|'06 UCF week
Rice 40, UCF 29
Versatile Owl offense,
key late Rice onslaught
John Welch skies high for ball, as defender manages to get in friendly tug at the small of
the back (PTH photo)
ORLANDO, Fla. (Oct. 21) -- The Rice Owls exhibited a new-found
versatility on offense and combined that with a newly-emerged mental toughness on defense
in breaking open a 13-13 halftime tie, turning it into a 40-29 romp in the Theme Park over
the University of Central Florida here Saturday.
The plot line in this game was as thick and twisty as a Russian novel, and the
cast of characters just about as broad. There were plenty of close scrapes for the good
guys, heroic performances by unlikely characters, moments when the result was in doubt,
and, most of all, a happy ending that even portended the likelihood of one or more
sequels. All in all, it was a good read; quite the page-turner for Owl fans.
Played before a crowd of just under 31,000 fans at the Florida Citrus Bowl, a rather
decrepit old barn that reminded one more of a less-well-maintained Cotton Bowl than
something one would expect from the center of the Disney universe, the game came off as
ugly to the local folks as it did inspiring to the visitors. And those plot twists started
with the opening kickoff.
When the Golden Knights won the coin toss, they chose to receive, figuring, one
would guess, to show those bumbling Texans how a pro-style offense burns rubber from the
Only Owl kicker Luke Juist dribbled a little onsider a couple or three bounces
down the field, and then pounced on the ball himself just as it went the requisite ten
A huge, well it was sort of a huge mumble that coursed through partisan crowd,
more in anger that the locals would let such a thing happen to themselves, rather than
shock at the outcome.
"I wanted to show the kids something, too, coming out thats
why we started off and bunted that opening kickoff," Rice head coach Todd Graham said
afterwards. "I wanted to tell them that weve come here to be wide open;
weve come here to win. We didnt come here just to try."
The Owls immediately were able to move the ball, though not in huge gobs.
Quinton Smith showed signs of things to come with an eight-yard carry up the gut, first
play. Chase Clement then hit Jarett Dillard with a quick-out for four yards and a first
down, and then scrambled for nine more, the next play.
The Owls reached the UCF 28 before bogging down, in part due to a couple of hard
sticks by UCF pass defenders. But that put Luke Juist right in the middle of his favorite,
40-to-50 yard range, and, likely still pumped from his onsides kick recovery, he boomed
his field goal attempt high and straight through from 45 yards out it wouldve
easily carried across the uprights from ten yards farther.
Rice defensive strategy: allow the run, deny the pass
Brandon King has got his interception, and he's eyeing his interference and striking out
of for the goal line -- almost made it (PTH photo)
The Rice defensive strategy became apparent upon the home teams
ensuing possession give them room to run all they want between the 20s; but clamp
down on the vertical passing game and tighten up in the Red Zone.
"I knew that their offense was very, very good," Coach Graham insisted
afterwards. "And we gave up a lot of rushing yards tonight to keep them from
throwing it because it was tough matching up with those wideouts; they have great
Sounds like a good bend-but-dont-break strategy, doesnt
"I hate that bend-but-dont-break attitude; I never say
that," he retorted. "But the thing you have to do, is be aggressive when you
have your opponent on your side of the field. We did some of that tonight; we did some
all-out blitzing for the first time this year, on early downs."
"The more times theyve got to snap the ball, its my experience
that its that more likely that theyll mess it up," he added not
speaking specifically in terms of this UCF team, although the generalization fit quite
nicely on them, this time around.
First possession, the Golden Knights held onto the ball for eight plays, but
failed to advance past the Rice 42 yard line. From there, Brian Raines made a key stop on
last years C-USA freshman of the year, UCF running back Kevin Smith, and then
Courtney Gordon nailed a scrambling QB Kyle Israel for no gain on third and long.
The resulting punt carried only 25 yards, to the Rice 17, and from there the
Owls set up shop once again.
First play, handoff to Quinton Smith, but no room to roam in the backfield, and
he had to fight his way back to the line of scrimmage before going down.
