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2016 Baylor game page

Baylor 38, Rice 10

GOT 'IM -- Rice defensive end Graysen Schantz gestures emphatically after teaming to down Baylor quarterback for a loss (PTH photo)

DID HE SCORE? -- Rice's Emanuel Esukpa strains for the Baylor goal line but is ruled down inside the 1; he scored for sure on the next play (PTH photo)

HOUSTON (Sept. 17) -- With the second-quarter clock winding down below two minutes, the Rice Owls had battled Baylor to a virtual standstill for a half, but nevertheless were facing a 21-10 deficit.

For the Owl offense, mired deep in its own territory, there was time remaining only to go for broke, perhaps a long bomb down the sideline or a maybe a quick pick across the middle.

Instead, senior running back Darik Dillard took the inside handoff, popped into the line, shifted his feet, and suddenly found himself looking at daylight.

He burst into the clear with the distant goal line in sight, to the forty, the fifty, the forty, the thirty. Go the distance, and the result would be a sudden body blow to a Baylor team that came out relatively flat and frustrated to begin with. A 21-17 game at halftime, and the prize was there for the taking.

A big roar emerged from the west side stands, but it was followed by a sudden audible groan. For as Darik crossed the 20, the typically sure-handed veteran was blind-sided on the oblique by the Bears' Tion Wright. The ball popped free, bounded for a couple of yards, and was enveloped by BU's Patrick Levels.

Thus ended Rice’s competitive, promising first half of football, so close to being anybody's game for the taking, but turning on a dime, winding up so far away for a Rice team continuing the struggle to find its identity.

Defense?  Couldn't have been better, to start game

The way the Owl defense began the game was near-flawless, with three three-and-outs plus J. T. Blasingame’s drive-ending interception jammed down the throats of the Bruins during their first four possessions.

Destri White had a resurgent start with three solo tackles and a QB hurry in the first quarter alone. Blaine Padgett, Tabari McGaskey and Graysen Schantz were also big defensive contribuors during that spell.

Blasingame, whose first-quarter interception was the Owls’ first received turnover of the season, lauded his fellow South Mainers’ overall defensive performance, while playing down his own.

“This was our best game defensively,” he told press afterwards. “It was a testament to the way we practiced this week. We practiced really hard, and we’ve just got to keep that up.”

Unfortunately, contributions on the offensive side of the ball were virtually nil during the Owls' first three possessions. It didn’t help that the offensive game plan appeared to come out of a playbook that had to have typed with carbon paper in a manual typewriter, so antiquated it seemed.

Rushing attempts were stuffed at that Good Ol’ Baylor line on key downs; while the quick-out pass to the slot back was good for about a two- or three- yard loss every time it was called – except those times when the ball was flung at the receiver’s feet.

Consequently, the speedy and talented Bear defense was content to simply stuff nine men in the box, pin their ears back, and dare the Owls to come right at them.

'We scored first'

The Owls finally got something going their fourth possession of the game, with Austin Walter, Jowan David and Darik Dillard breaking out for runs of 15, 11 and 17 yards as Rice drove as far as the Baylor six yard line where, facing third and four, a vanilla-flavored Wild Owl keeper by Nate German yielded zero yardage, so the Flock had to settle for a 24-yard Hayden Tobola field goal.

That put the Birds up 3-0, only the second lead Rice has held thus far in this now semi-young season. But the lead lasted about as long as the early score against Army last week, as the Bruins roared back 84 yards in eight plays, including a 45-yard downfield connection from QB Seth Russell to K. D. Cannon, at the Rice 14.

Two plays later, JaMycal Hasty ran it in from 16 yards out, and the Owls were on the short side of the scoreboard once again.

Frustration on part of the Rice receiving corps began to become evident on the Owls’ next try, a weak three-and-out, no fun to describe. Suffice it to say that execution was sorely lacking.

Rice coaches did put in a new wrinkle on fourth down, however, putting Nate German in short punt and having him option to the outside, taking the yardage if it was there, or kicking on the fly if not. In the event, Nate’s Aussie-rules-style kick sliced out of bounds for a mere plus of only five yards, and that gave BU a short field at the Rice 32.

“In practice, Nate was booming those kind of kicks 70 yards down the field,” Rice head coach David Bailiff told press postgame.

Baylor took all of seven plays, then,  to take a 14-3 lead, the last ten yards coming from a Russell-to-K. D. Cannon scoring pass.

