head man
that he felt this Florida State team was not nearly so well coached as the one from Austin
the Owls met the week before, and that, consequently, with proper execution, the Seminoles
could have been had maybe not often enough to pull out a win, but with sufficient
frequency to avoid a second, embarrassing one-sided loss in a row.
Coach Graham also refused to give a nod to the depleted state of his team,
injury-wise. "We played an extremely physical game against UCLA, and as a result of
that game, we had some people banged up; and weve continued to get banged up,"
he said. "But thats part of football. Every team out there, four games
into the season, is going to have its share of bumps and bruises."
One Owl whos not showing an signs of slowing down is budding star wide
receiver Jarett Dillard. Jarett came out on the floor of Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday
and once again betttered his performance of the week before.
On the Owls opening possession of the game, Jarett made an acrobatic catch
in tough coverage for 18 yards and a first down, the first play of the drive. After Joel
Armstrong scrambled for 11 more, Jarett lit out on a flag route on first and ten from the
FSU 32. It was a play-action pass and the Seminole secondary took the bait, leaving Jarett
open for a relatively easy touchdown reception just as his momentum took him over the goal
That made the score 7-7 with 8:56 left in the first quarter, and suddenly the
house was awfully quiet, even though the local folks team had previously scored with
just about the same level of ease as did the Owls.
Always crucial plays, early in the game
Owl linebackers double up on FSU frosh QB Xavier Lewis (PTH photo)
FSU had taken the opening kickoff and rolled but one always tends
to look for a play here, a play there that might have been a momentum-changer, and Florida
States early success on offense was not devoid of a few crucial plays like that.
Take that first possession. Special-teamer Terrance Garmon had crushed the FSU
return man on the opening kickoff, right at the 20. On first down, quarterback Drew
Weatherford threw badly in attempting set up the screen pass in the flat and right
away, one could begin to hear the murmuring and a smattering of boos waft through the
But next play, FSUs Luther Booker took a delayed handoff, appeared to be
contained after a short gain, but squirted through a small hole and managed to get ten
yards and a first down.
That got the Seminoles rolling, and roll, they did, moving 80 yards in eight
plays for the initial, 7-0 lead.
After the Owls score, FSU punched right down the field again, but appeared
to have bogged down just outside field goal range, facing a third-and-10 from the Rice 33.
But thats when Weatherford hit their stud wideout, Carr, on a slant pattern over the
middle for a first down at the 20, and Florida State rolled into the end zone once more,
The Owls responded by moving the ball again, themselves, and doing so in
precisely the same way they accomplished it on the previous drive by going the
aerial route to Jarett Dillard. Two big receptions had the Owls facing first and ten from
the FSU 44, and once again the crowd started to mutter.
But at that point, Joel was sacked for a loss of nine yards, and that
effectively snuffed out the Owls offensive momentum.
But the Rice defense immediately forced a turnover which promised to get the
Owls back in the game once more. FSUs highly-touted freshman quarterback, Xavier
Lewis, came in and scrambled until he found his receiver 20 yards downfield. But at that
point Andrew Sendejo put on the big hit and the ball popped free, where it was recovered
by Brandon King at the Rice 47.
Once again, the Owls cranked it right up, via the air. Again, the receiver was
Jarett Dillard, and he rambled 17 yards to the FSU 36. From there, a Q Smith dive into the
line produced zero yards, and Joel had his second-and-ten passing effort intercepted by
the Seminoles Marcus Ball, who looked like he might take it all the way back the
other way before his was shoestringed at the Rice 15 by Tommy Henderson.
That saved the Owls four points, because the FSU offense went nowhere from that
point. The big play was a four-yard tackle for loss on Florida States Luther Booker
by Brian Raines, and that meant FSU had to settle for the chip shot field goal by Gerald
At that point, the score stood 17-7, with just over 11 minutes remaining in the
half. The Rice defense had shown signs of stiffening against the run, and the offense was
getting at least some production, despite its inability to move the ball on the ground.
FSU had to kick and bite for next two scores
Coach Graham said offensive line play was improved, despite injury issues (PTH photo)
Florida State had to kick and bite for its two additional scores of the
first half, both commencing with a short field after Rice went three-and-out deep in its
own territory and then punter Jared Scruggs not getting the distance on his punts that
were used to seeing.