Second play, same tactics, different result. This time, threading his way
through traffic, and cutting laterally across the flow, Q popped loose for a moment, five
yards past the line of scrimmage, and next thing you knew, hed rambled downfield for
a 41-yard gain his longest run since that 80-yarder in the season-opener against
The Owls continued to move the ball steadily and reached as far as the UCF six
yard line. But there, facing fourth and two, the Rice staff decided to take the sure three
points and given the fact that they wound up with 40 on the evening, one is not
inclined to quibble at that.
If, however, the Golden Knights had taken the ensuing kickoff and jammed the
ball right down the Owls throats, one would have been concerned that the audacious
opening strategy and the nice run of yardage managed only to put six points on the
scoreboard for the Feathered Flock.
And whereas UCF was, indeed, able to move the ball, the Rice defense exhibited a
hitherto undemonstrated stinginess, once the home team got into scoring position.
"Weve really been focusing on red zone offense and red zone defense,
because it really boils down to scoring," Coach Graham told us. "It doesnt
matter, first downs and all that stuff -- I mean it boils down to scoring."
Yup. We score. We keep them from scoring or at least scoring less than
we. And then the resulting statistics are for the losers to ponder over and question,
Twice, UCF was able to take the ball down the field, aided largely by the
stylish running of their ace running back, Kevin Smith. But both times, the Rice defense
grew more successful as the field grew shorter. The result: two Michael Torres field goals
evened the score at 6-6, five minutes into the second quarter, and at that point, both
sides couldve been justified in saying, aw, heck, we should be up, 14-6.
Next time Rice offense started, it finished
Take a look at the size differential, add in a little of what UCF seemed to be able to get
away with, and that makes the Rice defensive effort all the more impressive (PTH
But then, the Rice offense turned a page. The next time around, they
finished. Next possession, the Owls drove it 79 yards in 11 plays, Chase Clement throwing
for the last ten yards to a wide-open Joel Armstrong on third and nine.
It should be mentioned that, were it not for a UCF bonehead play, however, the
Birds might notve gotten good and started on that drive.
Rice faced fourth and four at its own 27, and looked to have to punt the ball
away. Whats even worse, Jared Scruggs got off a 48-yard boomer that was fielded by
UCFs return ace, Joe Burnett, who ran like a man possessed, threading his way down
the visitors' sideline as far as the Rice 15.
But as J. Fred likes to say...however. First, UCFs Javid James
plowed into Jared after the punt went off; and second, a UCF blocker speared an Owl
defender, allowing Burnett to break loose for the long run. Net result: a personal foul
call on roughing the kicker, and the Owls were set up with a first-and-10 at their own 42.
The Owls rolled in for the score from there, getting two key completions from
Chase to Joel Armstrong and a 20-yard scramble from Chase and third and six.
On UCFs ensuing drive, facing second and 10 from his own 20, QB Israel
completed a swing pass to the self-same Javid James, who coughed up the pill when he was
blasted by JaCorey Shepherd at the 28. The loose football bounced tantalizingly on
the grass with several Owls having a shot at it, and nothing but green space between them
and the goal. But when the smoke cleared, UCFs Patrick Brown was camped on the
football and the Knights retained possession.
After an exchange of possessions, the Knights wound up with the ball at their
own 14, with only 1:47 remaining in the half. Two plays yield six yards, and ate some
clock. Then on third and four, Israel connected with Rocky Ross wide open down the middle,
and he scooted for 55 yards to the Rice 25. At that point, surrendering only a field goal
would have been a moral victory, but the Knights were not through yet.
Next, Israel hit his lanky receiver Mike Walker for 23 more yards down to the
Rice 2. It took three tries from there, but on third and goal, the UCF quarterback hit
Ross again on the quick slant, and that tied the score at 13 as the teams trudged off for
the halftime locker room.
That missed fumble recovery opportunity rankled the Rice staff. "We talked
about it at halftime," Coach Graham said, "about how wed had the ball on
the ground the first half and didnt get the turnover, and I told them, OK,
its the second half; its zero-to-zero, so its going to boil down to how
we play defense and what we do in the kicking game."
