|'06 Tulane game page
Tulane 38, Rice 24
Defensive lapses, offensive gaffes
add up to bewildering loss for Owls
'They didn't do anything we hadn't worked on'
Chase Clement crosses the plane to cap Owls' third-quarter opening drive (PTH photo)
Lute Barber (L), David Perkins double-team Tulane defender (PTH photo)
NEW ORLEANS, La. (Oct. 8) -- Confession time.
How many Owl fans out there had penciled in this Rice-Tulane game as anything but
a victory for the boys from South Main -- even before the season began?
How many followers of the Blue and Grey, so heartened by Rice's near letter-perfect
performance against Army, were anticipating a relatively easy win over a Tulane team that,
let's face it, was so hapless as to have been beaten by Rice last year, the only win on
the Flock's 2005 dance card?
How many Rice supporters out there figured that the Owl defense was over the
hump and ready to take on each and every C-USA team with commensurate physicality --
and saw an offense that would just get better and better every week with the new
system now digested and a healthy Chase Clement at the helm?
Those Rice devotees who presupposed one or more of those assumptions had better
be glad they didn't make the trip over to a hurricane-beleaguered New Orleans in
anticipation of Rice Win No. 2. Or if they did, at least take solace in the fact that
Galatoire's has reopened.
Rice head coach Todd Graham and his players could take no such refuge, and will
now be left with a scant six days to right some serious listing and taking-on-water
problems that seem to have developed in the week since the good ship Institute sailed past
and swamped what appeared to have been a solid but overmatched Army team.
The saddest part about the situation was that team had weathered the miserable
first-five-game part of this year's schedule, had come back from West Point with a great
deal of momentum, and was all set to attract a reasonably large crowd of curious onlookers
in next week's UAB game after going on a two-game win streak by taking Tulane, as the
better ball club of the two.
Didn't happen though.
In a game that featured crippling Owl lapses and deficiencies on both sides of
the ball, the Rice Owls were defeated 38-24 here Saturday by a determined Tulane team that
seemed to have been just as successful with the schemes it threw up against the Owls as
the Owls did with their strategies against the Army the week before.
Defensive breakdowns hurt worse than offensive shortcomings
Bencil Smith made first three tackles of the game (PTH photo)
Coach Graham ascribed a lot of Tulane's successful offensive game plan to
simple defensive breakdowns by his own men. "We played terrible defensively," he
said. "I told the kids we had more critical errors in this game than any gave I've
coached in a long time -- why, I don't know."
"We missed having Brandon King in there defensively. And we just blew
coverage after coverage after coverage. And that's coaching. We didn't have them prepared
Indeed, no matter the level of Rice's game preparation, every piece of gumbo the
Green Wave threw against the wall appeared to just stick there, dead solid perfect.
Especially in the clutch.
Take the opening drive of the game. Each time the Owls have teed it off this
season, they've allowed a score on their opponents' opening possession. This game proved
The Green Wave was facing third at eight at their own 27 after Bencil Smith made
the first three tackles of the game, including a big stick of Tulane's Israel Route on the
But on third and eight, Tulane offset a hard Rice line charge with a little draw
play to running back Matt Forte, and he worked his way through the rugby scrum for a dozen
yards and a first down.
From there, it took what Coach Graham referred to a three
"uncontested" pass receptions for the Greenies to draw first blood of the game.
The second of those was on a third and ten at the Rice 44 when Owl defenders appeared to
have the Tulane offense once again on the ropes.
"We came out, made three critical errors on the opening drive to give them
seven points, uncontested," Coach noted. "They didn't do anything we
hadn't worked on."
"Tulane's quarterback has a great arm and they've got great
receivers," he added. "But you've got receivers running around with nobody
on them and making catches that were uncontested. Because we're blowing coverages, and
that's just ridiculous."
Tulane's Lester Ricard, under scant pressure, hit a wide open Kenneth Guidroz on
a slant pattern down the middle for 21 yards and a first down. Next play, he ran basically
the same thing and hit another wide open receiver, Jeremy Williams, for 21 yards and the
"We expected them to jam a lot but they backed off a lot," Williams
said, regarding the ease in which Tulane receivers seemed to be able to pull in the
receptions, downfield. "While they were doing that, it was easier for us to get away
from them and break in."