Marcus Rucker was a terror on the first of those two FSU drives, making three
big sticks in a row to force a 53-yard Gerald Cismesia field goal attempt. Naturally, with
the kind of luck the Owls have been having all season, the desperation boot found the
uprights, to the delight of the crowd, which, moments before, had started to boo again
after the Seminole drive bogged down.
After Rice took the ensuing kickoff and 1-2-3-kicked, FSU started with possesion
at midfield and took the ball in to score in six plays. The Owls thwarted one more
Seminole scoring attempt before the half ended, and the score at the midway point, 26-7,
was not exactly disastrous if the Owls could only tighten up on defense and get
that running game going in the second half.
Any successful halftime adjustments, however, appear to have been made by the
Florida State brain trust, as FSU managed to convert big plays into four second-half TDs
to complete the rout.
No sense in rehashing those Florida State scoring strikes, but we can talk a
little about the fourth-quarter offense that the Owls were able generate.
It appeared that when FSU began to sprinkle in substitutions on the defensive
side, the parity between the two teams rapidly began to equalize. It was then that Rice
could get its ground game rolling just a bit, in person of, naturally, one Quinton Smith,
who had a very quiet, 104-yard game after gaining virtually zero yards in the first half.
The Owls put up two nice-looking drives of 56 and 76 yards, respectively, in the
fourth quarter. Unfortunately, those took place after Rice had incurred a 47-7 deficit,
and both bogged down at the FSU six yard line, when the Seminole coaching staff flushed
the first teamers back onto the field and did everything they could to hold that line.
Rice couldve easily gotten a couple of field goals out of those two
possessions, but somehow they wouldve been beside the point.
In that regard, Jarett Dillard was sanguine. No big deal, he said. "Scoring
would have just put numbers on the board," he noted.
"If we had scored seven points, yeah hey, we would have lost by
such-and-such amount now. But that doesn't matter. A loss is a loss."
Coach Bowden showed what he was made of, fourth quarter
Bobby, you certainly are a piece of work -- or a piece of something, anyway (PTH
Between those two red-zone drives, the Seminoles put up some points as a
result of a bit of pure chicken ca-ca on part of coaching icon Bobby Bowden and Son. And
dont let Todd Graham tell you otherwise. Or Coach Bowden, for that matter.
You be the judge: On third and six from the FSU 43, with four minutes remaining
in the game, FSU frosh quarterback Xavier Lee basically aired out the ball, throwing as
far downfield as he could, where the tall wide receiver Carr was able to snake it in over
the outstretched arms of an Owl defender, and then criss-cross the entire gridiron and
make to the opposite flag for a 57-yard TD pass.
"That was actually a possession play, and the boy (the Rice defender) fell
down," Coach Bowden defensively told reporters after the game. We really didnt
mean to, ya know.
Horse-feathers. Local scribes seemed to just have one question for Rice players
and coaches after the game who was better, Florida State or Texas?
Ol Bobbys been around the block more than a few times. He knew that
the most effective way to shut up the local boo-birds regarding son Jeffs lack of
production in the offensive coordinator role, would be to beat up on this Rice bunch worse
than Texas did. And Coach Bowden can count high enough to know that 55-7 is worse than
Coach Graham said the day was not a total loss, however much so it might have
appeared to the Rice faithful.
"Were actually improving and getting better; its hard to
measure," he said afterwards. "Weve played three really good football
teams the last three weeks in a row, and the last two football teams have been the two
"Our kids were feeling, in the first quarter, that they could do some
things on Florida State. They made some adjustments on us. But I guarantee, there
aint nobody quitting. Im down there on that sideline and can see that none of
our kids are quitting."
"Our kids want to win, and were going to."
"Were going to. Weve just got to continue to get better."
--Paul T. Hlavinka
Coach Graham on the FSU game....
Jarett Dillard: 'I had a bad game...'
Dad-gum it, it's a Bowden time
Rice takes on third straight juggernaut
in Florida State
TALLAHASSEE , Fla. (Sept. 22) -- Now, we
know it's tempting, but whatever else you say about them, don't call them the
Sure, they've often been painted with monikers like that in the past. But
this week, the Rice Owls travel to this football-crazy, steamy outpost of the Deep South
to take on a college football team that's been more appropriately synonymous with the
words "success" and "winning" over the 31-year tenure of
coaching icon Bobby Bowden.
