|'04 Rice-UH week
Rice 10, University of Houston 7
Sterling defensive effort
leads Owls to huge win
Coogs' season comes crashing down before it starts
Big George Chukwu stands over vanquished UH
HOUSTON (Sept. 6) The Rice Owls rode the backs of their defensive
unit to a stunning, 10-7 win over the University of Houston here Sunday evening before
28,726 fans in Reliant Stadium, leaving the blue half of them flushed red with
ecstacy and the red side feeling mighty blue in fact, pretty much black and blue
And those were just the Coog fans in the stands.
The Rice win constituted a dramatic reversal from the 48-14 defeat that a
befuddled, disorganized Owl team suffered last year in U of H Coach Art Briles
debut. This time around, the Rice defense was anything but disorganized, as, on 32 out of
65 plays, it held the Cougars to zero yards or a loss, and kept the high-powered offensive
attack out of the end zone until nine seconds were left on the scoreboard clock.
"Last year we had no clue what they were going to do," a giddy Owl
defensive anchor, John Syptak, said afterwards. But not this time.
This time, "it was unbelievable. Everything clicked," added the junior
defensive end, who led all Owl defenders with eight tackles and two sacks though to
observers it seemed as if he had many more than that. "We came out strong, and it was
Just how impressive was this Rice defensive units performance?
"Ive never, ever seen a defensive effort like that,"
Rice head coach Ken Hatfield said in a jubilant Owl locker room after the game. "I
couldnt have been prouder of our defensive unit of any Ive ever been
associated with. I thought they completely dominated the game."
Coach Hatfield heard no disagreement from UH head coach Art Briles, who saw the
magic of his many-faceted offensive attack disappear like an amateurish sleight of hand
before the Rice defensive onslaught.
"Last year when we played Rice, everything just kind of went our
way," he admitted. "But we didnt have things go our way this year
starting with the opening kickoff."
Owl defense demonstrated it was ready to
play, from onsetf
Rice QB Greg Henderson gets UH LB one-on-one
In fact, the opening kickoff and the opening series in general
gave a strong hint of how the evening was going to play out, as the Owl kickoff
team made something happen in a hurry.
After frosh kicker Luke Juist boomed a high floater right to the UH goal line,
Owl defender Lance Byrd met Houstons Ryan Gilbert at the 30 yard line with a
crushing tackle, knocking the ball loose and then recovering the fumble himself.
The Owl offense thus opened up its shop doors with great field position, only to
succumb to immediate, first-game jitters. You know the kind. You see it every year.
The U of H defensive strategy immediately became apparent, as they flooded the
backfield with gap-shooting linemen and linebackers. When it worked, Greg usually was
tackled behind the line for a loss before he had the slightest chance of getting the
option in motion. When the Coogs guessed wrong, though, the result was at least modest
success in the Rice running game.
Witness the first Rice possession. First play, Greg was sacked for loss of
seven. Next play, he picked up nine. Then after the Coogs were flagged with a personal
foul penalty, Greg scrambled for 13 yards to the UH 17. After Ed Bailey squeezed out three
yards on first and ten, Greg got nailed in the backfield again, for a loss of eight.
"Sometimes we ran the other way and hit them for big plays," the
senior Owl quarterback told us afterwards. "Sometimes, you know, we ran the option
right into it. Thats just the chance we take, running the option."
The Owl offense wasnt through sputtering, however, first picking up a
false-start penalty on third and nine, and then losing possession and a chance at least to
eke a field goal out of the turnover when Greg threw into double coverage in the end zone
and UHs Will Gulley intercepted.
Throughout the remainder of the first quarter, the ball stayed in UHs end
of the field, however, as the Rice offense couldnt get untracked, while the UH
offense was non-existent. The Coogs tallied exactly one first down in the first quarter of
play, but the Rice offense couldnt take advantage, even though benefitting from
Houstons offensive immobility and the block of a Coog punt by Andrew Cates.
Two Rice field goal attempts were off the mark first, Brennan
Landrys try from 43 yards out barely missing, wide left, and then distance kicker
Luke Juists first FG try of his college career getting enough distance from 49 yards
out, but hitting the goal post and bouncing away, no good.
Thats how the first quarter ended. It was 0-0, but Owls had had a chance
to be up 13-0. Veteran Rice fans wondered just how badly those squandered opportunities
were going to wind up haunting the Institute Boys later in the game, when the vaunted UH
offense inevitably found itself.
Owls finally crank up offense in second quarter
Mike Falco gets the pitch and threads the needle down the
But the Rice defense was having none of that, extending the shutout for
another quarter in emphatic fashion, while Henderson and Company finally were able to ease
back on the choke and throttle up sufficiently to garner a 67-yard, nine-play touchdown
Greg Henderson and Ed Bailey were the sole ball carriers on that series, with
the highlight being Eds 25 yard rip to the Houston 33 a run that almost broke
for the distance.