And the second half didnt exactly start out swimmingly for the Owls. After
an 18-yard completion on the sideline to Jarett Dillard moved the sticks one time, the
Owls failed to move thereafter, and had to punt it away.
UCF responded by grinding out a 12-play, 65-yard drive, courtesy the pumping
hamstrings of Kevin Smith. Smith carried the mail as far as the Rice seven yard line, but
there, on third and two, just as it looked UCF would nail a TD, Courtney Gordon penetrated
the Knight backfield and took Smith down for a loss of two.
It was another display of resolute toughness by the Owl defense, and the
resulting 26-yard Michael Torres field goal didnt look nearly as bad, at 16-13, as
it would have, had the Owls fallen behind by a full touchdown.
The questions was, how would the Instititute Boys respond, now, having fallen
behind for the first time in the game.
The answer was: with alacrity indubitably.
Q bounced, picked up a seam -- and was gone
Jonathan Cary (L), Vernon James jump for joy after Owl fumble recovery (PTH photo)
Facing third and two at the Rice 31, Chase handed off to Q, who bounced
off a couple of tacklers in the middle of the line, picked up a seam, and sprinted 69
yards for the score, and suddenly the Owls were back on top, 20-16.
Post-game, Coach Graham said hed challenged Quinton at halftime. "I
thought Quinton was running hard, but you know theres a difference between running
hard and just refusing to be tackled," he said. "And Q responded. I said,
hey, there doesnt have to be a hole there for you every time. You know, make
one." And so he quite obviously did.
Then it was time for the Rice defense to pick up the pace. Thanks to aggressive
defense by Vernon James, George Chukwu, Courtney Gordon and Marcus Rucker, UCFs next
offensive possession went nowhere.
JaCorey Shepherd fielded the ensuing punt, and took it 22 yards down the
sideline to the Rice 47 one zig instead of a zag, and hed have had his first
career punt return TD. But no matter, as Chase completed three straight passes to Tommy
Henderson, Corbin Smiter and Jarett Dillard, and that had the Owls camped out at the UCF
From there, Jarett circled out of his wideout spot and rolled toward the post.
UCF had one man out of position, and zoom-boom, just like that, the Owl phenom had snagged
a TD pass in the middle of the end zone the tenth straight game in which he had
accomplished such a feat.
"The safety bit on the play fake, and I ran my route," Jarett said,
"and I saw I was wide open, and I was just hoping, hey, Chase, throw the ball
good, and he did, and, hey, there it is."
With a 27-16 lead, the Owls had fairly well dominated play for most of the third
quarter, and on into the fourth. A DeJaun Cooper recovery of a UCF fumble forced by Vernon
James at the Rice 20 looked to be the coup de grace. But moments later, another
Joe Burnett punt return breathed life back into the Golden Knights.
Stalled at midfield, but with a chance to pin back UCF near its own goal line,
Jared Scruggs tried to punt underneath the ace Knight punt returner. But Burnett caught
the ball on the fly like a center fielder, and set off on a crazy-quilt pattern up the
field. He must have run over a hundred yards, but counting north-south distance only, he
managed to cover 50, to the Rice 31, before finally being hauled down by Chad Price.
With the short field ahead of them, UCF was able to take it in for the score,
Israel going once again to Owl nemesis Mike Walker for the last 20 yards and the TD. The
play was reviewd by the press box gendarmes, for it looked as if the receiver might have
been juggling the ball as he crossed the end line. That review proved inconclusive
but what was not reviewed was the push that Walker gave Brandon King as they crossed arms
and legs contending for the ball near the flag.
Though the Knights failed in the ensuing two-point conversion, suddenly it was
2722 and thoughts of the previous weeks game entered the minds of the Owl
"Last week, we let (UAB) come back in the fourth quarter," linebacker
Brian Raines explained after the game. "You know, we allowed them to put the game in
jeopardy for us. When it seemed like it that same thing might start happening again, we
said, no, we cant put our offense through that again. We had to do our
share to win the game, too."
"After last week, we were upset with ourselves for letting that happen. So
we just made sure we were going to come out and just do better today. And we did a lot
better competing compared to last week."