Uh, except for about the past five years. During that time, the
natives have become restless.
Last week, the Florida State Seminoles lost in their annual father-son grudge match,
the eighth annual "Bowden Bowl," featuring son Tommy at the helm of the Clemson
Tigers, versus papa Bobby at his familiar spot on the floor of ballfield-turned-small city
Doak Campbell Stadium, before a crowd of 83,000, but apparently growing smaller and more
restive by the week.
The final score of that game was 27-20, but it followed on the heels of a narrow
Seminole victory the week before, a 24-17 squeaker over supposed patsy Troy State .
The 'Noles own a season-opening win over archrival Miami , but they easily could have been
0-for-3 at this stage in the season for the first time since Bill Peterson was a pup.
'Noles are 2-1 -- but it's a dissatisfied 2-1
Instead, they're 2-and-1, but it's a dissatisfied 2-and-1. In fact, the Owls are
catching the Seminoles under the worst possible circumstances. Rice has come off three
brutal games, two on the road. In the first two, Rice was in it all the way, falling 31-30
to Houston in a game Rice absolutely should've won, and then going down 26-16 to UCLA on
the road in a contest where Rice's quarterbacks were hampered or out for the count the
Last week, well, last week, a behemoth Texas team simply steamrolled the
Institute Boys, and there just wasn't much the Rice coaching staff could have done to
prepare for such an athletic agglomeration, regardless of the banged-up level of
"The thing we're going to get this week is more of the same," Rice
head coach Todd Graham reflected. "They're every bit as good as Texas on
defense, if not a little faster. Their guys run as well as Texas ."
The Owls need to avoid digging themselves a two-touchdown hole something they've
done each time in the first three games of the season, the Rice mentor noted.
"You get behind in a game and you start reaching for things," he said.
"And against teams like Texas and Florida State , you do not want to run any
drop-back. We've got to stick to what we can do. The ball needs to be out
The Owls will once again be facing superior beef with superior speed and
quickness -- not a good combination, if the result of the Texas game proved any
"A great defensive football team, a great speed in the kicking game, that's
what Florida State has," Todd said. "They'll do just like Texas did.
They'll try and force-feed it down our throat."
"They've struggled a little bit on offense, but they're very talented there
as well. Their overall speed is the strength of their team."
"Whatever problems you create for yourself, you see it the rest of the
year. We've got to come out and play better against the rush."
FSU head coach Bobby Bowden indicated that the 'Noles would stick with the
regular scheme against Rice-- why both to do anything different? But that would not
involve running right at the Flock, he said. Rather, it would entail sending out
several guys who could handle the ball and make yardage for you.
"We don't try to pick one guy and give the ball to him," Bobby told
his press Monday. "We try to get four, five guys out to where they're in a position
to do something for you. We don't pick out one guy to try to beat you."
Texas appeared to have plenty of swagger when they took the field against the
Owls at Reliant Stadium Saturday. And why not -- they're only the defending national
But Florida State has gone from being a perennial winner to only a
usually-a-winner. The Seminoles are 46-21 since the offensive coordinator's spot was
taken over by a chip off the old block, Jeff Bowden, who, you guessed it, is the son of
Seminoles have lost some of that swagger
That's caused the Seminoles to be taken down a peg or two, even in their own
estimation, Coach Bobby said.
"The way the scores are coming out and losing as we have, I think you
naturally lose some swagger," he admitted. "In fact when I'm losing I
don't want any dadgum swagger. I like to have it when I win. I really don't care much
about it. I'm one of those guys that don't especially like that word. I like playing with
confidence and courage a little bit more. Anyway we don't swagger like we used to - no
doubt about it.
"When you are playing a game like (Rice) where you are supposed to
win it, you just want to do the best you can do and feel like it's a good sign. But to say
you'll know everything about your ball team when you play somebody you're favored by 25
points, I don't know if you learn much about it. "
"It could be five games before we get a feeling. If we don't start to jell
pretty soon, I'll really have to do some research. I meant to say soul-searching."
Wul, dad gum it.
'Course, the Seminoles do have a statistic that's something to sweep under
the rug. In three games, FSU is averaging exactly 49 yards rushing per outing.
