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The Joyce Hardy Archives

joycedistaff2.jpg (9779 bytes)FROM THE DISTAFF END OF THE BENCH
(2010 Edition)

Notes and Comments from Rice's No. 1 Fan

By Joyce Pounds Hardy '45

My last column
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Dear Paul,

I guess I knew that this day would come, but still it's hard to give up something I have loved doing for (how many?) 13 or 14 years. The old girl has reached the end of the bench. I just don't have that feistiness anymore that has kept a little spark in my columns.

10SAMMYCRYING18.jpg (4445 bytes) Remember in the beginning, Paul, you asked me to share some memories, and I reveled in comparing our present games to Rice football teams in the 40's.

I remember how few perks they had, how they played on muddy fields, so muddy that you couldn't see the yard markers? The old helmets that folded under their arms were not much protection , but certainly easier to carry than the ones worn today, that's for sure, but they looked good to us.

We used to play where the Track is now and many a splinter came off those old benches and still do. It's easy to remember crazy happenings, but I remember more about the players than the places, the smart ones and the intellectually- challenged ones of the day.

Kids who went to war, 17 or 18 years old and came back men who became bankers and doctors, but the great majority of them became teachers and coaches.

I do remember my girlfriends and I sitting in the rain watching the guys play, all the heartaches of war, my Rice rolling with the punches, rationing, the loss of friends, professors and athletes, especially football players, who joined the Marines en masse.

After the war, our guys came back for that degree and we had amazing teams and Southwest Conference Titles and Trophies. They were so grateful to be home that everything was fun. 70,000 fans were filling Rice Stadium every game.

Yes, I was there, but only in spirit. By then I had a Rice Navy doctor-husband and we were stationed far away. I finally came back to Rice, too, and finished my degree with twenty years and five children between my sophomore year and my junior year.

I know sometimes I fussed at our teams because I thought they didn't play with enough spirit. Football was a tough job and even though the Coach kept saying, " just go out there and have fun,." that was probably the farthest thing from their minds.Yeah, just don't make any mistakes that will cost us the game. Sure, no pressure there.

Still I believe that Rice can be the best at anything it wants to be. Even though our star sorta lost its shine lately, our athletes didn't, they pursue a Rice Degree as hard as they fight for a first down. After all, that's what it's all about..

Every generation has made Rice proud, we have a great history (going on 100 years) and sports have been a part of Rice's tradition from the beginning.

Lord knows I have been around for most of those years, well almost, and I'm beginning to feel like it. My energy is running on low and it seems as though I am a full time job all by myself. My children are surprised that I am finally trying to say no to some very special things in my life, and this is one of them..

Thank all of my readers for laughing with me, cheering with me, and understanding why I keep blathering on about Rice, Rice, Rice.. Simply put, I love it. It has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I know that in my columns through the years you have found out more about me and my family than you wanted to know, but You could have turned off the computer.

Thank Heavens you didn't.

Affectionately,
Joyce


Joyce, any inkling that you were anything else than Rice's number one fan, supporter, booster, lover of all things Owl, is swept aside by the thought that you have come to relinquish this particular role. Sammy is crying, and we all cry with him. But we rejoice at the fact that you are still with us, and with the Owl teams, bubble gum, red hots and all, and hope and pray that your presence may continue for many years yet into the future. You are irreplaceable.

--P.T.H.

Editor's note: Joyce Pounds Hardy graduated from the Institute in its athletics glory days. She sent a whole generation of Hardy children to Rice, as both students and student- athletes -- that familiarly-named classmate of yours was almost surely one of them. Joyce has been among Rice's most omnipresent, loyal, never-say-die fans since before most of you were born -- and you'd better believe she's managed to develop an opinion or two about Rice athletics over the years. We're extremely happy to be able to welcome her back to our pages. And to those of you relative newcomers who haven't had the opportunity yet to sample her thoughts, be prepared for a treat -- and be ready, also, to learn some things you didn't know about our storied university and its rich history.

For more on Joyce, see The tradition lasts long after the flavor is gone, Rice News, July, 2007.

MORE OF JOYCE'S COLUMNS FROM THE 2010 SEASON...

What happened to team that battled Texas?

By Joyce Pounds Hardy, Class of 45, BA '67

HOUSTON (Sept. 27) --Normally, I love rain, but not in the middle of a ballgame. Lightning, thunder, storms... I want to be curled up somewhere reading a good book. But nature doesn't ask me when or where. And it surely didn't on Saturday night.

I would like to report that it was the weather that messed us up, but it wasn't. Off again, on again didn't hurt Baylor. Mostly as hard as I pushed and prayed we couldn't squeeze our first downs over the goal line . That one burst of McGuffie's run for our lone touchdown was a surprise. Most of us had given up hoping that there would ever be a hole someone could run through for a touchdown. A little late but ever welcome.

Where were the plays that confused Texas? The first quarter held that same great promise, we marched down the field with confidence, and made every set of downs add up to one first down after another til we got to the promised land. In this game we seemed to doom our runners to a crushing wall of green and gold. And my Owls got smushed.

My observation has been that Fanuzzi gives himself away when he passes because he always looks at his primary receiver, making him an easy target, never looking for an alternative open man, which seemed to me like telegraphing his punches and setting his receiver up for a waiting crowd. It's probably easy for us to follow the three or four receivers going out from way up in the stands, but it's tough to see an open man wasted when he breaks free.

And just once I would like to see our receivers run past the first down marker before turning to receive the pass. We haven't had to suffer "three yards and a cloud of dust" in a long time. Of course Fanuzzi didn't have a lot of time to think about it, he was so busy looking at the sideline to see who was waving his arms to tell him what to do and then hurry-up and tell the team what they are supposed to do and then do it before time ran out. If that seems like a run-on sentence, it is.

.I am not in favor of the hurry-up offense, I like the ofd fashion huddle like the pros use. At least they know what the play is going to be all at the same time, get set and think about what their jobs are. All of that arm waving and head tapping--reading the zone, changing the play at the line, moving the ends from one side to the other---doesn't seem to be confusing the opponents as much as it is us.

