|'10 SMU week
SMU 42, Rice 31
Shades of '09: Pick-six, blocked kick for TD
provide SMU with margin of victory as Rice ends three-game homestand empty-handed , 1-4 on
season, 0-1 in league play
Chris Jones puts quietus on flying red
horse (PTH photo)
|Sam sets sail
This night was the night when Sam McGuffie decided to go
airborne, displaying his vaulting abilities on several plays, one in particular (MA
HOUSTON (Oct. 3) Rices litany
of miscues included a quick pick-six and a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown
against the SMU Mustangs Saturday.
Thats about all one needs
to know about the game long-suffering Owl fans will be able to mail in a report
about the rest, sight unseen. The more masochistic of our readers may elect to read on,
Like Yogi said, it was deju vu all over again at Rice
Stadium Saturday evening, as the margin of victory for SMU in a 42-31 triumph over the
Rice Owls lay in the aforementioned pick-six and blocked field goal. Eliminate those two
plays, and Rice wins, 34-28. Once again, for the second year in a row, SMU pulled out a
victory over the Owls with opportunistic defense and special teams play. It all boiled
down to just a couple of them -- plays, that is.
But then again, it
didnt. The two big turnaround plays cant entirely explain the 42-17 deficit
the Owls were looking at as the third quarter clock wound down. They cant mask the
inopportunistic, predictable play calling, the inverse ratio of effort to results, that
plagued the Owls against an opponent with whom they physically measured up quite well,
(Well, not when it came to matching this June Jones-coached team
with its cheap-shot late hits, but otherwise....)
Probably the coup de gras was struck against the Owls
as early as six minutes deep into the contest. After the Owl defense shut down SMU on a
three-and-out to open the game, Rice set up shop offensively for the first time on the
evening with great field position at its own 45.
First play, a post route had Donte Moore wide open down the
middle, but the pass was just a bit overthrown, and the play went for nought. That took
just a little bit of wind out of the sails of the Owls, but the defense still played with
tenacity and fire.
After allowing a single first down to the Ponies, they forced
another punt, and Rice again took possession, but this time deep in their own territory.
On second and five from his 15, quarterback Nick Fanuzzi threw a pass that simply got away
from him, sailing high over Luke Willson, his intended receiver. Sailing just about
as high was SMU defender Sterling Moore, who speared the interception and proceeded
to thread his way down the home team sideline for 32 yards and the score, to make it 7-0,
That pickoff was like a shot of valium to both the Rice offense
and the majority of Owl fans in the stands.
The blocked punt for a TD occurred midway in the third quarter,
and it was just as numbing and even more lethal.
McGuffie rolled, but
so did ball -- onto the turf
At the time, SMU was entertaining a 21-10 lead, but the Owls
were driving. Starting at their 30, they moved as far as the Pony three yard line, paced
by runs of eight, 14 and 15 yards by Sam McGuffie, plus a couple of gutty scrambles by
Nick Fanuzzi, each of them having been attained mostly by force of their own second
On first and goal from the three, Owl coaches called for a
pitchout to Sam, swinging wide. An SMU defender managed in get into the lane, disrupting
the pitch. Sam had it on his fingertips for a moment, but the pill managed to fall to the
floor. Eleven yards behind the line of scrimmage, it was all Nick could do to fall
on the ball and take the loss.
Two shots in the end zone failed to connect, so instead of
21-17, the Owls lined up for what appeared to be a chip shot, 30-yard Chris Boswell field
goal which would have at least brought them within eight. But then out came the yellow
flag, and Rice was gigged for a procedure penalty, to which later Coach Bailiff clearly
But never mind, because with Chris Boswell, 35 yards instead of
30 is still a chip-shot distance. But not this time, because SMUs Youri Yenga surged
in unblocked and smacked Boz effort to the turf. It was picked up by Pony
JaGared Davis, who took off down the sideline and rambled 77 yards to the opposite
end zone, and all of a sudden, instead of 21-17, or even 21-13, the score stood at SMU 28,
Rice 10. Game over.
Yep, by the way, that was the same Ja'Gared Davis who had no
business being in the game at the time, after he fashioned a flagrant and malicious late
hit in the second quarter on a just-enteredTaylor McHargue, reinjuring his
newly-rehabilitated collarbone and rendering him once again unavailable to the Owls.