This time, however, the Owls struck right back, smartly moving the ball 75 yards in nine plays to pull back to within four. Quarterback Tyler Stehling scrambled from midfield, on third and two, finding running room in carrying for 28 yards to the lip of the red zone.

The Owls suddenly found running room up the gut, as Nate German ran for nine, and then Emanuel Esukpa bulled for 11 more for a first and goal at the one-foot line. Next play, he got the call again and scored his first varsity touchdown, making it 14-10, Baylor.

With Owls down by only 4, crowd was into it

By this time, the home crowd, including what appeared to be in excess of 2,500 Rice students, got rocking and rolling in vocal support of the surprising goings-on. Now, though, with four minutes remaining in the first half, Rice’s ensuing kickoff pooched out of bounds, so the Bears accordingly were able to set up at their 35.

Having appeared finally to have awoken from their winter’s nap,  the Bears came right back to score again, Terence Williams finding daylight up the middle and scoring untouched from 24 yards out

It was then that Darik Dillard’s near-game-breaking heroics, above-described, unfolded. When Baylor got the fumble at their own 15, only 52 seconds remained on the halftime clock. Yet, a 46-yard completion from Russell to Cannon gave the Bears a shot at last-second field goal try from 47 yards out. Chris Callahan’s attempt missed, wide right, however.

The Owls got the ball to start the second half, but once again showed zero imagination in breaking out a different look for the Baylor defense. A holding penalty insured a short, three-play possession for the Owls, and Rice’s failure to produce once out of halftime locker room indeed took some air out of the tires.

In three third-quarter possession, the Owls managed two rack up only two first downs, and the resulting failure to at least seize field position allowed Baylor to score ten more unanswered points, first going up 24-10 courtesy a 23-yard Chris Callahan chip shot, and then garnering a commanding lead after QB Russell once again set the table in finding his favorite eceiver, K D Cannon, for 51 yards to the Rice 25.

Three plays later, Russell found his Jordan Feuerbacher for a 24-yard TD reception, making it 31-10, Bears, as the third quarter clock expired.

Baylor quarterback Russell stayed in long enough to direct the  Bears on one more TD drive, this one carrying 58 yards on five plays early in the fourth. Once again, it was K. D. Cannon who did the damage, hauling in a sideline pass and scooting 28 yards to score on a pylon-hurdling finale.

Nate German came in once again to run the Wild Owl package as the fourth quarter began, and met with early success via a 15-yard gain to midfield. The Owls were able to reach as far as the Baylor 36, but at that point the previously-anemic aerial attack completely fizzled, Nate German and Tyler Stehling both being unable to make connection, with errant passes and/or failure to spot and connect with secondary receivers.

To face facts: that was the story all night for the Rice passing game, which put nine-for-27 and a total of 31 yards passing on the night’s stat sheet. Read 'em and weep.

The Owl offense was able to rack up 250 yards on the ground, although the Flock barely lost out to Baylor in total time of possession, in a game in which the fast-moving BU attack managed to run 96 plays in just under 31 minutes of possession time.

Despite QB Russell’s semi-off-day passing, the Wacoans did manage 306 total yards through the air on 23-of-42 chunks.

Rice had to punt 11 times in the game, but the Bears actually had to run out their punter four times on their own. The generous yardage totals racked up by Baylor had a lot to do with Rice’s failure to control time of possession or establish field position.

After starting the fourth quarter perched on the BU 39 yard line, the Owls never got any closer, failing to cross midfield for the remainder of the game.

Baylor failed to cover point spread, heh, heh

About the only suspense at the end lay in whether Baylor was going to be able to beat the 28-to-30 point betting spread. They didn’t, although they likely could’ve, as reserve quarterback Wyatt Schrepfer kept the ball and dived into the line for six straight times after the Bears earned a first down at the Rice 18 in the final moments, and failing on fourth and goal when Paine Matiscik nailed the rookie backup at the Rice five.

Some Baylor fans apparently were more excercised about BU’s failure to run up points than they were with the MOB’s rather tame digs at the Baptists’ unprecedented sexual harrassment issues leading up to the off-season resignations of both head coach Art Briles (who was in attendance at the game) and Washington special-prosecutor-turned-pillar-of-Academe, former BU president Kenneth Starr (who wasn’t there).

"It's disappointing starting the season 0-3," afterwards said senior Rice running back Darik Dillard, who led Owl offensive producers on the night with 124 yards on 14 carries. "But if you really look at it I see a lot of improvement, especially in our defense,” he added.