Greg also had a nifty, 19-yard scramble that, on second and 11, took the Owls to
the UH 15. Five plays later, Bailey squirted across the pay station from two
yards out, and Rice was up, 7-0.
The UH offense, in response, went nowhere fast, as Rice coaches began to run in
second-unit defensive players who responded with alacrity, particularly Buck Casson at LB
and George Chukwu in the defensive line, both of whom had key second-quarter tackles.
It looked for a split-second as if the Owls again would be able to set up deep
in Cougar territory, when UH's Donnie Avery badly muffed a Jared Scruggs punt, but the
Coogs' Bryant Brown was somehow able to wrest the loose football away from several
converging Owl defenders.
Thereafter ensued the only significant offensive production of the half for the
Coogs, as, on third and 17 from the Houston 33, Kolb connected to the self-same Donnie
Avery for 19 yards and a first down, as a collective groan emitted from the Rice fans in
the west stands.
After a 25-yard completion from Kolb to coachs son Kendal Briles took
Houston to the Rice 23, the Owl defense stiffened again, however. Kolb managed a
completion on first down that went for a loss of two, thanks to Owl defender Lance Byrd.
Two more passing attempts under a heavy rush fell harmlessly to the turf, and on fourth
and 12 from the 25, the usually reliable Dustin Bell had his 42-yard field goal
attempt partially blocked by DeJaun Cooper.
Owls fly, flutter in opening third-quarter
Syp comes on fast to cause Kolb more misery"
Rice, having lost the opening coin-toss, was to receive the second half kickoff,
and Owl fans were remembering the adage about that first second-half possessions
being the most important of the game.
Spirits were lifted by a broken-field kickoff return by Andray Downs that carried 49
yards to mid-field. But on first and ten, that old first-game bugaboo again reared its
head, as Greg Henderson made an errant pitch that was recovered by UHs Ashley
Subingsubing (no, youre not seeing double) at the Rice 44. Suddenly, things
went from looking good to looking not-so-hot.
Yet again, however, the Rice defense was up to the task, pursuing UH quarterback Kolb
with even greater fervor. "The real key to the game was disrupting the
quarterback," Coach Hatfield said. "Kolb had to run a 40-yard sprint sideways
sometimes and we really threw him out of rhythm."
First, Adam Herrin and Jeremy Calahan nailed UHs Anthony Evans for no gain, and
then Thadis Pegues stormed in to sack Kolb for a four-yard loss. On fourth and eight,
then, at the Rice 42, Houston decided to gamble, and, just like the many Coog fans who
were planning on picking up some easy winnings over the games three-point spread,
failed in the effort, as Kolb, facing a fierce rush, had to run a 40-yard sprint sideways
and finally throw the ball in the direction of nobody in particular.
It seemed as if that defensive stop made the statement that the Coog offense
couldnt avoid hearing. At that point, UHs offense had garned a total of six
harmless first downs, with under 60 yards total offense. And, far from being worn
out, the Owl defense, this time around bolstered by some solid backup layers, was as fresh
as a daisy.
After an exchange of three-and-outs that portended yet another good field position, the
Rice offense found itself setting up shop at its own 38, after a phantom hold was called
on the punt return. Still, Henderson and Company once again dug deep to pick up a modicum
of smash-mouth offense.
Two key plays on the ensuing drive involved, first, a seven-yard pass completion to
Quinton Smith coming out of the backfield on third and six, and then a 23-yard scamper by
Greg to the Coog 16 yard line. At that point, it looked like the machine was shaking off
its first-game jitters, but, to credit the UH defenders, they once again rose up to keep
the Owls out of the end zone.
Two straight shoot-the-gaps resulted in two- and five-yard losses for
Greg, who never had the chance to get the option flowing in either case. Thus, a
thirteen-yard completion to Ben Wiggins in the prettiest Owl pass route of the day, was
insufficient to keep the drive alive, and the Flock, instead, opted to pick up the field
goal on fourth and four from the UH 10.
Brennan Landrys 27-yard attempt went squarely through the
uprights, and Rice had a 10-0 lead, with just over three minutes left in the third
UH finally makes noise in fourth, but
Owls rise to occasion
"You're goin' down!" Thadis Pegues says to Kolb
The UH offense finally made some noise in the opening
minutes of the fourth quarter, however, as Kolb got found receivers open down the middle
as the Rice linebackers converged to apply pressure. That pressure, however, resulted in
another bog-down for the Coogs, even after a personal foul call against the Owls set them
up at the Rice 28.