That they did, as the Owl defense played its role to the hilt, while the offense
Clinching score was earned by infantry
Here's Q, making one of those holes where there wasn't one, per Coach Graham's halftime
admonition (PTH photo)
Next possession, the Owls went 74 yards in 12 plays all of it on
the ground. Quinton Smith ripped through the middle of the Knight defense for the last 19
yards, and when he crossed the goal, he gave it a little uncharacteristic scissor-kick in
Any particular reason for that? Well, yeah, kinda, Q confessed afterwards.
"I feel like I have struggled for the past four or five weeks," Quinton said,
post-game. "Its hard when teams key in on you. I talked about that to Dillard
tonight, and he said, yeah, its frustrating. But when youve got a
great quarterback, and such a great receiver, that opens up the running game, and with the
linemen working hard like they did tonight, we just were able to execute."
That play was the cherry on top of the ice cream, and, as much of the partisan
crowd filed out of stadium, the Owls knew they had their third win of the season
and three victories in the last four games all but sewn up.
After all, the Rice defense needed to add its own exclamation point, and they
did so by virtue of Brandon Kings interception and return a moment later. Brandon
got his revenge for the non-call on UCFs previous touchdown, for this time, he was
able to pick Mike Walkers pocket for an interception at mid-field and thread his way
down the sideline all the way to the UCF six before finally being pushed out of bounds.
"On the interception," Brandon said afterwards, "I told Coach,
Theyre coming at me, theyre coming at me. I told him, Coach,
Im gonna get you one, right here. This is fourth down. They threw it my way,
then, and I got it."
Facing goal-to-go at the six, Rice played it conservatively. Two cautious
handoffs to Quinton Smith didnt yield much. But on third and goal, Q decided to make
one of those holes where there wasnt one, and he was able to surge across the goal,
and that made it 40-22 with 1:29 left in the game.
The garbage-time touchdown that UCF scored on their final possession,
culminating with a three-yard scoring strike from Kyle Israel to Rocky Ross with four
seconds left, ought to have taken the Futility Award for most meaningless touchdown drive
of the season.
And by that time, most of the UCF fans had long left the stadium, anyway.
Coach Graham said that the win put the Owls in about as good a position as they
could expect to have been in at this stage in the season, given the way September played
"Were just now starting to get healthy," he emphasized.
"Its the first time weve had every one of our offensive line in the game
together. And now we get a week off, so hopefully we dont have any injuries coming
out of this game, and we can stay healthy."
"Our kids have played hard every game, but I think now that our kids are
playing smarter. And the end result, you see. Again, Im just excited that were
able to handle success and go win two in a row."
With that, it fairly could be said that the Boys from South Main turned another
page in Graham's Comprehensive Guide to Football Respectability. And now this week,
the Owls have a much-anticipated open date, time to set the book down for a moment and go
for a brief dip.
--Paul T. Hlavinka
It's called Attitude: Rice's Quinton Smith
can't resist strutting his stuff at least a little bit,
once he safely crosses goal line to provide Owls with game-clinching TD (PTH
'It's an attitude. You've got to have an attitude about what you're doing...'X
Dillard: 'We've got so many options that we can go to now....'
'Because of the injury I knew they were going to come after me....'
Smith: 'We know that every single game we play, we have to win....'
'We couldn't put our offense through what they went through last week....'
Sammy's got plenty of weapons to go to in tilt with Knights
Owls seek another
milestone on route
to the next level
ORLANDO, Fla. -- (Oct. 20) Last week, the Rice Owls appeared to have
turned at least a slight corner in their quest for bowl team- level competitiveness, by
swiping a 34-33 win from UAB literally in the last few seconds of the game. One might say
they knocked on the door of respectability for the first time this season.
This week, the Boys from the Institute get to pound on that door, as they
take on the University of Central Florida Golden Knights at the Florida Citrus Bowl in
Orlando Saturday. A win against UCF would mean three victories in their last four games,
and give the Owls a real chance to fight for a .500 record, or even better, between now
and the final gun of the regular-season-ending game with SMU Nov. 24.