Took Owls two tries to punch in tying score
Marcus Rucker delivers big hit on Tulane quarter- back Lester Ricard, producing turnover
that would'a, could'a, should'a been a turning point (PTH photo)
The Owls came right back and moved the ball themselves, reaching as far as
the Tulane 36, two big plays coming on completions to Tommy Henderson and Joel Armstrong.
But facing fourth and six from that point, Chase Clement got a heavy rush and
had to hurry his pass to Jarett Dillard, and the ball went low, incomplete.
Only later was it learned that Chase was so hot in ripping the Army for 300
passing yards the week before, that he'd managed to sore up, if not slightly re-injure,
the jammed thumb on his throwing hand, so he hadn't thrown a ball in practice all week.
Certainly it can be said that the Tulane defense did not see Chase Clement at his
dead level best -- and that didn't help the Rice effort at all.
The Rice defense successfully forced a three-and-out on the next Tulane series,
Vernon James ripping the Greenies' Andre Anderson for a loss of five on the third and ten.
The Owls took the ensuing punt and moved right on in to score and tie the game.
After Chase hit Jarett Dillard down the middle for 14 yards to get things going, Quinton
Smith and Chase Clement took it the rest of the way, Chase doing the scoring honors by
scampering in from three yards out.
Owl fans were hoping, at that point, that they were seeing a reprise of the
events of the Army game, but Tulane went a long way toward dispelling that notion when
they responded immediately with a touchdown drive of their own that covered 80 yards in
five plays. Ricard, with plenty of time to pass, was hitting wide-open receivers 15 or 20
yards downfield, while the Rice defensive coaches fumed on the sideline but the Owl
secondary looking, er, out-'schematic'ed, to say the least.
In fact, though Coach Graham had attributed much of the Owls' defensive lapses
in the passing to blown coverages in large part occasioned by the sidelining of starting
cornerback Brandon King with an injury, it had to be more than that.
Rather, it seemed as if every move Tulane tried, worked to perfection. Every
time the Owls blitzed, Tulane countered with a draw play or something else to punish Rice
for its aggressiveness. Every defensing passing scheme the Owls ran, it seemed was
anticipated by the Green Wave offense, who flooded the seams with wide open receivers.
It was almost as if Tulane's press box contingent had a copy of Rice's game
plan, while coaches on the sideline were, dunno, maybe stealing the signals or something.
Tulane's no-huddle offense effective
Quinton Smith en route to a 36-yard gain that almost went the distance (PTH photo)
But, nah, it couldn't have been as simple as that. Perhaps Tulane's
no-huddle offense had something to do with the confusion apparently leveled upon the Owl
defense just as Rice had done to Army by the same instrumentality the week before.
"We jumped in and went off the no-huddle offense the first couple series of
the game after we got our first first down," Tulane quarterback Ricard noted,
post-game. "Coach asked me if I was comfortable with the no huddle offense.
Obviously, with our performance last weekend in the fourth quarter, I was more comfortable
running a no huddle offense."
(Tulane had mounted a furious comeback against SMU with the hurry-up, no huddle
offense, despite falling in the end, 33-28.)
"We just kind of wanted to change it up tonight. We are playing some pretty
good teams and we have to catch them off balance a little bit and hit them in the mouth
early. We figured the no huddle will be a key for us for moving the ball."
Early in the second quarter, down 14-7, the Owls made noise like, just as sure
as the world, they were going to tie it up, when they advanced as far as second and goal
from the Tulane four yard line. But Chase lost control of the football in a mixup in the
backfield at that point, and had to fall on it for a loss. Then on third and goal he had
to hurry his throw to a closely guarded Jarett Dillard.
So the Institute Boys had to settle for a 25-yard Clark Fangmeier field goal,
but the thought was, OK, now we're back in the game.
Tulane fitfully moved the ball back downfield on the next possession. Coutrney
Gordon got a big sack of Tulane's Ricard for a loss of eight at the Rice 20, and the
Greenies couldn't advance beyond there. However, Ross Thevenot managed to finagle a rather
anemic looking field goal attempt through the uprights from 45 yards out, so the Green
Wave had salvaged three points out of the drive.