Last week against Clemson, in order to boost the running game, Coach Bowden kept
game-breaking receiver Greg Carr on the sidelines for much of the game
He later said that was a mistake, that won't be repeated again this week.
Against a Rice pass defense that was among the softest in Division 1A last year (but that
was last year), Carr, who only has four catches for 38 yards with a touchdown on the year,
is going to get plenty of looks from whomever is lining up at quarterback for the
Drew Weatherford, who's started thus for for FSU, is rumored to be moving over
for a starting nod to backup quarterback Xavier Lee on Saturday. Coach Bowden had
wanted to give Lee some play reps against Troy, but the close score kept him on the bench.
But then again, whomever bows under for the Seminoles might only be required
just to hand the ball off and get out of the way, giving a nod to FSU's powerful line and
despite the anemic rushing figures delivered thus far this season.
"The fact that we could run the ball versus a really good defense like
Clemson was a positive," FSU quarterback Weatherford said earlier this week. "It
showed a lot on the part of our running backs and our o-line."
The implication: heck, we ought to be able to run all over that undersized 3-5
defense that Rice throws against people.
Owls are 'mighty beat up'
The Rice squad, in the words of 'To Kill a Mockingbird's Bob Ewell, like his
homely daughter, Mayella, is "mighty beat up. MIGHTY beat up."
Starting QB Chase Clement undoubtedledly will sit out another week in order to
try to gain strength in his injured throwing hand. That means Joel Armstrong will
have to shoulder the burden at quarterback, and you know he'll have several FSU monsters
(literally and figuratively) trailing after him on every play.
The Owl offensive line continues to play hurt, bandaged and bruised.
All-league runner Quinton Smith has a hand injury, as well. Ja'Corey Shepherd,
Rice's top defender in the secondary, took a beating in the Texas game.
The list goes on and on. Should the Owls just show up, take their
pay check, and as former coach Ray Alborn used to say, "Save the equipment"?
Fat chance. Rice head coach Todd Graham's just not made up that way. He'll
go all out against the Criminoles, er, Seminoles, which should make his squad probably all
the worse for the wear win they finally face a beatable opponent, Army, on the fields of
friendly strife at West Point, Saturday next.
--Paul T. Hlavinka
Focusing on Team, Not
By Mark Anderson
It has often been pointed out that there is no "I" in team. Perhaps
the best illustration of that truth isnt found in a team that was contending for
another national championship, but the one that had to go up against it last Saturday.
Many Owl fans may be struggling to find anything positive to take away from that day. But
there are some thingssome intangible changesthat have taken place that are
worth bringing out.
Jarett Dillard had a career game for the second straight week) against the vaunted
Longhorn defense. His 9 catches for 91 yards far and away out-distanced his teammates.
But Dillard wasnt happy about it in the least. When asked about his coming
out party against Texas, Dillards focus was not on the nine catchesit was on
the team result. "Since we lost, they havent had much significance,"
Dillard remarked. "I probably had my personal highs in receptions and yards, but they
really didnt strike me like I wanted them to because we had a loss at the end of
On the defensive side of the ball, Marcus Rucker had a solid game against Texas,
leading the linebackers in tackles. But Rucker didnt dwell on how far hes come
so quickly as a linebacker. His attention was on what happened as a team. Marcus told the
Webletter, "Whether or not I have a good game, whether or not other individuals have
good games, if the team is not having a good game together as one well-oiled machine, then
were not going to get it taken care of."
But there was something else that came out of the Texas game that should make
every single Owl fan proudthis team didnt quit until the clock ran out. That
was not the case in Austin last year, according to Jarett Dillard. Dillard was very frank
on this issue when he said, "Last year I saw half the team saying, Well, what
are we going to do after the game? Are we going to go home, or stay here? But this
year, I saw people mad after the game and go back to the locker room and see people upset
like I was. That made me feel better about the game, because last year after we lost,
there wouldnt be too many angry faces."