It was there that Thadis Pegues made another, key sack, nailing Kolb for a loss of nine
on first and ten. UH got 14 of it back, the next play, Kolb going to Avery on the
completion, but on a key third-and-five, Terry Holley came in on the safety blitz and shut
down Kolb for a loss of two.
A makeable field goal try was missed, once again, by the Coogs Dustin Bell
this time, barely wide.
At that point, there was only 8:46 left on the scoreboard clock, so it was clear that
if the Owl offense could just halfway play the possession game, the Flock was going to be
home free with a victory.
But nothing ever seems to come all that easily for the Owls. The Rice offense succumbed
to first- game swoons once again, assisted by some gambling UH defensive stunts that again
thwarted the execution of the option. Rice had to punt out, and Houston had the ball at
its own 31 with 7:55 remaining.
But how many times do we have to say it? The Rice defense once again met the challenge,
Thadis Pegues knocking the ball away from a would-be receiver on first and ten, and then
Chad Price coming in on the safety blitz to sack Kolb for a seven-yard loss.
So on third-and-22, Kolb threw up a ruptured duck about 25 yards downfield generally in
the direction of the Rice bench. There, Terry Holley was playing right field, and made the
interception diving for the ball just short of the sideline. When the Rice bench erupted,
signaling interception, that was when the folks in the stands dressed in red
started to make a bee line for the stadium exits.
Hey, folks -- Bailey did cross the
At that point, the Owls were able to crank up the grind-it-out possession game, and, if
the truth be told, a more poetic result would have been that Ed Baileys desperate,
fourth-down plunge for the end zone be signaled a TD, and Rice would have gone home a 17-0
winner. But, even though the undersized, but huge-hearted, Rice fullback appeared to have
broken the plane, the refs were out of position to see the score, and, indecisively
converging on the pileup, bought the UH defenders stealthy push-back of the ball to
about a foot away from the goal line.
So Houston had the ball back at its own one-foot line with 2:44 left, still down only
10-0. There was still time for a miracle -- or a calamity, depending upon one's
perspective. And the Rice defense, having played in-your-face aggressively all
evening, finally opted for playing the percentages and fell into at least somewhat of a
Consequently, instead of pushing the ball downfield, U of H dinged away with short
passes and a run or two, and the clock ticked down to under a minute. Owls on the sideline
readied an igloo full of gatorade for which to drench Coach Hatfield, but had to hold off
on the coronation when Kolb went for 22 and 15 yard completions, and then, facing third
and ten at the Rice 33, threw up a floater in the direction of the flag, where UHs
Vincent Marshall made an improble, falling-backwards catch that landed him out of bounds
about a foot from the goal line. But the gendarmes awarded him a TD guess maybe his
loose chin strap brushed the flag or something.
Thus, though the Owls magnificent defensive effort was slightly sullied by
the loss of a shutout, there remained only nine seconds on the scoreboard clock. When the
ensuing onside kick was grabbed by sure-handed Andy Hall, the Boys from the
Institute could begin celebrating. in earnest.
"Thats a potent offense," Coach Hatfield reminded his team afterwards,
"and to hold them out of the end zone until nine seconds to go..." his voice
trailed off in speechlessness.
"It seemed like we were dominating the whole time, but at any point, they
could have been in the game," DE John Syptak added. "We really tried not to let
them get the big play."
Coach Hatfield had a ready response to Syps reflection. "Thats why you
give it everything youve got, one play at a time," he said. "In a game
like that, any one play could have turned the outcome around. If wed had rested,
just any one time that score wouldve been the other way around. But we
quot;Thats the heart of a champion."
Paul T. Hlavinka
Rice (1-0, 0-0 WAC) won its fourth straight game with its 10-7 win over Houston
to win the Bayou Bucket for the first time in three years
Rice coach Ken Hatfield
is now 52-60-1 in his 11th season on South Main, and 165-122-4 in his 26th season as a
college head coach. Hatfield is now 10-4 vs. Houston, 4-4 as the Rice coach... Rice's win
breaks a two-game losing streak to the Cougars, but Houston still leads the all-time
series by a 22-9 margin... Rice is enjoying its longest winning streak since a five-game
run during the 1999 season. Rice also had a four-game winning steak in 2001... Next for
the Owls is the 2004 Rice Stadium and Western Athletic Conference opener against Hawaii on
Sept. 18 (7 pm).
The 17 points in Sunday's game is the lowest total in Bayou Bucket
history. Previously, the lowest total was 21 points in Houston's 21-0 victory in the first
game for the Bucket in 1974.
Rice is now 61-30-1 all-time in season openers, 5-6 under Ken Hatfield.
Sunday's win was Ken Hatfield's 52nd as the Rice coach, equaling Phil
Arbuckle (52-30-8 in 1912-17, 1919-23) for second place on the Owls' all-time list.