It was time for the Rice offense to move the ball again, at least in the
endeavor of playing the field position game. But once again, it was as if the Greenies
were reading the Rice offensive playbook. First, a quarterback draw lost one yard. Then a
quick out to Tommy Henderson went awry. Then on third down, Tulane picked up the Rice
blocking scheme, collapsed the pocket and down went Chase for a seven yard loss on the
From the Rice 23, the Owls needed one of Jared Scruggs' patented boomers, but
they didn't get it. Facing a scant rush, Jared sliced one off the side of his foot; the
ball managed to reach the Rice 41 before slithering out of bounds.
Tulane struck again in two plays. First play, Ricard set up in the pocket, ate a
muffaletta sandwich, had his nails done, and then hit a wide-open Damarcus Davis for 21 to
the Rice 20. Next play, Ricard set up, took his time, and then hit a wide-open (fill in
blank here with name of Tulane receiver and repeat as needed) Kenneth Guidroz for the last
31 yards and the score.
"We made the plays," Green Wave Coach Chris Scelfo said of Tulane's
first-half efforts. "We were determined to run the football. Our offensive line was
challenged quite a bit last week. We felt we were going to give them a chance up front and
see what they could do right away."
The Owls were down 24-10, then, going into the halftime locker room -- hardly an
impossible task to make up for a team that's come back before this season, once behind.
Nevertheless, the ease with which Tulane had been able to strike offensively, once it got
its mojo working, was unsettling to say the least.
"Still, I thought all we had to do is come out and play our game, in the
second half, and we'd come back and win the game," Coach Graham said afterwards. Who
knows, perhaps he was absolutely right on that score. But we'll never know. The Owls
could not be said to have played their game in the Superdome Saturday afternoon, except,
perhaps, in fits and starts.
Rice took second-half kickoff and scored
Jarett Dillard says 'come to papa' -- this touchdown reception gives him an eight-game
streak (PTH photo)
The Owls did do the first thing they had to do in the second half to get
back in the ball game, and that's take the ball down and score on the opening drive. And
that, they did in impressive fashion.
Rice traveled 81 yards in 15 plays. Or perhaps more like 89 yards in 14 plays,
because on first and ten from the the 19, Tulane defenders collapsed around Chase and
nailed him for a loss of eight.
Things appeared to go from bad to worse when, on third and 19, the Tulane rush
got to Chase again and he was apparently sacked for a loss of four more. But some Greenie
goon got in an elbow to the side of the quarterback's head well after the play was blown
dead, and the resulting personal foul call gave the Owls an automatic first and ten from
their 33. And they immediately commenced to take advantage.
Rice worked the ball out to near midfield with a succession of running, or
perhaps we should say, scrambling plays, for several of them involved gutsy runs by Chase
Clement after being flushed out of the pocket.
But from there, he hit Jarett Dillard for 18 yards his biggest catch of
the day to that point and suddenly the Owls were knocking at the door.
Chase scrambled for 16 more yards reaching the Tulane 14 before fumbling the
ball out of bounds. From there, he hit Joel for seven and then Jarett for the score in
successive plays, to bring the Owls within striking distance at 24-17.
Tulane responded with s single first down on their next drive, but then the Owl
defense stiffened to set up what turned out to be the decisive play sequence of the game.
After two incompletions in the face of heavy Owl pressure, Ricard went to the
well a third time but in so doing was chased all over the landscape by Marcus Rucker, who
finally caught up with him and delivered a crushing blow at the Tulane 30. Ricard coughed
up the pill, and a convoy of Owl defenders was headed right for the caroming loose
football, with nothing but real estate ahead of them.
DeJaun Cooper had the inside track, and had the ball bounced just an itty bitty
bit more, it would have bounded into the big defensive lineman's hands and he'd have had
the first touchdown of his college career, which would've tied the score, to boot.
But instead, the ball just slithered and died on the turf, so DeJaun did the
wise thing by falling on it for the fumble recovery at the Tulane 25.
Turnover looked like big break, but wasn't
DeJaun Cooper came up with fumble caused by Marcus Rucker -- one little bounce and he
could've scored with it (PTH photo)
That turnover appeared to be the big break that everybody on the
Rice side had been waiting for. The Rice defense had come out much more aggressively in
the second half and their approach appeared immediately to have paid dividends.