I hurt for the guys who got hit over and over by those tackles, never did just one man bring a runner or a receiveer down, but tons of them. Baylor's linemen were not only 40 pounds heavier than our heaviest, but they were faster. Their speed was the killer. I noticed that our receivers ran straight patterns, never seeming to zig or zag or stop and curl back to get the defenders off their backs and give the passer an open shot.

But what do I know? I'm in charge of bringing Red Hot Tamales to the team at practice every Thursday afternoon, and I let them down this week. So, forgive me, guys. But sometimes ordinary people like me have to make choices, and I chose to attend the $1000 Black Tie Dinner that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in support of Rice Athletics. It was not my first choice, but somebody's got to pay the bills.

Any time you beat the odds and win it’s sweet
Now, about that radio station....

By Joyce Pounds Hardy, Class of 45, BA '67

HOUSTON (Sept. 12) -- Well, this will not be the happy report I wanted it to be—but not because of the football game. That was one of the finest examples of overcoming adversity and emerging victorious Rice has enjoyed in a long time. I wanted us to be as sharp and tough as we were against Texas, but it didn’t happen. UNT was favored so the victory was sweet, anytime you beat the odds and win it’s sweet. Kudos to all the guys who fought so hard to make that W end up on our side of the line.

However, since Rice won the game, I imagine that North Texas had more “missed opportunities” than we did. I say “imagine” because I never really heard the game. I tried the old 97.5 FM on my $100 transistor and never got a peep from Beaumont . Maybe my car would have gotten the game but I didn’t have a car that day.

Why Rice’s secret sale of our KTRU to University of Houston couldn’t have bargained for a better sports station for us, I don’t know. The whole deal sounded fishy to me. How is Rice ever going to increase its radio fans if they can’t hear the games? .I won’t give up trying, but I’m pretty sure they would. By the way, I don’t know if our new AD thinks that ESPN is as great a radio station as it is a TV station, but believe me, the radio station stinks.

So, as much as I hate the computer, I dialed in Owlvision, hit “Watch” and nothing appeared. How could I have been so na´ve? So then I hit “Listen.” and what I heard was a cacophony of Babel . David’s “voice of Rice sports,” came through loud and clear with three voices speaking about 3 seconds apart. Even when I was watching Gametracker they babbled on. He just wouldn’t shut up. Finally it drove me to find the mute button, but even “Mute” didn’t silence him. I think my computer was getting back at me for being so cranky.

I’m sorry to complain again, but it always seems to be only me who can’t get the game. That’s not good when I have to write a column. When I listen to games on the radio, I write down every play, quarter by quarter, and make notes to myself along the way. Today, I have no notes. Of course I have the newspaper write-up on the game, but that didn’t help me feel anything.

As much as I was pulling for McHargue, he didn’t seem as sharp after that 51 yard touchdown pass to McGuffie. No doubt UNT plugged a few holes after that. I was thinking how cool our ALL-Scots Backfield was when they started to mess us up.. I didn’t hear the game, but I watched those little blue and green men zip up and down the field on Gametracker. Any great play was usually followed by a long period of nothing before the little men made another dash on the gridiron, only to wait again to see where the ball went on the next play...Patience is not one of my strong suits, so I’ll admit that I fell asleep a few times. The cacophony droned on and on, but even that couldn’t keep me awake.

That has never happened before, but it did. I will be so glad to be back in Rice Stadium again Saturday where I know the team can hear me yelling as can my fellow boxmates. No one doubts that those red Hot Tamales have fired up the team, and I’ll be there Saturday to light the fire.

'A fun team to watch'
Owls didn't let us down

By Joyce Pounds Hardy, Class of 45, BA '67

HOUSTON (Sept. 6) -- Saturday was extra- ordinary. Our Rice Owls battled to the end, they were fired up the whole game, they were exciting to watch because they played hard for 60 minutes; and for the first time in a lonnnnnng time we were in the game the whole way. A little repetitious, but that was sweet.

That first quarter, I was about as stunned as the Longhorns. Not that I don't believe in our team, it's just that I had gotten used to being smothered right off the bat by the Mighty Longhorns. They had gotten used to it too, evidently, because they came right out, squared up their burnt orange jerseys, and were surprised that we didn't fall over dead.

Instead, Rice marched down the field, using 14 plays for 7 whole minutes, until the red zone stacked UT on the goal line, and they held us to a field goal. It was a new feeling for an old Owl. I was yet again a student here in '94 when we beat Texas the last time. I remember the students tore down the goal post and carried it around the field for a delirious celebration. The University made the students pay for a new goal post, but the coach was so overcome with joy that he paid for it.

Now back to that First Quarter. I had sons on both sides of me, they jumped up, but for some reason, I was glued to my seat. Larry, the Owl, said, " that was a victory for Rice, they marched 70 yards on the opening possession and got a field goal. The game is already better than I thought it would be." But the Owls didn't let up. They fought for four whole quarters, showing no fatigue, no lessening of enthusiam, no fear of the Number 5 Texas Longhorns.

It doesn't take much to make me proud of my Owls, or should I say, prouder than I already am. But that remark by Lou Holtz on the half-time show made me like him even more than I already did. He said with an appreciative smile on his face, "Rice is a fun team to watch!" And so we were.

Taylor McHargue shrugged off the freshman jitters, made some ill-timed reverses, some unfortunate passes, and a few "he who hesitates gets sacked." but the good news is that he hung in there and proved that he was going to be a great quarterback who just happened to start his college career against the University of Texas. He went down but bounced right back up, nothing broke.

Sam McGuffie made some great runs, and against slower teams, he might have better luck going forward. I don't think that I have ever wanted a running back or a quarterback to just fall down. There certainly would have been fewer negative yards. But they were hustling, they started us out with new expectations and they didn't let us down.

So many heroes who made our team so competitive, 11 tackles by Bradshaw (he was everywhere,) great punts by Martens, Smith's and Turner's run-backs and run through's, Randolf's and Kitchen's timely catches (especially the freaky touchdown,) Yelovich's interminable pooch kicks, and all the guys in between who made the offense and the defense a mountain for Texas to climb.