The leader is Jess Neely with 144 wins during the 1940-66 seasons.
This years Bucket game was Rice's second ever to be played on a
Sunday. Previously, the Owls beat Texas 19-17 on Oct. 16, 1994.
Sunday's game was Rice's third at Reliant Stadium. Rice is now 2-1 at
Reliant. Previously in the stadium, the Owls beat Louisiana Tech 37-20 on Oct. 5, 2002,
and lost to Texas 48-7 on Sept. 20, 2003.
Rice was held scoreless in the first quarter Sunday afternoon, breaking a
streak of 20 consecutive quarters in which the Owls have scored. The last quarter in which
Rice had been held scoreless was the fourth in a 31-28 loss at Fresno State on Oct. 25,
Ed Bailey's 25-yard run in the second quarter was the longest of
his Rice career. He had had 12-yard gains both as a sophomore and as a junior.
Andray Downs' 49-yard kickoff return to begin the second half was
the longest by an Owl since Clint Hatfield's 78-yard return at Louisiana Tech in
Brennan Landry's extra-point in the second quarter was his 41st
consecutive PAT. His last miss was as a freshman in 2002.
Rice blocked two kicks Sunday afternoon. Andrew Cates got a hand
on a UH punt, and DeJaun Cooper deflected a long Cougar field-goal attempt.
Rice played most of Sunday's game without two starters in the offensive
line. Center Ross Huebel (knee) and guard Micah Meador (shoulder) left the
game in the first quarter. Neither player returned to the game, and their status for the
Owls' Rice Stadium opener against Hawaii on Sept. 18 is to be determined. Cotey-Joe
Cswaykus replaced Huebel and James Pitman replaced Meador. Also out Sunday were
starting wide receiver Marcus Battle (back) and running back Thomas Lott
opener kicks off at Reliant
Owls hope to solve
UH offensive equation
(Sept. 3) The Owls and the Pussycats take to sea in a beautiful, pea-green stadium
Saturday in the annual Administaff Bayou Bucket Classic marking the season opener for both
Rice and the University of Houston.
After Houston humbled the Owls, 48-14, in last years Bucket clash in Robertson
Stadium, Coog fans will likely settle for nothing less than a convincing blowout this year
in Reliant, as evidence of adequate progress of Art Briles program as he enters his
sophomore year as UHs head coach.
Rice fans, on the other hand, will be looking, not necessarily for a win, but
more importantly, evidence of little or no fall-off from the level of play the Feathered
Flock exhibited in easily winning out the last three games of the 03 season.
So the pressures on the Cougar side, moreso than on the Blue and Grey, to
come out with guns blazing.
"We didn't do very well against them last year," Rice head coach Ken
Hatfield admitted, "so we hope we do better the second time around. I know that Art
(UH Coach Briles) didn't have all of his offense in that he wanted in. This year, he's
been able to expand some of his offense. We just have to be sound and able to adjust to
anything new they may have."
Senior Rice cornerback Raymorris Barnes told us to expect the Rice secondary to
do a lot better job of making adjustments to the varied looks of Houstons offense.
"Its a lot easier," he said, "especially after youve
had a whole season of seeing their personnel; seeing the things that they do from the
different formations; the type of plays that they run. It doesnt necessarily mean
that youre going to be seeing from them the exact, same type of offense this year.
It only means that you are able to see pretty much who they are; what their base is, their
foundation that this is what theyre going to be coming out of, a lot.
Its easier because now you have in your mind the personnel that they have."
"Playing them last year, we had no idea. This year, we know who
theyve got out there and pretty much what kind of tendencies theyll
have. Then well just have to play hard and play fast. Theyre no different than
Texas; theyre no different than Hawaii theyre just a football team. And
were a football team. And were going to be ready to go out there and play our
Lott to sit out UH game
The Owls are reasonably healthy, but not completely so, going into Sundays
game, which kicks off at Reliant Stadium at 4:00 p.m. The squad avoided major,
season-ending injuries to any of its players, but a nagging hamstring pull will sideline
leading Owl rusher Thomas Lott for the UH game.
"The guy we're missing will be Thomas," said Coach Hatfield following
Thursday's workout. "Here was a guy who averaged 7.3 yards per run last year, and
that was big."
Quinton Smith will step in and take the starting role at the trailing halfback
position, and hell be backed up by Marcus Rucker. Neither of those guys are exactly
slouches. Q. picked up 142 yards rushing last year in his only start of the season,
leading the Owls to a near upset of Fresno State on the road. Marcus came on strong at
seasons end, as well, garnering over 300 yards rushing on the season and averaging
just short of six yards a carry.
"It will give other people a chance to step up," Coach noted.