“Just the way they (the defense) started the first half by being able to hold a huge Big 12 opponent to zero points in the first quarter -- our defensive backs were doing an incredible job holding some of the best receivers there are in the country. The defensive line was doing an outstanding job being able to hold their running game and their quarterback at bay."

Coach Bailiff likewise put on an upbeat face after the game. "I'm standing up here and we're 0-3, but all our goals are still intact,” he insisted. “That’s what I told the team," he added. "If we still "If we still get that kind of effort and keep growing those young ones up; we're going to be in great shape.”

“We're young, we're getting better every rep, and that's what we have to do, and I'm depending on these seniors to keep growing those guys up."



Owls still looking for first win, this time at home against overwhelming favorite Baylor
HOUSTON (Sept. 15) -- The Rice Owls, still looking for their first victory in the young season after two road losses, take on the Baylor Bears Friday night at Rice Stadium (7:00 p.m.) in a game in which prognosticators are giving the South Main contingent little chance to be competitive.

Conventional wisdom has it that the 2-0 Bears of the Big 12 Conference ought have only to roll the ball out onto the turf, and then hang around for sixty minutes of play -- one of college football's most prolific scoring machines against a Rice team that, well, suffice it to say that the nation's football scribes have accorded it less respect than Rodney Dangerfield.

Do the Owls truly deserve such ignominy? Within two thorough road defeats at the hands of Western Kentucky and a resurgent Army team, Rice showed less-than-impressive statistics, nothing remarkeable in the way of outstanding individual play, and a minium of resilience which would serve to refute that notion.

Offensively (both rushing and passing), and defensively (you name it) the record and stats thus far speak grimly about the Owls prospects when lining up against any Top-100 Division One team.

But Baylor has shown a few wrinkles which indicate they may in line for a sub-par performance, one against which the Owls, even if they are not able to pull out a win, might be able to find some positives upon which to launch a creditable Part Two of the 2016 Season.

Rice can take at least some solace in the results of last week's Baylor-SMU game in Waco.

A week earlier, the Bears opened the season with a 55-7 win against Northwestern (LA) State, a game in which BU was favored by 50 points and had the spread covered with a 55-0 lead early in the third quarter.

The final in that one was 55-7, though, as interim (is it ‘interim’?) head coach Jim Grobe took his foot off the gas for the rest of the game.

Then, against the Mustangs – not a pre-season Top 75 team, by the way – the Bruins proceeded to lay an egg, at least during the first half.

The Ponies were able to convert two early field goal tries to take a 6-0 lead going into the second quarter. All the Baylorites were able to do in the first half was to respond with two three-pointers of their own to knot the score at the half.

Those two BU first-half field goals were from 35 and 38 yards out, both by Chris Callahan, one after a 55-yard drive, and the other following an SMU turnover deep in their own territory.

Baylor was able to make some kinda halftime adjustments, however – enough to be able to roll past the Mustangs 34-7 in the last two quarters so as to wind up with a 40-13 victory.

Coach Grobe later said the big halftime adjustment lay in his offensive line's being able to pick up on the incessant quarterback blitzes that the Pony defense had shown BU in the first half.

But Baylor defense was the unit that emerged from the game with reputations unscathed.

The Bears were led by senior defensive back Orion Stewart, who had eight tackles (5/3) and picked off two passes. One of those he took to the house, returning the theft 33 yards for the score to break open the game at 26-6, Baylor, midway in the third quarter.

Bear defensive back Davion Hall, a former wideout, had BU’s third pick of the night; it was one that he returned for 62 yards out of the Baylor end zone, setting up the Baylor offensive for their second touchdown of the third quarter and a 20-6 lead.

BU quarterback Seth Russell, uncharacteristically quiet in the first half, turned it on in the third, spotting the Bears at 13-6 lead with a 31-yard TD pass to redshirt frosh Blake Lynch; then accounting for the 20-6 lead with a 19-yard touchdwon scamper of his own.

During that 34-point second-half run against SMU, the Bears scored on a 79-yard drive that carried for ten plays; 69 yards in eight, 38 yards in five, and finally 45 yards covered in only three plays as redshirt freshman running back JaMycal Hasty ending scoring with a on a 4-yard dive late in the game.

Workhorse running back Shock Linwood is scheduled to return from injury to see playing action against the Owls. He’s nearing a career rushing record for the Bears. Might just set it, come Friday night.