I'll admit that I was in the middle of an orange crowd even on the Rice side and I didn't like it. However, I did enjoy the subdued Longhorns during those seven minutes of relative quiet. Rice was yelling but it was swallowed up by 70,000 Longhorns inhaling. I had the misfortune of sitting directly behind a young woman (presumably a freshman or a sophmore,) who never sat down, was resplendant in burnt orange, and who never put her right arm down, shaking those horns incessantly. By the end of the game, she was still standing like the Statue of Liberty hailing a cab in New York. I probably will never see her again, but she'll have a torn rotator cuff by the time she's a senior, and won't be able to spoil my view of my Owls giving her Longhorns a real run for their money.

Again.

joycedistaff2.jpg (9779 bytes)FROM THE DISTAFF END OF THE BENCH
(2009 edition)

 

Notes and Comments from Rice's No. 1 Fan

By Joyce Pounds Hardy '45 '67

 

It's not about one game, it's about the rest of your life

HOUSTON (Nov. 30) -- This last column should be happy, contented, fulfilled, and proud. Well, no one is happy, contented, or fulfilled this season, but nothing can diminish our pride in these young men, who they are and whom they will become. That will not diminish because of one game or one season. I have not been singing “blue, grey, in the sky—Rice fight, never die” for 60 years to quit singing it now.

I have lived through worse years than this, but the old fight never died. Some of Sunday’s pundits who wrote about Rice Football as if it were dead, see only black and white, the good and bad of the moment. There is no gauge to measure the power of heart when it comes to winning. or they wouldn’t have the gall to say “quit now because you will never have the talent the big boys have.” How quickly they have forgotten last year and our two All-Americans, Dillard and Casey, one of which was a two time All-America. Both are playing in the Pros as rookies. Sportswriters are like Weathermen who get to keep their jobs in spite of being wrong half the time.

I watched the game and it’s true there were very few bright spots for Rice—Ross, Smith on offense and Bradshaw, Solomon, and Ozoukwu on defense. Five does not a team make--especially since Houston looked better than the Texans did Sunday. I didn’t think much of our play calling scheme. I expected more new stuff that Houston hadn’t seen, but then maybe they just never came to fruition.

I found myself counting the number of Cougars on the field because there seemed to be two of them for every one of us on offense and defense. I was surprised by the quickness of their runners, and the speed with which Keenum released the ball—he didn’t hold onto it but a second before he lasered it to a usually wide-open receiver. I still think Rice had the horses, we just didn’t seem to know what to do with them.

I watched the game but not in person because the best tickets Mark could get for me were some 18 rows up in the upper section and my broken right foot couldn’t make it. In spite of that, I was happy with hope that Rice would give Houston a good race for its money. One small problem, I had to go over to my sister Bettye’s house to watch the game because my new UVerse still didn’t have Comcast or CBSCS or CSS or whatever it is called. Only other problem was that she is a Cougar.

She doesn’t really watch a game, she sits with me, sewing on something or working crossword puzzles, or hopping up to do something in the kitchen. She doesn’t talk if Rice is playing because she knows I don’t answer. But on this night, she curled up in her lounge chair and watched every play, and every time Houston made a touchdown, she would giggle. She is not a giggler, but for some reason that game had her saying “hmmmmm!” and giggling all night. I glared at her a couple of times, but she laughed and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t help it.” After awhile, I was saying “ummmm” too, but for a different reason.

As usual, I have rambled on without knowing where to start or where to end. One thing I am sure of is that I will miss the Seniors, and I know they will miss those maybe-not-so-lucky-all-the-time red Hot Tamales. Just remember I’ll be cheering for you when you graduate with a degree you will be proud of for the rest of your life--after all that’s what these past four years were all about.

Four big Owl wins on birthday weekend is icing on the cake
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HOUSTON (Nov. 23) -- RICE- 30, UTEP-29 RICE-30, UTEP-29 RICE-30, UTEP-29.

That game was as sweet as the icing on my birthday cake tonight. It was the last of the Extra Point Club’s football dinners, which always honor our Seniors. So I got lots of hugs and one huge surprise. A rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday” and a beautiful birthday cake with one candle on it. Of course, I wished for a victory over Houston Saturday, blew out the candle and everyone cheered.

What a weekend that was! the Lady Owls were hosting the Conference USA Volleyball Tournament at Tudor Field House, and our Owls were seeded #4 out of 8. I had hoped we would make a good showing, and we did, beating #5 seed Marshall on Friday. Saturday’s match was against #1 Seed Southern Mississippi —scheduled to start right in the middle of the football game.

My heart was trying to be in two places at one time. Rushing from the Stadium and parking illegally in front of the gym, we arrived in time to see Rice win the last game and beat the best in the league 3 out of 4 games. We made the Championship bracket against No #2 seed, Tulsa (our nemesis) to be played at 1 pm on Sunday. Rice won that match and the CUSA Championship, which means an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Why am I talking about volleyball in the middle of a football column? Mostly because I love my Lady Owls, and secondly, to tell you that our entire football team, dressed in their neat blue warmups arrived on the team bus and filed into Tudor to cheer for the Rice Women Friday night.. Now, that was class. They filled the student section and the building with their raucous yells. I KNOW the Ladies were wowed by it. On the way to the hotel that Friday night, Coach Bailiff brought them to the game—an amazing and much appreciated gesture of support—which probably had a lot to do with the victory.

I got to holler to all my friends on the football team as they passed by, that was a plus, but the plus for them was that all of the other teams’ players were in the stands—lots of good-looking girls. Coach Bailiff told us as he brought up the rear after the game was over, pushing his boys toward the bus, that his guys were moving so slowly, looking both ways and dragging their feet, that he wasn’t sure they would make the hotel by curfew. Anyway four victories in one weekend was almost more than this old heart could take.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Rice wanted this win against UTEP for the Seniors. It was a game of magic happenings and unbelievable plays. For once Lady Luck was on our side. Of course, our fierce Defense didn’t wait for luck, they caused five fumbles with ferocious tackles and five timely recoveries. The Offense used all five takeaways to put points on the board. The two fumbles by UTEP on kickoffs were the most exciting because we ended up being within spitting distance of the goal line. And for once we made them count with touchdowns. Probably the most unique break we got all afternoon was the forced fumble by superstar Buckram into the endzone and out again for a touchback. So instead of UTEP making a touchdown , Rice got the ball on the 20 and we were off again.