The Rice offense failed to convert, however. On first down, Quinton Smith was
nailed for a loss of two. On second and 12, Chase misfired to Jarret Dillard (one guesses
that throwing thumb was really throbbing, by then). A third-down attempt aimed at Tommy
Henderson near the sideline also went awry, and then Luke Juist, usually deadly on his
field goal attempts from between 40 and 45 yards out, missed this one wide left, though
with plenty of leg.
Then, bang, bang, went the Tulane offense again, and suddenly the Owls were down
by two TDs once more, 31-17. The big play was that little delayed draw, once again,
to Matt Forte. Rice appeared to have the play defensed but the Tulane ball carrier
sidestepped a couple of Owl defenders and then took the ball for 64 yards to the Rice one
"We knew exactly what they were running on that play. Our pants weren't
down at all," Coach Graham lamented. "We actually signaled in 'read zone', and
brought the linebacker blitz right there. It was just blown assignments. It was simple
This was a Tulane team that was ranked last in the league in rushing, coming
into its game with Rice. Nevertheless, Forte ripped the Owls for 178 yards on the ground,
as season high not only for the Tulane scatback, but also against an Owl team that had
faced some pretty formidable ball carriers in UCLA, Texas and Florida State.
Jarett Dillard was held to 'only' six catches on the day, but increased his streak of
games with TD receptions to eight (PTH photo)
It was to George Chukwu's credit that the big DL lumbered all the way down
the field to make the touchdown-saving tackle on Forte, but it was to no avail as the
Greenies punched the ball across the goal line, two players later.
But never let it be said that this Rice bunch has any 'quit' in it. The Owls
took the ensuing kickoff and drove the ball 85 yards in ten plays, scoring on their
best-looking drive of the game.
Chase connected with his big tight end, Taylor Wardlaw, for two key catches on
the drive. Then, he threw a perfectly-placed ball to Joel Armstrong, who was headed for
the flag. The Tulane defender leaped and managed to get a hand on the ball, but Joel
reacted quickly enough to snag the pigskin with his left hand as he fell backwards, and
wrap it up for a 27-yard scoring strike.
So at 31-24, with a minute to go in the third quarter, it wasn't over yet. Not
Only Tulane responded with a 78-yard drive of their own on the next possession,
Ricard hitting Forte from eight yards out for the six points.
That was Ricard's fourth TD pass of the day, which he accumulated while at the
same time rolling up 344 yards through the air most of it, Coach Graham would be quick to
note, by way of hitting wide-open receivers.
Still not checking it in, however, the Rice offense struggled mightily to put
more points on the board in response, reaching as far as the Tulane 20 before losing the
ball on downs, and then advancing the ball to midfield before Tulane's David Skeehan made
an over-the-shoulder interception of a Chase Clement deep pass-- his first oskie in 83
"It was a different game," Coach Graham explained afterwards. "It
was a lot more 'man' coverage; a lot more pressured on the quarterback, and they did a
better job of defensing us."
"But we could've scored at least two more touchdowns."
"The biggest thing tonight that was disappointing was all the mental errors
and critical mistakes defensively."
"Still, the kids never gave up. And it's not the players. We continue to
get great effort. Maybe it's the growing pains of learning a new system, I don't know. We
just got beat tonight -- we got outcoached and outplayed."
--Paul T. Hlavinka
Todd Graham on Rice's loss (part 1)...
Coach Graham discusses the the Owls' mistakes, and
to correct them (part 2)...
Owls look to sustain
momentum against Tulane
After that stomping of Army, Sammy's
got blood in his eye for the Greenies....
HOUSTON (Oct. 6) You know, that Army team that the Rice Owls went out on the
road last Saturday and thrashed, 48-14, was not a bad football team. It wasnt a bad
football team at all.
Army dough-popped Baylor on the road; it had Texas A&M positively on the ropes
at a neutral site of San Antonio before the Ags managed to be saved by the
bell and escape with a 28-24 victory.