"Quinton has done a great job and he's earned the right to start."
This season, the Cougars are reported to have amplified the wrinkles in their
already-unusual and sophisticated offense. Last year, Houston ranked 12th in the nation in
total offense (458.3 ypg) and rushing offense (215.5 ypg). The squad also boasted the
16th-best scoring offense (34.5 ppg), which produced seven games of 40-plus points. The
Cougars were one of only six teams last year to have a 1,000-yard rusher (Anthony Evans),
1,000-yard receiver (Brandon Middleton) and 3,000-yard passer (Kevin Kolb), and two of the
three willl be on the field and playling Sunday.
If Kolb improves significantly over his performance last year, you may be
looking at Heisman material. Last year, he broke every UH freshman passing mark en route
to being the top- rated rookie quarterback in the nation.
"The thing that impressed me last year was his poise coming as a
freshman," Coach Hatfield told reporters. "He was running a similar offense that
he had run in high school. Art and his staff gave Kevin a lot of confidence and he
responded. He did a tremendous job."
However, Kolb doesnt have the experience in the offensive line backing he
him like he did last year. Only two starters return from a year ago -- which may cause a
problem in the team's complicated offensive set.
After all, they are Cougars.
Can Rice offense click in first game of season?
The key question for the Rice offense is, can it establish the run against a
suspect Houston defense. The Owls typically have had trouble getting their option game
untracked in the first game of the season, and the Coogs have been recently successful in
shutting it down, at least partly, in recent years.
Last year, everybody ran on the Cougars except the Owls. U of H ranked
103rd in rushing defense in NCAA Division 1A, at 208.7 yards per game. The Coogs return
six starters this year, and the jury is very much out on the question of improvement. UH
returns only two starters on the DL, but is more experienced at the linebacker and
especially at secondary, where speed-burner Stanford Routt returns after earning
All-America kudos in track this spring.
Rice brings a relatively experience squad, going into the game
considerably moreso than has been the case the past two seasons.
"We will have 18 seniors playing in the game this week, and all of them
will play," Coach said. "We have good experience returning at every position.
The only freshman that we definitely plan to play is Luke Juist, our kickoff man. We had
about three 46-48 yard field goals in the scrimmage Saturday and he hit em all.
There's a place for him to play."
"Other than that everybody in the starting group played last year. Among
our backups, we have about 20 that we redshirted last year. We are counting on them to
provide good quality depth. The redshirt year helped them. They have good ability. That's
been the real focus of two-a-days, for those players to gain enough confidence so they
will be able to step in and help us right away."
Might the game be so close that it comes down to a long, last-minute field goal,
requiring Rice coaches to choose between an experienced, but erratic veteran kicker, and
the cannon-legged freshman?
Sayeth this old Owl: 'We'll take it.'
Paul T. Hlavinka
'It begins this Sunday'
Raymo has his game face on, against Texas last fall
HOUSTON (Sept. 2) Raymorris Barnes needs little introduction to
Rice fans. The DIberville, Mississippi fifth-year senior hes already
received his BA degree and is enrolled in grad school led the impressive cohort of
student athletes who countered anti-athletics charges leveled by hostile faculty during
the late spring athletics brou-ha-ha. Raymos rousing speech at a Rice Rally for
Athletics was considered by many to be the high point in the fight his articulate
presentation and convincing argument augured well for the role of Division 1A football on
the Rice campus. Now, Raymorris would like to place an exclamation point on his summer
rhetorical campaign by making some big noises on the field, this fall. It would be great
to pick up a league championship ring before graduating but wait, this young
mans already graduated! He spoke to reporters Monday.
Q: Is everybody in shape to play?
Ever since the last game of last year, against Louisiana Tech, this team has been doing
its best, preparing to be ready to play this season. The pre-season was pretty good; on a
positive note, everyone pretty much stayed healthy. Its the first year since
Ive been here and Im a fifth-year that there werent any
major injuries. No ACLs, no shoulders, or anything like that. Everyone pretty much is
healthy, for the most part. Weve put in a lot of time preparing ourselves, trying to
get in shape, to give ourselves every opportunity to be ready, come Sunday afternoon.
Q: After what happened last year, is revenge on your minds?
You know, revenge makes it sound like youre obsessing, like its the
only thing youre thinking about just that one game. For this year, its
not just about gaining an early revenge factor. Its about us developing, getting
better, finishing up strong, and getting the Western Athletic Conference championship.
With the talk, this spring and summer, about football going away at Rice University, and
then with the passage of Board approval endorsing Rice football and all athletics in
general, now its up to us to show the community that we appreciate their support,
and that we merit the kind of endorsement that the university administration has given us.