The Seniors were making sure that their last game in Rice Stadium was a memorable one. I still find it hard to believe that Rice passed only 17 times for 55 yards. That statistic is unreal in today’s pass-happy world. And only 24 running plays to their 45! Our phenom Ross made three touchdowns using just 4 yards: one for 1 yard, one for 2 yards, and one for 1 yard. Amazing. One of my sons said that Rice’s Modus Operandi in the earlier games was a strong last half of the first half and not much after that. But not against Tulane and not against UTEP.

Hey! Let’s face it! It was R time!

Homecoming, rousing win left Owls happy, proud...and full

HOUSTON (Nov. 17) -- It was some good old-fashioned home cooking for Rice’s Homecoming Game, and for all the Alums who were hungry for a win, the victory sent them home with a warm and fuzzy feeling on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Joyce Hardy's
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From the Distaff End of the Bench

The weekend was busy, starting Thursday with the Lady Owls Volleyball Team, playing their last home game. It was Senior Day and Rice won, so it was a great preamble for the Conference USA Tournament this coming weekend at Rice. That was just the beginning. Friday was full of activities, alums filling the campus, wandering around the beautiful grounds. I was ready for the first game of the Men’s Basketball Tournament at Tudor Field House. Naturally, with Frankie B. providing dinner, and the team winning an exciting game for Rice...

Saturday started at 8 am with a Past President’s breakfast, game festivities began at Noon in huge Alumni Tents outside the stadium before the football game with ten thousand of my closest friends eating Goode Co. Barbeque with me. Then the Rice-Tulane football game in all its glory (Praise be for the victory!), followed by the second game of the basketball tourney with a Frankie B. dinner before the game—again. That was #3 for the day and another victory.

Sunday started with a Memorial Service on Campus which I was participating in for a dear friend, immediately followed by another Frankie B. meal and the final game of the Basketball Tourney. Rice won the tournament and all three games.

I was so tired (and full) after those four days that I couldn’t see or think to write this column. My wonderful football game got swallowed up in the plethora of events and all this old Rice Owl wanted to do was take a nap.

However, Sunday morning I did find enough energy to run out and get the Chronicle so I could read about the game. That little 2x4 inch photo on the front page of the Sunday Sports Section and a 1x2 inch blurb announcing our victory over Tulane was sweeter than a billboard on Main Street . RICE 28--TULANE 20 .

After so many weeks of disappointments, watching the jubilation of the players and the coaches, the fans and the students as they celebrated on the field after the game was a beautiful sight and it was all I needed to feel warm and fuzzy, too. We stayed up in the stands, watching the celebration and basking in all the happiness of winning that had eluded that good team for nine games.

I heard that the students who ran down on the field after the game surrounded Coach Bailiff first, a great tribute to a coach who never quit believing in his players or talking to the students after every game which was a brave thing to do. All of the pent-up expectations of this season exploded on the field, celebrating that first victory and looking like the team that we all hoped it would be, that we all prayed it would be and finally was.

Sure, we had a lot of bad breaks and injuries, a lot of missing starters and playmakers, but those who were left to carry the games never gave up on each other. People talked about what a character-building year this was, well, one thing is for sure, there never was any doubt about the character of this team, it was and is solid, 1 through 99. The wins would come. I believed because they believed, but maybe, just maybe, they believed because I believed in them and those Red Hot Tamales—which are 1 and 9 now, but 10 for 10 in spirit.

At the football dinner Monday night (another Frankie B. meal—number 4 for the weekend,) the same crowd was there, no more, no less—loyal to the core because they love Rice Football. The quarterbacks were our guests for the night and what a special group they are. Coach Bailiff was jolly, happy, proud, and smiling as he spoke tonight, he could speak of all the good things the game held, instead of having to explain the unexplainable, he could revel in the victory and brag on his players.

The weekly gathering of boosters was quiet tonight except for applause and a few people asking him about injuries.. No one pummeled him with questions, no one rambled on about what he should have done, no one asked him about UTEP. Everyone just kept smiling. The afterglow of winning obviously mellowed the whole group.

Clicking on all cylinders -- but what happened to our win?

HOUSTON (Nov. 9) -- When the Rice-SMU game was over, I felt as if I had a seat belt on. I couldn’t get out of my chair. We were so close, I didn’t want the game to end. This day we had the will and the way to win. We matched them point for point until the end when our four-leaf clover lost a leaf. We pulled off some great marches down field and turned them into points this time. We did not die in the red zone, we turned those marches into touchdowns.

Coach Z’s offensive plan was a good mix of plays and it was working. Even the Wildcat had SMU puzzled. Missed blocks and tackles were down to a minimum. Fanuzzi was firing that ball on target and our ends were catching it. We were clicking on all cylinders. Look at the score. I could already see it on the scoreboard: 23 to14. RICE! at the Half. But No. It wasn’t to be. A blocked field goal was left uncovered and SMU ran it all the way back for a touchdown, erasing the heady score I had imagined.

I’m tired of saying “so close.” I didn’t make 1’s in Math 100 at Rice, (Rice graded 1,2,3,4,5 dating back to the Stone Age, and didn’t change to A,B,C,D,F until the 1960’s,) but 1+3+3= a win over SMU. Those points were givens. Clark , our “Mister Automatic” (as the Texans called Brown until he missed that tying field goal Sunday) didn’t miss those kicks, no, the unthinkable happened: block, block, block.

Would’a, could’a, should’a won’t dig us out of this hole we’re in, but the skills were there Saturday, the improvement and the enthusiasm were there on that field with our guys. I didn’t see the game, I was listening on the radio, but I could feel every play and see every face.. All I had to do was close my eyes and I could see those two touchdowns, Fanuzzi to Randolph , because I had seen that same throw, that same catch over and over in practice.