Dillard was not alone in that assessment of what happened. Marcus Rucker added,
"Last year we had some guys, maybe some of them were inexperienced or something, but
they were complaining that they werent getting time into the game," said
Rucker. "I saw a lot of complaining. And this year, all you heard was, Hey man,
were still in this. We still have a chance. We can still get this. Even when we were
down like 35 to something, we were like, Man, if we just start, if we come together
as a team, then well get this taken care of.. That was the best part about
Another bright spot for the Owls against Texas was the emergence of Evan
Fentriss as a go-to guy. Fentriss caught three passes against Texasthe most of his
young careerfor 60 yards, including a beautiful 49 yard reception. But this came as
no surprise to
Jarett Dillard. "Evan Fentriss is a good receiver, said Jarett.. "He was on my
tail all two-a-days. I saw that he was a good player. That catch he made against Texas
down the field, I mean, great catchhe focused on the ball and executed what he had
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of the Texas game was the performance of Joel
Armstrong. Armstrong was not even listed as a quarterback in the fall, yet came in against
UCLA and played well, and actually even better against Texas. He completed 18 of 29 passes
for 180 yards against a Texas defense that had nothing but harassing him on their minds.
"We know Joel can run the ball, so we know if hes pressured that he can weave
and dip and can run with it or make a good throw with it and pass it," Dillard
commented. "We have no negative effects with Joel at quarterbackmaybe he can
find that hole or throw it."
Some teams would fold the tent on their season after a loss like the Owls
suffered last Saturday. But both Rucker and Dillard made it clear that the Texas game was
only one game in the season. When asked how to put a loss like that behind them and look
to next week, Jarett Dillard put it in simple termsfocus. "You have to mentally
focus on what your assignment is, and do what you have to do, Dillard explained..
"Its not anything specialtheres no special degree on how to
mentally prepare for a game. Its just you know how to do it. You were born with it.
Thats what we have to do. We have to come out in the game time and play better in
Rucker agreed, and pointed to how the Owls could learn from the Texas game.
"All that has to do with mental focus, mental preparation," Marcus said. "I
mean, Coach is telling us as a defense we cant come out flat, thinking this is going
to take a couple of snaps for us to get used to the game, Weve got to go out there
firing at them from the first snap. A lot of it has to do with your mental preparation,
your focus, your intensity. If we go out there and stay focused from snap one, well
get it taken care of."
Theres no doubt in any Owl fans mind that this team has played the
toughest schedule in the country. Its been a difficult road, no doubt about it. But
this team is learning some very important lessons in this stretch that will stand them in
good stead for years to come. Nomatter what may come against Florida State, know as you
watfch the game on TV that these young men are playing with a lot of heart and no quit in
them, and are learning important lessons on what it means to be a team. Those lessons
learned will serve this team well this season, because this team does not have an
"I": in it. Thats something that all Owl fans can be proud of, no matter
what the record might be.
Dillard a big hit, Rucker
in Rice offensive, defensive scheme
HOUSTON (Sept. 19) -- Rice sophomore wide receiver Jarett Dillard, in the
space of three games, has turned into the go-to guy in the Rice offense, bar
none. Against UCLA, he set a personal record with seven catches for 81 yards; and then
against Texas he bettered that, going nine receptions for 91 yards. He makes the automatic
catch for key short yardage, and he also is primed to make the spectacular, athletic catch
downfield if circumstances call for it and the ball is there. Even with talented defensive
teams like Texas and UCLA obviously keying on him, hes gotten his receptions. So one
would hope that, when Chase Clement is ready to return to the quarterback spot, freeing up
Joel Armstrong to play the other wide receiver spot with both of them being ably
backed up by frosh phenom Evan Fentriss, who looked great against Texas the Rice
quarterback may be in a position to distribute the ball a little more. If that happens,
one might expect the number of Jaretts catches per game to go down, just a bit. But
at the same time, his yards per reception should drastically increase.
Marcus Rucker is a guy who just likes to be on the football field knocking heads.
The Magnolia, Arkansas, native spent three seasons in the backup running back position.
But when Rice head coach Todd Graham offered him a switch over to the defensive side going
into his senior year, Marcus eagerly accepted the challenge, saying that he was tired of
always having to take the hit (as a runner) and was just about ready to start hitting some
people himself. During spring and fall drills, he played his way into the starting lineup,
winning the Joe Davis award as the most improved defensive player during the spring. Now
hes firmly ensconced at the strong linebacker position and looking forward to hit
some of what he Monday termed "big fat guys" time and time and game after game.
Both Jarett and Marcus appeared before the media at this Monday's press luncheon,
to give their observations on the course of the season so far, and we herewith present
Marcus Rucker interview....
Jarett Dillard interview....