So how does one explain the overwhelming onesidedness of the Owls win over
Army at West Point? Was it simply the return of Chase Clement as quarterback. Was it the
particular matchups that Rice and Army presented? Was the Army overconfident, especially
after being staked a 7-0 lead on the firs possession of the game? A confluence of the
planets? A fluke; a one-time thing?
Its a futile excercise to try and reach conclusions by getting involved in
the comparative numbers games. In any event, most of those questions will be dealt with,
if not definitively answered, on the turf floor of the New Orleans Superdome Saturday
afternoon at 1 pm, when the Owls tee it up against 1-3 Tulane.
The Green Waves only win thus far is a 32-29 victory over winless
Mississippi State, a Southeastern Conference team nonetheless. Wave backers were
indicating major disappointment over a home loss last week to SMU, 33-28, which put the
Greenies, like the Owls, 0-1 in C-USA play.
The betting parlors have the Wave as 2 1/2-point dogs to the Owls. With
Florida States loss to North Carolina State on the road Thursday night, the
oddsmakers must be more confused than ever.
One things for sure. Tulane head coach Chris Scelfo is impressed with what
hes seen from the new-look Owls thus far this season.
"I think Rice is a very good football team," he told press earlier
this week. "Defensively, they've been in every game they've played. The score hasn't
always indicated that. They play a tremendous schedule and came out of it healthy, which
is good for them. They went up to Army (and won big), and we know how hard that is."
Scelfo: Rice on emotional high
"They're on an emotional high right now coming off of that game. It was a
huge win for them. It's a game that again, is going to boil down to who makes the plays -
the four or five plays - and who makes the least amount of mistakes. It's going to be very
The Green Wave enters the Rice game averaging 311.8 yards of total offense per
game - 65.8 rushing and 246.0 passing. Junior running back Matt Forté paces the Tulane ground game with 232 yards and a
touchdown on 63 carries, and fellow junior Ray Boudreaux is next with 68 yards on 12
Senior quarterback Lester Ricard leads the aerial attack, completing 65-of-11
passes for 892 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception. Eleven different Green
Wave players have caught at least two passes through the first four games of the season,
and senior wideout Damarcus Davis paces the bunch with 14 receptions for 192 yards and two
Saturday's game between Tulane and Rice marks the 29th meeting between the two
teams on the gridiron, and the Owls lead the all-time series, 15-12-1. Last season the
Owls defeated the Green Wave, 42-34, in Houston which we all oughta remember
because it was Rices only win on the season.
The Tulane/Rice series dates back to 1916 when Rice earned a 23-13 victory. The
Green Wave have lost their last three games to the Owls, and the last time Tulane won was
in 1995, when the Greenies squeezed out a 17-15 decision at Rice Stadium. Tulane's last
home win against the Owls came on Sept. 9, 1989 when the Green Wave won a nail-biter,
"We still have to play with a lot of emotion, but it has to be
controlled," Scelfo said. "We can't be too excited and it boils down to this: it
doesn't matter what level you're playing on when you've got a chance to make a play,
you've got to make it."
Todd Graham just glad to be playing teams with real students
Rice head coach Todd Graham hasnt had much to say this week about Tulane,
but one can reasonably assume theres a quiet determination on his part to promote
the kind of effort that his staff saw from their charges last week in the Army game.
One things for sure its good to get over that monster stretch
of body bag games and start playing teams that appear to be a reasonable matchup with Rice
in the areas of raw talent and physicality.
"I dont think theres anything that did to help us," he
said of the three-game stretch with UCLA, Texas and Florida State.
"I think playing people like Texas, maybe having another team on the
schedule like a Texas Tech or a Baylor, Im all for that," he added. "I
think that does help you play better against good people."
"Thats what your kids want an opportunity to go out and play against.
But back to back to back, and especially with a team like Florida State in there third, it
makes it very difficult physically. Especially for a program in its first year like ours.
That couldnt have been worse scheduling, in my opinion."
Rices success on the gridiron Saturday against the Greenies still boils
down to three things, Todd insisted..
"Weve got talent on offense," he said. "81 is as good
as there is. 44 silently had a great game (against Army). They took away the run so
catching out of the backfield he was very good.
"Offensively, the key is to let 16 manage the game; get the ball to the
skill guys, and the offensive line to get better every week."