I marvel at the resilience of this team. We, as fans, are not very resilient; we grumble and pout and lose hope. The losses are wearing us out, wimps that we are, because we are safe up in the stands, safe to criticize and second-guess and complain. After all we were 10 and 3 last year, what happened? The unexpected happened, and you can see them dressed in blue warm-ups on the side-lines, starters and upperclassmen, out for the season, leaving 18 year old kids to fill the holes.

We’re running out of games, but I’m not giving up on them. I’m going to throw away that three-leaf clover and put my faith in this turn-around because I believe they have finally got it together.

It's not true, guys, it just
isn't true -- we're still here

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Time to buck up--four winnable games remain on the schedule. Yes, four

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 26) --This column will be short, not because of the game, but because I was in Florida for my granddaughter's wedding over the weekend. And for the fact that I am at a loss of words for a change.The wedding was a pure joy--my granddaughter is a dear one AND she is marrying a soon-to-be PhD graduate of Rice. Life is good. I am not so sure about Rice football.

Truthfully, tucked away in the quaint little town of New Smyrna Beach, my mind and my heart were far from Rice. The wedding was on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean, and it was a beautiful ceremony. Everyone was dressed formally, but all the young ones were barefoot, including the mothers of the bride and groom. It was at sunset, Saturday, and not once did I think about Rice vs Central Florida. Usually, no matter where I am, my mind ticks off the hours of our away games and I hold my breath until I know the score. But not this weekend.

However, when I opened my door Sunday morning, there was the New Smyrna Beach Gazette lying on the carpet with a full writeup about Central Florida beating Rice 49-7. It ruined my breakfast. Since the article was mostly about Central Florida 's victory, it was full of the Golden Knights' prowess. All seven of the touchdowns were described in full-color words. The few sentences about Rice described the seven fumbles, three of which they "pounced on" and the nine turnovers which they "caused." They even had the stats, which I could have done without.

Thank heavens, we have a week off after our off-week. I was unhappy that I didn't get to give the boys their red Hot Tamales on Thursday and I grappled with the idea that if they won, they wouldn't want any more. I tried to give them out Wednesday afternoon, but the team wasn't at Rice Stadium, they had all gone to the "Bubble." I have gone there with them before, but Wednesday it was really raining and the powers-that-be won't let me take "food" inside. Last time I was allowed to give them a handfull of Hot Tamales by the outside gate, but this day, even though my son, Buck, offered to hold an umbrella over my head, I knew that the boys would get wet waiting in line and so would the candy.

I deserve an E for effort, though it didn't count for much: and so does our football team. No one can tell me that they weren't giving it all they had. Somewhere along the line, they have lost confidence in what they can do. That happens when you have been beaten eight times in a row. These guys have hearts and minds, too, and believe me, they are giving the game the best they've got. It may not be enough, but never sell them short on courage, because courage is what it takes to go back out on that football field every Saturday thinking that no one believes in them anymore...and that's not true, guys, that's not true.

Well appears to have run dry,
but Joyce still thirsty for win

HOUSTON (Oct. 20) -- I guess I can quit saving my money for a Bowl Game. I’ve run out of “Oh, Well’s” because the wells have gone dry for now. That doesn’t keep me from being thirsty for a win. Believe me, that won’t be quenched until our first victory, and that will come. I am still an irrepressible hoper.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

No sense going over the game; I’m sure you listened to it, too, and are now living not with anger and frustration but puzzlement. Coach says he sees the team execute in practice, but it fails to materialize on Saturday. My observation on Thursdays is that they are focused, indeed running perfect routes with receptions, keepers and slants and pitch-outs easily making it through the holes, defense blocking just like the x’s and o’s show on paper, virtual tackles knocking opponents off their feet. But in practice they don’t have rabid players in purple or green or red coming at them with fire in their eyes.

They could have made those needed yards if two tacklers hadn’t been hanging onto their shirts; that receiver could have caught that perfect pass if he weren’t sandwiched between two defenders; they could have made that first down if the referees hadn’t been blind and flag-happy again; they could have stopped that 92 yard run if they had practiced spotting a gazelle running for the goal line while getting knocked off their feet.

Practices have no contact and that computes into a whole different ballgame. If there were some way to wave a magic wand and transform the whole team into mature young players, maybe that would make a difference, but life doesn’t work that way. So our guys are maturing the hard way—one game at a time, having to cope with one more missed tackle, one more missed block, one more missed pass, one more loss.

One of our radio announcers quoted one of the coaches as saying, “Don’t expect Fanuzzi to run, he’s a drop-back passer.” I don’t think that could possibly be true. It seems to me that such a statement would give our opponents a great advantage. I don’t want Nick to hurt his shoulder again, but there’s nothing wrong with his feet and he does a pretty good job of scrambling for yardage. Well, not this game, he was minus a few yards—but then maybe the other team heard that quote.

There are so many exciting things about this team, so many good years to come for them and us. The seniors will be missed--the seniors are always missed--but the freshmen and sophomore classes coming up are as talented a bunch as any we’ve ever had, and they’re going to take us back to a Bowl. Of course, the juniors will be tomorrow’s leaders, and knowing them, they will be good ones.When this season ends, they will know what it takes to be winners.

I didn’t envy the team their long flight home, it was hard enough on me just turning off the radio and Owlvision and walking back to the den. At least, I didn’t have to talk to anybody on the way. That is until Buck called on the phone and said, “Hmmmmm. Not much to cheer about.” And I said, “Hmmm, not much.” Then he added, “Don’t write your column for a few days, Mother, until you calm down." "Sure," I said, and that ended my day.

Might as well be optimistic
I just looked for the Mid who was running fastest toward goal line

HOUSTON (Oct. 13) -- Well, what can I say? ” We took a licking and kept on ticking.” And I know we will. If that game was frustrating for me, I can’t even imagine how frustrating it was for the team. As I watched the players being interviewed after the game, all I could do was think how cruel that was. It would be like asking me how I feel right after my house burned down. How they must dread being drilled right after losing a game, much less number six.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

As for Coach Bailiff, it’s too bad he can’t just say he’s sick and go home. If you’re looking for answers, so is he. Quit sticking a microphone in his face right after the last whistle is blown and complaining that his answers sound canned. He’s angry and embarrassed and disappointed. What else can he say that he hasn’t already said?