The Owls are struggling for consistency, for after exhibiting their most impressive
showing thus far of the season in a 48-14 dismantling of Army Sept. 30, the Flock traveled
to New Orleans to take on Tulane the next Saturday and got their tail-feathers picked,
Rice head coach Todd Graham called his Owls "flat" against the Green
Wave. In contrast, against the Army the Owls were bubbling over with effervescence.
So that must mean that last week against the UAB Blazers the Flock exhibited just enough spritzung
They'll need a CO2 injection Saturday, then, if they expect to take the measure
of Coach George O'Leary's Golden Knights, Coach Graham intimated.
"I'll guarantee you, we've got to go out and play better this week than we
did last week, to have a chance to beat Central Florida," he said. "I think
Central Florida has a better team than the one we just played."
To win with consistency, Owls must play with consistency
"To win with consistency in this league," Todd noted, "you have
to have kids who do what they are coached to do, a hundred per cent of the time. And we're
not there yet. But we do have a good team, a talented team, but no question the win over
UAB was a phenomenal win, and we can be proud of that. But the key is, each Sunday,
to go to the next game, and forget about last week."
"We need to get people healthy," he added. "This game is critical
this week in that regard. If we get out and figure out a way to win somehow this week,
well, then, we get a week off. And then maybe we can get some guys back (from injury).
The Golden Knights have suffered their share of injuries as well, and it's shown
especially on the offensive side, where essentially the same lineup that scored at a
30-ppg-plus clip during last year's division champtionship drive has been scoring an
average of more like 16 ppg thus far this season.
The Knights played well on the road in when Michael Torres kicked a a 22-yard
field goal with six seconds remaining to lift the Golden Knights to a 23-22 win on the
road at Marshall on Oct. 4. But last week at home against Pitt, UCF gained just 320 total
yards and committed four turnovers en route to a 52-7 loss. The team has struggled inside
the red zone all season and those struggles continued against the Panthers as the team was
just 1-of-3 inside Pittsburgh's 20-yard line.
In the loss to Pittsburgh, the Golden Knights finished with just 110 yards on 42
rushing attempts. Their Kevin Smith was able to rush for 70 yards and one score on 20
carries and now has a team-best 473 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The passing attack
was slightly better in the contest, not because of starter Steven Moffet, but because of
backup Kyle Israel.
Moffet was ineffective in the contest, completing just 5-of-10 passes for 52
yards and also tossed an interception. Israel was much better in game and finished with
158 yards on 13- of-19 passing. Moffet's shaky performance looks as it if might have cost
him his starting position, but Knights head coach George OLeary is being coy about
"Right now, obviously, as we've done the past two weeks, we've got to
evaluate who's actually moving the team the best in practice and go from there,"
Coach O'Leary said. "But it's not who starts, because they're both going to play.
It's a matter of I like to reward people that do better than someone else."
"It is possible to play two quarterbacks and make it work," Coach
O'Leary added. "Some of the other coaches get attached to playing one guy. I don't.
I'm always going to play the guy at a position that gives us the best chance to win."
Moving on to the defense, the Knights are right down there with the Owls,
stat-wise at least partially a result of the rugged non-conference schedule
theyve been obliged to undertake as well, with big losses to both Pitt and Florida
showing up on the record.
Given the schedule theyve faced, UCF is giving up 416.3 yards per game and
29.2 ppg. The defensive unit is allowing 160.8 yards per game on the ground and have
played even worse against the pass, permitting 255.5 ypg.
Last week against Pitt, Joe Burnett led the defense with seven tackles in the
loss and now has a team-high 41 stops on the season.
UCF much better than record indicates, Coach Graham says
That 2-4 record and all those stats given up add up to a misleading impression,
Coach Graham warned. "UCF is a challenge," he told press. "Their record is
not indicative of what type of team they are.
"You have to look at who people are playing. Florida and Pitt between them
have lost two games."
"The thing about them is that they've got receivers that are 6-3, 6-4, 6-6;
they're going to throw the ball vertically, down the field." That presents a problem
for Rices physically-compromised defensive secondary, he added. "We've got guys
who are out there, who can't allow one-shot plays."