"You take those two mistakes away and this was a winnable football game,"
Rice coach David Bailiff said of those two fateful plays. "All I know to do is keep
working hard, keep showing up our fundamentals, keep believing in these young men and work
through the hard times. I dont know any other way to do it."
Owls would get within a score, SMU
would pull away
The blocked place kick marked
not the first time in the game where SMU managed to pull away after Rice got back
to within striking distance.
The first time came after the Owls held onto the ball for
six-plus minutes and drove 55 yards, midway in the second quarter, to set up a 42-yard
Chris Boswell field goal. Klein Kubiak made two key third-down catches on that drive, and
Pat Randolph made an impressive, over the shoulder catch on a sideline route for 29 more.
Alas, SMU managed a sack on Owl QB Fanuzzi on second and 11 from
the SMU 30, and Kubiaks second reception of the series, though good for 14 yards,
was sufficient merely to set up the Owls in makeable field goal position.
Key tackles by Dylan Klare and Travis Bradshaw shut down the
Ponies at midfield on their next possession, enabling the Owls to set up their next drive
at the 20, with 3:22 remaining in the half.
Right away, Sam McGuffie and Nick Fanuzzi ripped runs of eight
yards apience, and then Donte Moore nabbed one for 12 more yards. In the stands, Owl fans
entertained a fleeting notion that Rice might even go into the halftime locker room with a
10-7 lead, but that was not to be. Instead, three straight incompletions from the
SMU 47 resulted in the Owls having to punt the ball back to the Mustangs with a fraction
over a minute left.
Immediately, SMU quarterback Kyle Padron lofted a 51-yard
completion to his wideout, Al Robinson, who managed to outmaneuver Rice DB Corey Frazier
for the ball in a tossup situation. Almost
"That was a big play," SMUs two-million-dollar
man, head coach June Jones, said afterwards. "We had maybe a minute twenty (actually
it was less ed.) and we were going to take a shot on the first play and if we
hit, then I was going to try to score. If we didnt hit it then I was going to run
out the clock."
Well, sure enough, SMU hit, and two plays later, Padron once
again found Robinson down the sideline where he connected with him for a 23-yard touchdown
The play, with 26 seconds left in the half, marked the first
time in the game that either team had been in the enemy red zone. SMUs only score,
of course, came on the aforementioned interception return, while the Owl defense limited
the Mustang offense to three punts and a missed field goal the first 29 and a half minutes
of the half.
"With a minute left you have to go out with that killer
mindset because you know theyre going to go deep, you know theyre going to get
to the sidelines," Owls soph cornerback Phillip Gaines said, post-game.
"Thats when you have to be at your finest. Thats when you have to play
your technique the best."
"Youve got to go out there and execute," he said
of the 51-yard strike. "I was in the right spot on the post just didnt
get the ball out. When its all said and done you have to do your job and overcome
adversity when it comes your way. You have to make those plays."
So instead of leading, 10-7 or even trailing 7-3, the Owls
suddenly found themselves behind 14-3 going into the halftime locker room, despite a
sterling defensive effort that lasted virtually the entire first half of the game, until
Padron connected with Robinson on the bomb.
Owls got second half
kickoff, moved, then sputtered
Rice was to get the ball to start the second half, and the Owls
did move the ball as far as midfield, thanks to a couple of strong runs by Sam McGuffie
and a seven-yard completion from Fanuzzi to Donte Moore. But there the drive fizzled and
Kyle Martens came in to punt.
He lofted a beauty that sent SMU deep back Darius Johnson to his
five yard line, where Chris Jones laid in a hit on him that jarred loose the football.
Phillip Gaines alertly covered it deep in the end zone, and suddenly the Owls, once again,
were back within striking distance, at 14-10.
But the rest of the third quarter
was a nightmare for the Feathered Flock. A 49-yarder up and over the shoulder to Cole
Beasley set up the Mustangs for a quick responsive touchdown to put them back up by 11, at
21-10. And then came Rices abortive drive culminating the blocked field goal that
Down 28-10, Rice came back to within 28-17 after driving 60
yards in 11 plays after the ensuing SMU kickoff went out of bounds. Key on that drive was
a 19-yard completion from Nick Fanuzzi to Patrick Randolph on third and ten from the SMU
At the culmination of the play, SMUs JaGared Davis
was flagged for another personal foul (how many cheap shots is this guy allowed to get,
and keep playing?), giving the Owls first and goal from the four.
This time, there was no cute stuff on part of the Rice offensive
play-callers. Instead, Nick Fanuzzi kept for three and then Charles Ross took it in from
one yard out.