I was bemoaning the fact that the triple option never worked that well for us when Coach Hatfield was the triple option guru at Rice; and Larry said "yes, it did. Don’t you remember that one year we were number two in the nation in offense?" Of course, I didn’t, but my son who has a very young working memory did, so I quit gritching. I guess there were a lot of teams in the NCAA "back in those days," who didn’t know how to defend against the triple option either.

I thought that Dobbs, the Navy’s quarterback as if you didn’t know, was hogging the ball and being selfish, finding holes everywhere to run through. But when I read the stats in the Sunday paper, I counted 13 other players who had gotten credit for running the ball, too. Dobbs was pretty sneaky, but that surprised me. Half the time I couldn’t find the ball anyway, I just looked for the guy who was running the fastest toward the goal line.

This year’s number one official penalty must be Holding. Our crew hardly had time to get the flags back in their pockets before they whipped them out again. Once during the first half, they threw five flags on four consecutive plays. They must have earned some gold stars on the NCAA’s bulletin board for that performance. Every year there is an emphasis on something different. I can remember just a few years back, when we couldn’t get a flag thrown for holding, even when the shirt was being pulled off our players’ backs.

It was good to see Nick back in the game. He didn’t get a lot of help even though the line gave him some pretty good protection. It seemed to my rabid box of Rice Owls, well, 6 out of 8 of us, that the speed of Nick’s passes messed up the receivers. There certainly wasn’t anything wrong with his shoulder, his arm was throwing rockets.

I did get to watch one of our touchdowns, but the second one was obscured by the defender and I couldn’t believe it when Patrick came running out from behind him holding the ball over his head. I thought the ball had gone out of the end zone. The replay screen is great when and if you look immediately from the official arms-up-TD-signal to the screen, but I always enjoy watching the team celebrate and forget to turn my head around at Mach speed. Can’t they wait until after the PAT for the turtle here or show it twice? Believe me, if touchdowns keep on being rare, you’d be wise to show them twice.

Everyone’s head was down after the game, either shaking it or scratching it. But the Owley Tailgate was good, the NASA Astronauts were good, the Moon Rock was good, the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Barbeque was good. .Only the game was a stinker. If we’re going to keep on ticking, somebody better wind us up before Saturday.

Who'll be the Glue we need?
Someone is going to step up

HOUSTON (Oct. 6) -- I wish it had kept on raining. It was the great equalizer in the first half, at least the score was tied, 10-10—again. Then we just sort of fizzled out like the rain. The weather was yucky and so was the outcome of the game.

There were about ten guys down on the field in front of me wearing blue warm-ups—Rice’s walking wounded—and there probably wasn’t one of them who wasn’t thinking, “Man, if only I were out there….” And in the second half, there were probably a lot of guys on the field who were wishing they were out there, too.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

I saw Ryan upended, flipped, squashed, knocked down, and piled on, until I heard myself yelling “Oh, no! don’t hurt him!” over and over again. It just seemed as if every time we got a little momentum going, something burst the bubble. We certainly should have had a couple more touchdowns IF, on those rare occasions the passes that should have been caught were caught, or would have been caught were they catchable or not intercepted. Our running backs ran through brick walls to grind out some tough yardage. Why do I feel as if a little black cloud is following us around—and I don’t mean rain?

Ryan and John Thomas only have the luxury of a pocket for about 5 seconds; and even though our receivers can run 4.2 forties, they can’t always do that in a crowd or looking over their shoulders for the ball. And in that split-second our quarterbacks have to find them and they can’t, they’ve got to keep those feet moving or die trying. I am always amazed when the ball and the receiver converge in the same place, hopefully over the goal line or past the first down marker, at least. One thing I have learned is that time is a fickle thing and doesn’t wait on the best of plays to develop. Especially ours.

Coach said that he wanted “the virus of success infecting this program.” I disagree because there aren’t any good viruses—they all make you sick—but I would like for our Rice football scientists to find a cure for the virus of losing that we already have. Developing a cure will be no easy task on the football field because the virus seems to change with every game.

The first half of our games have become memorable, a solid defense and an offense that gives us hope. I loved the five sacks, the blitzes that worked, the flustered Tulsa quarterback with nowhere to go. I was enjoying this. Then Tulsa came out in the second half running. It was hard to sack their quarterback when he handed off the ball in less than a second or took off running. I kept hollering “rush the quarterback,” but by the time our linebackers got into their backfield, he and/or the ball were long gone.

Once, my friend, Bob, nearly blew a gasket when Tulsa lined up on fourth down at mid-field ready to go for a first down. He yelled and stomped and hollered for someone to get back, back, back to catch the ball because they were going to kick. But no one did, and the beautiful quick kick made it all the way down to the four before stopping. Even I couldn’t believe we suckered for that old trick.

Taylor's touchdown pass from Ryan was a beauty. A perfect throw and Taylor needed all 6 foot 6 of himself jumping high over the defenders to catch it. Unfortunately, two other chances with our receivers wide-open misfired. Speaking of a misfire, another non-field goal attempt by Clark may have kept him from ruining his perfect record because there was no ball to kick, but he did pick it up and run with it. A very brave thing to do.

A few too many rushed passes, missed blocks, runs that couldn’t find a hole, ill-timed interceptions and fumbles kept us from giving Tulsa the battle we had dreamed of. By the end of the game, I had yelled “Oh, NO!” so many times, my sons moved up a few rows pretending not to know me.

I go to practice every Thursday not just to show the guys that I care, but to be uplifted by their irrepressible spirit. They are a team, a whole team, whose dedication will win some games soon. I don’t know why we always seem to come unglued in the second half, but mark my words, someone is going to step up and be that Glue we need to hold it together when we beat Navy Saturday. Who will it be?

The taste lingers
This season seems to have taken on qualities of the nightmarish

HOUSTON (Sept. 29) -- It’s hard to be happy even today. I have tried. I had hoped that I would mellow after a few days and be able to be a little more objective about the game. But that didn’t work. I did not mellow.