"They're going to be a challenge down the field. And then they're going to
pound it right at you. But I do think this past week helped us, because UAB ran it right
at us, too."
George OLeary is one of the best coaches in the country, at least in the
opinion of Todd Graham. "Hes done just a great job, and they are talented."
"They've got a big, huge offensive line. Defensively, same thing."
"They've had some problems with turning the ball over. But remember they
were in the championship game last year."
Defenses now face a tough choice
By Mark Anderson
Rice receivers coach David Beaty: 'Understanding releases, understanding
structures, and how to release against different profile defensive backs, understanding
how to catch the ball in your hands away from your body and why you do so, route
runningall those things have to be taught, and it takes a little bit of time to do
HOUSTON (Oct. 19) -- Last year when Rice hosted UCF, they ran a very
predictable offenseoption left, option right. The only thing UCF had to worry about
was containing Quinton Smith and Joel Armstrong. And although Joel Armstrong threw for
three TDs that drizzly afternoon, everyone knew the key to the Rice offense was Quinton
Smithperiod. In spite of the fact that Armstrong threw three touchdowns, it was
pretty obvious that when Rice ran the option play, the last option was the pass.
But not this year.
Unless your head has been buried in the sand, you have become familiar with the
name Jarett Dillard. Jarett was a jewel that the new coaching staff uncovered when they
scrapped the option as the primary weapon. As a result, Dillard is leading C-USA in
catches (53), yardage (683), and TDs (11). He has caught a TD pass in nine straight games,
dating back to last season, and twice this year has caught three in a game (vs. Army and
vs. UAB). Without a doubt at the present moment, Jarett is the "go to guy" on
the Rice offense.
Frankly, though, Jarett has always been that go-to guy as long as he has been at Rice.
Jarett came to Rice under Ken Hatfield, and wasn't an option in the passing game.
He was the only option in the passing game.
What's happening with Dillard isn't sheer coincidence or luck. David Beaty, the
wide receivers coach and the passing game coordinator for Rice, says that coaching Dillard
"is like a dream come true."
Coach Beaty says of Dillard, "He's obviously an extremely talented kid. His
talent to me is the type of character he possesses. A lot of times when you are coaching
talented kids like that, your job is not so much what he does on the football field, but
how to control him off the field, and how to control his selfishness or
But Dillard goes beyond X's and O's, Coach Beaty noted. One thing that Dillard
possesses and is beginning to display is leadership, he said. And something everyone is
noticing about Dillard is his character.
"With Jarett, he's teaching me things on a daily basis. He's a great
Christian example for our kids and the coaches. He's got an unbelievable work ethic. I
don't think I've ever had him late or miss anything. He's always early, he's prompt, he's
a tremendous leader, and he's out in front."
Jarett not the only threat
However, if you think the Rice passing attack is a one man show, the one in
charge of coordinating the air attack would not agree with you. Joel Armstrong became a
wide receiver late this spring. And Coach Beaty believes Joel has all it takes to be a
very good one.
"We were really excited about the one-two punch he was going to give
us," he said. "With Jarett and Joel together, along with Tommy Henderson and
Mike Falco, and all the others we've got over there, we're really excited about him being
Beaty sees Joel as a work in progress. "We've been extremely proud of him
coming back and really starting to pick up some of the nuances of playing that
position," he crowed about Joel. "I think a lot of people think lining up at
wide receiver is going out there and running and catching the football, when in actuality,
there's a lot more to it than that."
"Understanding releases, understanding structures, and how to release
against different profile defensive backs, understanding how to catch the ball in your
hands away from your body and why you do so, route runningall those things have to
be taught, and it takes a little bit of time to do that," explained Coach Beaty.
Beaty is confident that Joel's presence will make an impact on the passing game.
"He's been working on an accelerated pace to get himself in a position to be a very
effective receiver, and I'm very proud of him because he's getting there. He's going to be
even better than what he is now when he gets more time at the position," revealed
Another reason the passing game is not a one man show is Tommy Henderson. Coach
Beaty had very high praise for Tommy. "Tommy is quietly racking up receiving yards.