Less than a minute had elapsed in the final quarter, and with
the score 28-17, Owl fans could begin to entertain hopes, however vague, that this score
was the beginning of a three-touchdown rally that would wrest the game away from the
Two quick SMU
strikes, and it was 42-17
Any such hopes didnt last long, however. On the first
play, SMUs ensuing possession, Padron once again connected going long to Al
Robinson, and 41 yards later the Ponies were decamped at the Rice 35.
It took SMU seven plays to reach pay dirt, but with 9:18 left in
the game, the reportedly fever-ridden Zach Line took it in from three yards out, to make
The Owls tried to reciprocate right away on their next
possession, but when Nick Fanuzzi went deep, the ball was picked off by Richard Crawford
at the SMU 32. Once again, June Jones elected to go deep on the first play, and Padron
again connected with Beasley for 49 yards to the Rice 19. Next play, Padron again found
Cole Beasley for 12 more. Then, on first and goal from the seven, Padron hit Patrick
Fleming alone in the end zone for six.
Thus, adding it up, one quickly notes that SMU connected on way
too many deep balls, despite what Coach Bailiff said he considered a game effort by his
defensive secondary. "They were right there.," he said. "Philip
Gaines was right there. Chris Jones was right there. There weren't broken coverages. We as
coaches have to do a better job teaching them how to finish on the top of their
Now the Owls were red-faced and trailing the Mustangs by the
frankly embarrassing count of 42-17. But despite the fact that less than eight minutes
remained in the game, the Institute boys gamely fought back, traveling 70 yards in 10
plays, then recovering an onsides kick, then immediately covering 57 yards in 12 more
plays to make the score 42-31.
A good portion of the yardage on those two drives was traversed
by Rice rookies, including receivers Klein Kubiak, Randy Kitchens, Donte Moore and Trevor
Gillette. Freshman Jeremy Eddington scored the second touchdown on a short dive from a
yard out, as did Sam McGuffie on the Owls previous possession
After the game, Rice quarterback Nick Fanuzzi said he had no
answer to the obvious question: why couldnt the Owls move the ball like that earlier
in the contest?
"There's no reason why we couldn't have done that in the
first quarter," Nick said. "I don't think anything changed. At that point we
were much more calm. We went out there and executed. There's no reason why can't do that
in the first quarter. There was no change in what we did. It's on us as players and I know
it's going to come."
Thus ended the Owls win streak of 10 consecutive series
meetings against SMU at home, a skein that had endured nearly a quarter-century.
"Its on all of us," the Rice signal-caller said
of his team's too-little, too-late offensive effort. "Its communicating
together, coming together as one, and it starts with me telling the guys and calming them
down. Bringing them together and realizing that weve got to take it one step at a
time and everybody do their eleventh. Were going to be good if we do that."
Moment of truth for Owls as SMU tries to break loss skein
HOUSTON (Sept. 30) Perhaps
the best way to put Rices upcoming game with SMU into perspective is to consider it
in light of last years contest.
Rice stayed winless in suffering a 31-28 loss to the
Mustangs in Dallas, in a game where the Owls clearly were the better team. It was a game,
though, in which Rice suffered three blocked place kicks, one of which was returned for a
Do the math the result was an up-to-16-point turnaround
that handed the game to an SMU team that, at least on that day, was the clearly inferior
combatant. You can check the stats.
SMU enters Saturdays contest as a solid favorite,
despite the fact that the Ponies have not won at Rice Stadium since 1986. But there are
several dozen returning veterans wholl be decked in blue and gray, come kickoff, and
who were on the field at Ford Stadium last October. To a man, theyll know that they
feature at least equal, if not superior, on-field talent, compared to the team
theyll be facing.
Be that as it may, self-defeating antics such as the
aforementioned blocked place-kick trifecta have been the byword thus far in a frustrating
September for the Owls.
"Rice can't beat Rice," Rice head coach David
Bailiff said after the Owls beat themselves 30-13 against Baylor last week. "You
can't have that. It starts with me and has to filter down. It's unacceptable ... we have
to eliminate those mistakes that are costing us points and costing us yardage."
It seems the moment of truth for this 2010 season, for
this Rice Owl team, has arrived.
Win would mean Owls have held serve
through first 5 games
Cut out the silly mistakes, make good decisions, win the
turnover and special teams battles, and Rice walks out of this upcoming contest with a
win, making them 1-0 in Conference USA play, with a 2-3 season record that basically
equates to holding serve against a tough, non-conference slate.