I should have been at peace by Sunday, but the game just wouldn’t go away. That night I had an exhausting nightmare that I was scrambling around behind the line of scrimmage and I couldn’t find anyone to take the ball. Finally, the quarter ended and they carried me off the field.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

That has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except the frustration of not being able to move the ball for more first downs and keep some momentum going. Four interceptions will stop a drive dead in its tracks. We did have two exciting touchdowns -- one explosive run by Ross and one Dillard-like catch by Toren in the endzone, and one dead-center field goal by Clark when we finally got down close enough to kick one. Of course, there were some great runs in the middle of that beleaguered game plan, but they were usually overwhelmed by what followed.

Bradshaw tried to stop Vanderbilt all by himself; and there were others out there, Jammer, Gaines, Sendejo, Nordstrom, working to plug holes that wouldn’t stay plugged. The fact that our defense held a solid Commodore line with a solid quarterback calling the shots to only 10 points in the first half showed what our defense can do when it’s not tired and riddled with injuries.

That first quarter blockbuster of a hit by Gaines echoed all over the stadium. It was inspirational in its passion, as the Coach likes to say, and it fired hope in every heart. Every heart except the picky officials who assumed he went for the helmet when you could tell he hit leather from the pop. Well, it fired up the fans and the players; and at least 15,000 of those 19,753 fans booed the call long and loud, but obviously the officials can’t hear any better than they can see.

John Thomas and Ryan were totally surrounded by rushing torrents of yellow pants intent on flattening them like an avalanche,. Ryan got his bell rung a couple times and looked jelly-legged walking off the field, but he had some good moments. John Thomas finally decided to use his feet to escape the onslaught and made some first downs, but too little too late.

Neither one had time to look for an open receiver if one ever got loose. The Vandy pass coverage was smothering, but more than once I thought they rode the backs of our receivers before the ball got there. In fact, I have never seen defenders stick so close to the receivers they are guarding. We always seem to give receivers too much space, either that or we just aren’t fast enough to catch them. Ross and Goodson found a few hard-earned holes in the line, but not enough to sustain a drive. Vanderbilt just seemed to know where we were going and beat us there.

By the fourth quarter, I knew if I were hot and tired up high in the stands, the team must be hot and tired, too. And they were. It was obvious that the defense was dissolving into a puddle from too many minutes, too many plays, too many quarters on the field. Their batteries just ran out of juice. I was so proud of the effort that they kept putting out and kept putting out even though by the end of the game they could barely raise their arms.

A few bright moments--Chalk up another field goal and two more extra points for Clark . His conference record is growing. And Kyle’s punting was the best thing going for our offense, He was kicking the air out of the ball. Another bright spot at the game, as far as I was concerned, was the packed student sections. I hope the team noticed that raucous Owls filled up two whole sections. The MOB was in another, but the students were right there with you until the fourth quarter and then we lost a few. Well, a lot. ..But the ones who stayed to the end sang Rice’s Honor for the team and meant every word of it.

I know how hard all of the guys work at practice, I know what they can do, and I know they have a lot confidence in each other, and one of these games when they can put it all together we’re going to win. When I saw that Nick didn’t take any snaps Thursday, I was pretty disheartened, because I had bet my new Vanderbilt grandson-in-law that Rice would win, and now I have to wear a black Vanderbilt T-shirt when I take them out to dinner. I hope he likes Taco Bell.

As for our first victory, I guess we’ll just have to wait a little longer to see them put it all together.

Maybe Owls didn't chalk up W, but game gave cause for cheer
And now, finally, we'll see two brainy schools bang helmets

HOUSTON (Sept. 20) -- Now those are the fighting Rice Owls I know and love! This was not the same team that played Texas Tech and UAB. And it certainly wasn’t because the quality of the opposition was not present -- number 16 was there as advertised. The fans were there, 53,000 of them, plus their football team and a myopic Big 12 officiating crew.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

Rice was changing before our eyes—or rather my ears. If the second half had been the first half, who knows but that the Cowboys would have checked the schedule to see if the wrong team showed up. No doubt they were angry after UH wopped them, and out to prove how great they were to their roaring fans and themselves. And for the first half, they did just that with some luckless mistakes and some gimme touchdowns from the Owls wrapped up and given to a team that didn’t need any help from us.

What the score at the end of the first half didn’t show was a surprising Rice defense holding OSU to three or four 3-and-outs. The second half team really surprised OSU -- not only the defense but also the offense. They hit and scratched and swarmed and caught passes and ran and ran faster and faster as the game progressed. OSU certainly didn’t expect to see 24 points on the other side of the scoreboard when the game was over.

As for me, I was in heaven. Three times Rice RAN from short yardage in for a touchdown. Great day in the morning, somebody finally heard my ranting about those short passes for touchdowns—not---usually passing into three defenders and one beleaguered Owl. Not only was the team changing its attitude, but the coaches were changing, too.

Enter Charles Ross. I don’t know where he came from but he was the ghost of James Casey in the Jumbo package. I thought it was called the Thor package, but it was grand by any name. Ross, bless him, with a direct snap, made a one yard touchdown, a two yard touchdown, and a three yard touchdown against a formidable defense who knew what was coming. The O Line just keeps on getting better, giving our quarterbacks time to execute their plays instead of ducking an oncoming train.

It will be fun to see two brainy schools banging helmets on the field Saturday. Both teams know pressure in the classroom as well as on the field, and both will represent the best of the Student Athlete. That’s rare in this football world that is all about rankings, I’ve been used to scrunching my shoulders up around my ears these past two games, but not tonight. Tonight I needed to put them down so that I could clap.

Lopsided loss to Texas Tech
no evidence of team's effort

HOUSTON (Sept. 14) -- At 6:30 PM this Sunday evening, I finally got to listen to the Rice-Texas Tech football game. I pushed the Start button on my old tape recorder and voila! There I was in beautiful Lubbock on a very windy day with my Rice Owls and hope in my heart.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

To arrive at this point, I had to revert back to some 20 year old equipment, an old black boxy tape recorder (that I finally found in the bottom of a drawer in the toy room,) two 90 minute tapes, my $100 transistor radio, and my very nice son, Mike, who ran upstairs to turn the tape over every 45 minutes.