Sooner or later, I don't know how long that's going to be, they're just going to leave
that kid wide open. When they have to cover him, that's going to open it up for the other
guys as well," Beaty said of Henderson.
"If you look at the receiving stats, you'll see a quiet 14, 15, 17 catches
caught by Tommy Henderson and a quiet 250 yards that he's been able to contribute that
nobody talks about that have a lot to do with our offensive output and productivity. I'm
certainly proud of him at this point."
One thing that Coach Beaty is especially pleased about with Tommy Henderson is
his versatility. He provided some insight as to how the coaching staff views Tommy when he
said, "The biggest thing about him is that he has an unbelievable knowledge of what
we're doing offensively. He can come in at any position at any time."
"I think the kid can go play quarterback if we needed him to, because he
possesses an enormous amount of knowledge, a very intelligent kid, plus he's very
coachable and does exactly what he's supposed to do."
Another quiet but steady contributor to the passing game is Taylor Wardlow, the
freshman tight end. "Dean Jackson, our tight end coach, has done a great job of
training Taylor Wardlow," Coach Beaty said. "I'm really excited about what
he's been able to bring to our offense. Those guys provide hidden yards that people don't
know about," said Beaty.
Four more weapons, to boot
But apparently this is only the tip of the iceberg for the future of the passing
game at Rice. There were four wide receivers that came to Rice as freshmen this year:
Andrew Novak, Corbin Smiter, Evan Fentriss, and Torren Dixon. Perhaps it seems that these
four have gotten lost in the shuffle.
However, Coach Beaty was quick to point out that simply isn't the case with any
of these talented wide receivers. Beaty said of Novak, "He's been making great
progress until he had an injury that slowed him, and he'll be back with us in a couple of
"Torren Dixon," says Beaty, "is a kid that stepped in and had his
first catch the other night at a crucial time for us down there in the last game against
UAB. I know he was excited about that and he was excited to get the first one under his
belt. He moved to a new position. He played C the other night, he'd been playing X, so I
was proud of him. He had 100 per cent on the grading system. . . so moving to a new
position, we were proud of him for that."
Coach Beaty also had high praise for Corbin Smiter. "Corbin is a kid
that is quietly stepping on the scene and doing a great job for us, not only from a mental
standpoint, but physically, he's been a good blocker."
"He's done some great things on the perimeter blocking for us, and he's got
one catch right now. He's going to be a kid to contend with."
Last, but certainly not least in this freshman class, Evan Fentriss has had a
tough time breaking into the starting lineup. The reason why is pretty simple, according
to Coach Beaty. "He's another kid that made some great plays against Texas over at
Reliant that day." But the reason he's had trouble breaking into the lineup, Beaty
said, was "because he's really playing behind Jarett Dillard, but we're training him
at other positions and he should be ready to step in this week in other positions."
And lest we forget, there's another weapon in the passing game that's been on
the shelf with an injury -- Mike Falco. When Mike is able to return, he will bring
invaluable experience and yet another weapon to the passing game.
Tough choices for enemy defenses
So how will UCF play it this week? Will they concentrate on Jarett and double
team him? If they do, that is going to leave someone open, and chances are, Chase will
find that someone.
And if they think that Rice can't run the ball, and forget about Quinton Smith,
Quinton may break one and remind everyone why he is so dangerous.
If they forget about Chase's threat to run, he may break a few himself. Just
like Sammy in this week's cartoon, this Owl team is appears to be loaded with weapons --
all aimed at knocking off UCF this coming Saturday.
It should be a very interesting rematch, to say the least.
Coach Graham appeared relaxed but intensely focused at Monday's press luncheon (PTH
Monday media luncheon audios:
"We played better this week, especially against the run, but we've got to eliminate
the big plays"
Jarett Dillard: "I
don't think any of us were as nervous as we should've been"
"I just want to do my best to try and complete all my assignments, every
Man in demand
Rice wide receiver Jarett Dillard is getting attention from local sports anchors now that
he leads the nation in touchdown pass receptions. Can Sports Illustrated be
next? (PTH photo)