So, to us, there wouldnt be any greater good than for us to go out and have a
successful, a great season. But to do so, we really have to start off ready to play the
Q: Does anything in particular stick out in you mind, from last years
I remember being out there on the field, in utter shock and disbelief that this
was actually happening. It was one of the worse nightmares you could imagine. I never
imagined losing the game at all, really and then to lose the game the way we lost
it. It really stuck in my heart. I knew that wasnt the Rice football team that I
knew. It wasnt until about five games later that that team actually came alive. It
was once I saw the team start playing harder; once we all came together, and a lot of the
younger guys stepped up and made big plays, that I was finally able to put the UH game
over to the side, and start looking forward to playing each game coming up.
Raymorris speaks to gathered crowd of Rice supporters at summer rally
Q: Did the UH offense take you off guard last year?
We did the best we could. We watched film it was high school film. We
didnt have any college film; there wasnt any. No matter who was going to be
opening up with U of H, they were going to catch us off guard; the element of surprise
would favor Houston. The main thing that was different was the speed of the game it
was a whole lot different than watching Stephenville High School. We cant really say
that the offense totally caught us by surprise; the speed of their offense is what caught
us by surprise. On the high school films, we were watching it in slow motion. But, the
thing is, no matter what kind of offense comes on out the field, the defense has no excuse
it should be prepared to adjust to anything, because thats what playing
defense is all about. You dont know what kind of play theyre going to run. But
you position yourself to gain every opportunity to make the play, when the time comes.
Hopefully this year, well be better prepared to go harder and faster. Then, no
matter what they come out in empty, or five in the backfield, it wont matter
because well just be trying to give ourselves the best opportunity to be
ready to play.
Q: Its a lot easier to have at least one game tape to look at,
Its a lot easier, especially after youve had a whole season of
seeing their personnel; seeing the things that they do from the different formations; the
type of plays that they run. It doesnt necessarily mean that youre going to be
seeing from them the exact, same type of offense this year. It only means that you are
able to see pretty much who they are; what their base is, their foundation that
this is what theyre going to be coming out of, a lot. Its easier because now
you have in your mind the personnel that they have. Playing them last year, we had no
idea. This year, we know who theyve got out there and pretty much what kind
of tendencies theyll have. Then well just have to play hard and play fast.
Theyre no different than Texas; theyre no different than Hawaii
theyre just a football team. And were a football team. And were going to
be ready to go out there and play our hardest.
Q: Does their offense compare to any other you guys have faced?
Their offense is different; its unique, and I havent seen another
offense like it. And of course you run across many different offenses, especially here in
the WAC. If there was one that would be very similar, it would probably be Hawaii, because
they throw the ball just about as much. The only difference is, Coach June Jones may come
out with two wides, or a three-and-one, and it will stay that way. With Houston, they may
come out with four on one side, motion three on the other side, ending up having five or
six! Thats the only difference, its in the type of formations that they come
out in. But as far as the extent of their passing game, its different on paper, but
its pretty much the same to us, because in our league, the Western Athletic
Conference, everyone throws the ball a lot. Except for us.
Q: UH comes in as a four-point favorite. Are you looking forward to the
challenge of facing such a diverse offense?
Oh, yes, Im very much looking forward to the challenge. We have a defense
that we feel is fully able to make all the adjustments to different formations, to the
different plays that they run. Its a testament to the coaching, its a
testament to your teams discipline, to be able to accomplish the quick adjustments
and be able to get into the right positions at the right time to be effective on defense.
Were looking forward to that, as a challenge to ourselves, to make sure that
were ready to play. Weve studied up, on our play book. Weve gone over
the proper checks, the proper audibles. Maybe its not so much a challenge
specifically as to UH, but a challenge to ourselves, to make sure that were ready to
play on Sunday.
Q: Have you been able to simulate UHs offense with the scout team
during fall practice?
I dont think you can simulate it effectively. The best thing you can do
is, by first looking at the footage, and then going out on the field and trying as much as
you can to have down the responses you need to make as a defense, to the various plays,
routes and positions that they run. I dont even believe their offense is set up to
run certain plays the same way every time you get multiple outcomes from a single
offensive set or formation. So the only thing you can do is study film, and do the
techniques and the moves that you make, individually, as a defensive back. You make sure
you do your reads properly. And when they come out, and they have four on one side and one
on the other side, youve just got to rise above coaching and be a player.
Its not so much that you cant simulate it its just that
youve just got to be a player, at some point in the game.
If you play these three high-potency offenses at the beginning part of the
season, what it does is really prepare you for the rest of the year. You feel like there
arent any other kinds of offenses out there, that are going to catch you by
surprise. When you play Navy, they run the option well, we see that every day.