I was at a couples shower for one of my granddaughters and her husband-to-be, and believe me, Grandmother had to be THERE. The problem was that I couldn’t find a single person in this highly technical world, not a computer geek, I-phone addict, or radio guru who could tell me how to save a radio broadcast. Finally, in desperation, I did it the old-fashioned way with the radio standing next to the tape recorder in an upstairs closet while the party raged on below.

Well, it worked Mr. 97.5, and next time you "just don’t know how that can be done," call me. The game burst upon my very tired ears two hours after my house full of company left, and now, three hours and 1328 digits on the counter read-out later, I am alone with a column to write.

I solved the problem of saving the game, but not my Rice Owls. Even eeetie ichiban doesn’t help tonight. I have six legal-size pages of notes and I don’t know what to do with them. I was so tired of hearing "Potts, Potts, Potts," I wished I had had one to throw. I think he was worse than Webb.

I know that John Thomas outdid Nick tonight on the gridiron, so the battle of quarterbacks will rage on. However, Ryan might muddy the water a little, but then he is just a redshirt freshman, and besides the baseball team needs him to be healthy come Spring.

We spent more time trying to get out of our own end zone, than we did trying to get into theirs. And the whole middle of the gridiron was a mine field. There were a couple of really good plays that stand out because there were so few of them. I still haven’t figured out why we keep passing on 4th and 2 at the goal line.

I know we are working five or six tailbacks looking for the golden goose, but surely one of them could get over the goal line if his teammates just pushed hard enough. Finally, John Thomas hit Taylor Dupree over center once for our lone touchdown and I guess that answered my question. It will work if you do it enough times.

Kyle had a very good average punting considering that he had terrible field position all night, mostly in our own end zone or red zone, it seemed. At least, the announcers said that he put enough air under the ball that his team mates could catch up with it. One bright light in the game was the 90th straight PAT for Clark , and that really IS a good thing.

I read the paper after I listened to the game; I looked at the stats but they didn’t mean anything to me; they didn’t show how hard the whole team played against a behemoth line; they didn’t tell how gutsy our quarterbacks had to be knowing that a train was barreling down on them with every snap, or how our receivers could barely see the oncoming ball for defenders swarming around them. It was a tough loss because it didn’t show what we could do, unfortunately, it just showed what we couldn’t do.

Part of me kept wanting the batteries to go dead on that old tape recorder during the game; they didn’t, but mine are beginning to run down now. Next week, I promise, no adventures, just a radio, a legal pad, and me. And Oklahoma State.

A bad case of arrhythmia
It's difference between being at top of Page One and winding up at the bottom of Page Six

HOUSTON (Sept. 8) -- “EEETIE ICHIBAN.” I’m pretty sure that‘s not how you spell it, but my Doctor husband said that was what the South Koreans used to say to him when he was treating a wound. “IT HURTS.” And somehow it just felt good to say that!

I had to sit through a sermon on forgiveness Sunday before I could even think about that game against UAB Saturday. I was thinking some pretty untoward thoughts there for awhile, and though they were true, I certainly wasn’t qualified to pin point the problem. I just wasn’t ready to let go of our winning streak.

Joyce Hardy's
joyce167.jpg (3700 bytes)

From the Distaff End of the Bench

I was mad at Comcast, too, Saturday because the televised game was pretty exclusive, not even the sports bars had it. Naturally, I have U-Verse. Everybody I know who has Comcast was always mad at it, until the Rice-UAB game showed up. I had to go to my son’s house to watch it and somewhere along the line I found myself wishing I had just listened on the radio.

But I will say one thing about the announcers, they bragged on Rice. They never quit saying how amazing Rice was—fine athletic program with high academics, “hard to get in to much less play football and make their grades.” Then, “do you know how much a Rice scholarship is worth? More than $30,000 a year, I think.” Later, “Boy, Rice is tough, do you know how smart those guys must be?” Well, that was fun for a change.

Then Sunday, I thought the Chronicle had mercifully forgotten to print anything about the Rice-UAB game. I finally found it, however, on the bottom of page C6. Under the Houston game. I guess I was so used to Rice’s being at the top of the page during our amazing run to the Texas Bowl last season that being just another game brought me back to earth with a thud.

Coach Bailiff, like a good skipper, just kept saying “me, me, me,” but, believe me, there were a lot of coaches and players out there feeling some “me-itis” too. The only way the coach could have had the guys practice stopping Webb would have been to run a big slippery eel through the line and give them a net. We sacked him once and it took four men to bring him down. Every time he ran with the ball, at least five or six Rice guys touched him or grabbed air reaching for him. Prayers did not plug one hole. He was something else; I hope he graduates.

I was truly excited when Rice seemed to sail down the field during the first quarter. Two fantastic returns of kickoffs by Shane gave us a jump start toward the goal line. Both possessions moved easily down inside the ten, and then Blooey. Nada. Zip. It’s been a long time since we couldn’t get the ball into the end zone from the two. Of course the years tend to blur at my age, but UAB certainly wasn’t the Great Wall of China, even though they seemed to be most of the first half. John Thomas was off to a bad start, and the team wasn’t helping him much. At least he squeezed a field goal out of them near the end of the first half. Nick picked us up in the second half and we finished off some face-saving touchdowns.

Looking at our 156 yards rushing and 235 yards passing does not begin to show how many fine receptions and runs were negated by penalties. Nine penalties for 80 yards doesn’t sound like very many, but they surely cost us some touchdowns. Fumbles and mistakes and missed opportunities began to take its toll on the team by the end of the game. Still some players rose up and played their hearts out on offense and defense. The others tried, but the magic just wasn’t there.

I love John Thomas, he has been my friend for three years, but I believe deep in my heart that Nick built a fire under the team’s sagging spirits, which was badly needed. Not only did he score a touchdown himself with some scrambling, but threw a great pass to a wide-open Luke for a 52 yard touchdown, and gave Marcus a chance to push one over the goal for six. Everybody had a bad case of arrhythmia Saturday; and the coaches need to decide soon which quarterback possesses that elusive rhythm that makes a good team tick.

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