But play with the same intensity, awareness and
intelligence level displayed in their two consecutive home losses against BCS foes
Northwestern and Baylor, and itll be time to dig out the "Rice cant beat
Rice" mantra, post-game, once again.
Beyond that, the Owls will be 1-4 on the season, 0-1 in
conference play and the rest of the season will be played more or less for funsies.
Forget about a bowl game, league crown, higher press visibility, bigger home crowds, all
that good stuff.
Lose Saturday, and the Rice coaching brain trust might as
well alternate their three quarterbacks at the starter position, game by game, with an eye
toward finding the next Chase Clement in time for the 2011 season.
But in order to win, the Owls will need to slow down a
confident SMU offense that has displayed reasonably well thus far in the young 2010 season
against the likes of TCU and Texas Tech. The Mustangs put up 24 points in a loss to
a Horned Frog team that currently ranks number four in the nation.
Though scoring at an ample rate, the SMU offense has not
been the passing juggernaut this since that typically is characteristic of June
In his first four games, soph quarterback Kyle Padron has
tossed for 812 yards and 10 touchdowns, somewhat off the pace he set his freshman year.
Padron does have an experienced group of ball-catchers to
throw to, including senior Aldrick Robinson, juniors Bradley Haynes and Cole Beasley, and
sophomore Darius Johnson. Johnson, Robinson and Beasley together have totaled 51
receptions for 657 yards and nine touchdowns in SMUs first four games.
Soph bowling ball has been big factor
But a big difference in SMUs offensive fortune, and
emphasis, this fall lay in the power running of sophomore running back Zach Line. In his
first four games this fall, the big fella (6-1, 235) from Oxford, Michigan, has run for
418 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 7.8 yards a carry and 103.8 yards a game.
Young Zach missed Wednesdays practice, allegedly
with a fever, and his availability status for Saturday is said to be day-to-day.
Yeah, right. Owl fans have been familiar with June
Jones operations long enough to know that hes not beyond pulling a little bit
of the head game. Expect Zach Line to be just fine on Saturday.
Defensively, the Mustangs are led by something of a youth
movement. Sophomore defensive back Ryan Smith leads the team with two interceptions and a
forced fumble to accompany his 13 tackles, for instance.
But the Pony defender wholl have the biggest target
on his back, come Saturday, is an immigrant from Estonia by the name of Margus Hunt.
In last years Rice-SMU game, the 6-8, 272-pound
Hunt got two of those three blocked kicks, including the kick-six. And hes already
gotten one blocked kick thus far this season.
Ultimately, his heroics last year turned out to be the
difference in the game. If the Rice special teams allow Mr. Hunt to get another one on
Saturday, they ought to be led on a forced march to somewhere a long way away, like, say,
Rices veteran offensive lineman Jake Hicks played
as a freshman in Rices 10-3, 2008 campaign. He suffered through the Owls
two-win season last year. Hes been around the block a time or two. One may expect
hell be ready for Margus Hunt and his ilk, come Saturday.
"Weve seen all the blitzes," he said
Monday. "Weve gone against the best defensive schemes in the nation. Weve
gone against some of the toughest defenses that there are. The learning curve is over.
Weve seen everything; nothing is new. So now we can work on imposing our will and
trying to dominate every person every play."
"Were really just fighting for our reputation
and I think were getting closer and closer," Owls junior DL John Gioffre added.
"Like Coach was saying therere just these little, tiny mistakes, and none of
the scores of the games really justify how much we were in the games.
"An outsider would think that were losing and
were going to have this losing mentality, but thats not it at all. We have
this tough schedule so that were already prepared for the rest of our season.
Hopefully, ideally, what Coach planned for us to do is were not going to see
anything we havent seen already."
"When you look at our preseason schedule you hope to
win them all, and weve been in them all," Coach Bailiff insisted. "We
talked as a staff that we wanted to come out of that at least 2-2, but weve been the
underdog every week though. Were 1-3 and weve got to get on a roll like we did
in 08 and like they did in 06. Weve been here before."
"Nobody is panicked."
Panic definitely wouldn't be the order of
the day. But a healthy recollection of the way last year's game turned out -- and a
firm resolution to eliminate such sort of miscues -- would go a long way toward setting
the Owls' minds right, as they enter Saturday's very important game.
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