Weve got Houston, Hawaii they throw the ball a lot. So when we play Tulsa,
Nevada, weve already played against the prolific passing teams. Texas, on the other
hand, is balanced with the run and the pass, and they can do both just like Fresno
State and Boise!
So I dont think its a disadvantage; I think its actually an
advantage to play these three offenses right here in the beginning part of the season. It
gives us a chance to examine every nook and cranny of our defense, whats working,
whats not working, whatll bend, whatll break. And then that should make
us prepared to do everything we need to do, the last eight games of the season. But still,
it makes things a whole lot easier, and it lends the team a lot more positive morale, and
makes a big impact on the season, to start off on those first three games on a positive
note. And it begins this Sunday, at four oclock, when we tee it up against the
University of Houston.
Greg Henderson and Rice Quarterbacks Coach John Bland see
something funny going on during workout on the turf
'Ready to see some red'
HOUSTON (Aug. 31) -- Greg Henderson is "the man" this year at man under
for the Owls, and he goes through August workouts knowing that during the season
hell get as many minutes and carry the ball as often as his diminutive stature, but
sturdy makeup, allow. After showing an amazing resilience last year going sixty minutes in
several games when starter Kyle Herm was on the bench with injuries, now Gregs Iron
Man stamina is going to be an essential ingredient for Rices on-field success this
coming season. Greg's had a good fall practice -- especially in the passing department,
coaches say. And he told gathered media Monday that he can't wait to just get out
there on the field and air it out.
Q: Could you give us a scouting report on your upcoming season opener with U of H?
Defensively, theyre very fast and athletic. You know, they really put it to us
last year; we couldnt move the ball very well against them. We had some big drives,
but just couldnt put the ball in the end zone. So weve studied the game film;
weve made our corrections. Now, were just ready to play, ready to get out
Q: What about their defense concerns you most or just jumps out at
Theyve just got a lot of speed. They were the second-fastest defense we
played last year, behind only Texas. Theyve got a really good defense; theyre
really athletic. They slough off blocks really well; theyre good at shaking their
Q: What has it been like, knowing that this is your team?
Its been exciting, I have to say. You walk around the locker room, or the
weight room, or after practice - you can see that the other players are looking to you to
be one of the leaders on the team. Everybodys kind of looking at me for guidance,
especially the younger players. So its fun and exciting. And it really makes me want
to get out on the field. Ready to see some red, and other colors instead of just
blue out there.
Q: To what do you attribute the teams late season success last year?
We had a really slow start last year, and that got some people down. But we got
back to basics, just running the option; when we began having some success with it, it
picked the teams enthusiasm up a ton, and we just carried that over into the spring.
Having that end-of-season run, like we did, we think gives us a better chance to have a
good start this year.
Q: Has the team been giving any thoughts to the fact that this is
Rices last year in the WAC?
Oh, sure. Rice is leaving the WAC; thats it; you have to figure
theyll never be in the WAC again. So we want to go out on top; we want to be
remembered as the last team ever to win the WAC. Thats our main goal for this
Q: How do you feel about the state of the teams confidence going into
the UH game compared to your three previous years?
I feel really confident; we have a a lot of people coming back, offensively and
defensively. Everybodys just extremely excited about this game coming up. Me, too.
Q: Is it a good rivalry?
It is a good cross-town rivalry. We see those guys around town; we run
into them at the mall, or wherever. I think its a really good rivalry.
Ive enjoyed the games with UH a whole lot. Hope to enjoy this one.
"I think we know, this time around, much more where we stand, going into the
"Theyre still mighty good. They gained an awful lot of confidence with
the success they had last year."
"On the defense, they can take two out of three of em, but they
cant cover em all
Season opener more
of a known quantity
Coach: Backup Armstrong
will play, QBs to go all out
HOUSTON (Aug. 28) The Rice Owls season opener with the University
of Houston looms eight days away, but head coach Ken Hatfield and his staff are entering
this years Bayout Bucket tilt with much less of a sense of mystery than they
unavoidably experienced in last year's ignominious 48-14 road loss to the Cougars, in UH
coach Art Briles' maiden voyage as a college head coach.
They say familiarity breeds contempt. In last year's case, it was more a matter of
unfamiliarity's breeding confusion
The Owls were befuddled by both the defensive and offensive sets that UH threw against
them a year ago, but the Rice coaching staff plans on having its squad squared away and
ready to go, this time out.
"I think it definitely makes it a lot easier to prepare," Coach
Hatfield told media. Last years game was on-job training for the Coogs, and they
adjusted well. But the Owls didnt.
"Last year, Art said they didnt have all their offense in for the
first game, because he was still in the process of introducing it to a lot of their
Then, too, there was a little matter of the outstanding performance of UHs
unheralded freshamn quarterback, Kevin Kolb. "You didnt know how good he was
going to be, coming in as a freshman," Coach said. "But he was great. And he
played the whole rest of the year like he did in our game."