Owl fans know the shorthand here. And as for the Greenie fan who asked for the
Rice scouting report on the message board earlier this week; well, well let him get
out his media guide for interpretation.
'It's a new season'
Owls don't plan on letdown
against a 1-3 Tulane team
By Mark Anderson
Rice players, coaches insist they'll keep up the pressure on Tulane Saturday (PTH
HOUSTON (Oct. 4) -- The Rice Owls are moving forward with their
preparations against the Tulane Green Wave this coming Saturday. There are many teams in
history that get an emotional win, like the one against Army on Saturday, and then have a
letdown the following week.
Don't bet on that happening with Coach Graham and the Rice Owls.
Andray Downs will be the first one to tell you there are no plans for coasting
this week. Andray was Dale Lloyd's mentor, and Dale is still on his mind. "We
dedicated the season to Dale Lloyd, and one game isn't going to change that. I think just
remembering him every week is going to help our team a lot."
Andray freely admits he was thinking about Lloyd as he ran back an interception for a
72 yard TD run. "I had a lot of thoughts going through my head. The first thought was
to get by the quarterback, because he was standing right there. Just trying to score. . .
and by the end of it, I knew that I was going to get in the end zone, I couldn't help but
think about Dale Lloyd. I was there when he crossed the line in his last 100 that he ran
that day. It just meant a lot to me."
But Andray understands there is still work to be done. And if he does forget, he
gets an instant message from Coach Graham. "Personally, he's right behind me in
practice every day, mentoring me, helping me to be a better player," said Downs.
"He just knows his stuff. He and Coach Randolph as a team, they're something else.
These guys, they spend a lot of time in the film room, and teach us how to study film so
we can become better players as well."
Sound like a let-down in the making? Hardly.
Downs understands there is work to be done still. "Well, we stopped the run
a little bit more this week than we did last week, Downs said. "I know we gave up 150
yards or so, but it's not 300 yards . That's the first thing and foremost is stopping the
Chase Clement operated with surgeon-like precision on Saturday against Army,
going 29-39 for 299 yards and 5 TDs. But Chase knows that it isn't time to let down after
one win. He pointed out that the Owls have a goal for the season. "The passing of
Dale, that was definitely tough on us," said Chase. "We really wanted to go out
and win for him. We've dedicated this season to him."
Chase explained why he didn't believe there would be a let-down after such an
emotional win. "That was such a great game for us offensively and defensively, to
build off of that, Chase explained.. "I know our confidence is up right now. Really,
we're going to keep Dale in the back of our mind. We've dedicated this season to him and
his family. We're going to work hard like he worked hard, so you know. . . we're going to
finish this for him."
Coach Graham isn't expecting a letdown and revealed why he didn't believe there
would be any easing up or loss of intenstiy among his charges.
"One of the things we talked about with Dale's passing is Dale was a guy
that had incredible work ethic, and just the heart of a champion," said Graham.
"We didn't just dedicate a game to him. We dedicated how we are going to live our
lives, and how we're going to practice, and play, and do everything we do. I think that
was something that helped us this week." He continued by saying, "I think this
team has worked really hard. You know, when you've been through quite a bit, that's what
builds character, and that was the thing I think motivated us this week."
Graham pointed to another reason the Owls should not let down -- there's
still improvement needed in many areas.
"I really think Tulane is a very good football team," Graham
continued. "They beat Mississippi State, They've got a lot of talent and speed,"
According to Graham, there's things still to be accomplished. "we've got to go there
and do a great job of being a disciplined, just keep building on the things we do, and
don't turn the ball over on offense, and continue to improve on defense, and don't give up
big plays on defense."
But Graham did point out one thing that above all else is the reason he believes
there won't be any letdown. Graham shared the perspective of the Owls' staff and players
when he said, "We're 1-0. I told them after that stretch we're starting a new season.
Going into this Army game, that's the game we had to win, and the kids responded and we
got us a win," said Graham. "Now we just have seven more to go. If the kids
continue to get better, we'll be right in the middle of all seven of them."
Monday press luncheon audios...
Coach Graham, Andray Downs, Chase Clement on Rice's big win over Army....
Coach Graham (part 2)