It was a year which saw the Coogs win seven games and go to a bowl for the first
time since '97.
"But the one good thing that comes out of their success," Coach
Hatfield observed, "is that, in that kind of situation, you dont change an
awful lot. I think we know, this time around, much more where we stand, going into the
Still, UH offense is no less high-octane
That doesnt make the job of prepping for the Coogs high-octane
offense any easier, the Rice mentor warned. "It just is a big, difficult offense to
prepare for," he said. "Theres a lot of different things they do, a lot of
fun, new and innovative things that they run."
"Right now, we just know what their players have confidence in. Whereas
last year, going into the game, we had no idea. And I dont think they had
In retrospect, a couple of early mishaps really got the flow going against the
Owls in last years operner, Coach said. "First were the two big punt returns
they had against us early. In both cases, we outpunted our coverage. (Jared) Scruggs was a
good kicker, we knew but we didnt know he was that good. We
outpunted our coverage. So they had two big punt returns."
"And then there was pass to Middleton right down the middle of the
In same, Coach Hatfield was referring to a post pattern that Rice senior
linebacker Jeff Vanover appeared to have well-covered, when he slipped and went down in
the mud, leaving the UH receiver Brandon Middleton wide open for a 47-yard TD that gave
Houston a 10-0 first-quarter lead.
"I think those were three big plays early, in the first half, that really
took us out of the game," Coach Hatfield said.
And that doesnt even mention the smashed ribs that Owl quarterback Kyle
Herm suffered on the first series of downs. This year, Kyle is ably replaced at QB by
veteran backup Greg Henderson. But thats as far as the experience goes on the Rice
depth chart. No other Rice quarterback has played a single college down of ball.
Yet, the skills and talent are there, Coach Hatfield said and nothing
will cause him to ease back on the role of the senior from Wichita Falls as an integral
part of Rices offensive scheme.
"You cant be any more careful," he said. "Because a lot of
times, in the option offense, the defense dictates who they want with the ball. And so if
you try to get where youre a good, solid option team, youve got to get where
its, fullback, halfback, quarterback you dont care."
"On the defense, they can take two out of three of em, but they
cant cover em all. You have to be ready to take whichever one they give you.
Thats why you read the offense; you dont block two key defenders, and so
whichever one the defender takes, well, he can only hope that he made the right
"But the running backs have got to be ready and the quarterbacks got
to be ready."
Rice offense takes what it's given
Coach said he well remembered a couple years back when the Owls faced Colorado
State in Rice Stadium. "They had just won the conference the year before," he
recollected. "Well, Chad Richardson rushes for 197 yards in that ball game
because they kept giving him that one play, that little quarterback counter. They were
playing a two-deep coverage and there wasnt anyone pulling."
"So we just kept running it until he got tired. Then we called time
out, gave him some water, and told him to go back in there and run it again," he
And if your number one quarterback tires out or goes down, you put in your
number two man and you do so with confidence.
"With our offense, what we try to do is get people who are going to be
ready to play from the minute they get here. You look back at the first year here, we
played Chad Nelson; we had to play him. He had to come in when Josh LaRocca got
hurt. And Chad, as a freshman quarterback, led us to a victory over Houston that allowed
us to tie for the championship."
"Just the year prior to that, in the same Astrodome, he had championed
Lewisville, when theyd won the state championship. So he was ready to play. He was
confident; he had real ability. And he gave us a chance to win the championship."
"Weve got guys like that now. Joel Armstrong, has redshirted
he knows our system. Two years ago he was the only quarterback we went after, that year.
We knew his talent; we knew his abilities; we knew he was going to be good."
"Weve got two freshmen coming in Gregs little brother,
Tommy Henderson, is coming in along with Chase Clements. Those are two guys who we think
can run and throw. And well probably end up carrying one of those as a
third-teamer. Hopefully well be able to carry him all year; hopefully he wont
have to play, but still will be available."
Nope, the Rice Head Man said hes not going to change anything just
because Greg is really the only experienced man at quarterback. "We will get Joel in
there, as a backup, in the Houston game, quite a bit because we do play a
conference game early in the season, second week, with Hawaii."
"So weve got to get our backups ready to play."
"Ready to play" thats pretty much the key to a successful
showing against UH, Coach Hatfield concluded.
"Im looking for us to play better. I think well have a better
idea of whats going on."
But he cautioned patience, on the part of Rice fans. After all, there's no
reason to expect UH to be anything but a stouter outfit this year than last.
"Theyre still mighty good," he conclused. "They
gained an awful lot of confidence with the success they had last year."
--Paul T. Hlavinka