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2018 LSU week

LSU 42, Rice 10

BATON ROUGE (Nov. 18) – OK. So we’re not nearly as good as LSU. That much is clear. We knew that going in. In fact, so are about 120 other Division One football programs out there. Then what are the takeaways from this little experience in the land of gumbo-and-boudin?

Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren was hardly sanguine, in fact could almost be described as upbeat, in his post-game comments after his Owls bowed to the Bayou Bengals by a 42-10 count at Tiger Stadium here Saturday night.

“If we could have done a few things early I thought we might have been able to take this team into deep water,” he avowed. “At some point, we will get over that hump, we will take teams into the fourth quarter.”

‘Effort- wise, absolutely no quit in them. Absolute fight. We’ve just got to play better....I’m still jealous of these kids; they’ve gotten the opportunity to come out and play in front of that environment today.”

What the Rice Head Man didn’t mention was the huge discrepancy in size, speed, skill, tools of the offensive and defensive of lines of the two teams. That differential made it impossible for Rice to compete seriously in the game, and made it difficult to gauge other points of progress that the Owls might’ve gleaned from this effort – other than the $1.4 million payday, of course.

Rice started three freshmen, one soph and and one senior on its offensive line while LSU must be growing its road graders from scratch in a greenhouse somewhere. They did seem each to have one eye in the middle of their foreheads as they single-mindedly blew holes in the Owl defense and gave maximum protection to the LSU quarterbacking corps. Never mind the fact that the Tiger OL was less than spectacular in stopping a determined, albeit less-than-imaginative, Rice rushing attack.

Meanwhile, the LSU defensive front had Owl quarterback Shawn Stankavage and friends on the run for the bulk of the contest.

“I thought there were a couple of opportunities left out there in the first half,” Coach Bloom said. “In the second half, we’ve just got to get those chains moving. And luckily we were able to get a couple of drives going where we weren’t converting on third down – we didn’t have to, we were getting enough on first and second down."

“But every time we had a big run, got a drive going, then we had a negative run. We’d get whipped up front, or something went wrong. It’s hard to be behind the sticks in Death Valley, against that defense.”

Well, let’s go down the list, in that regard.

First quarter: Midway, Owls down 7-0. After deep punt by Jack Fox, first LSU play from scrimmage, Dylan Silcox puts resounding hit on Tiger running back Jonte Kirklin, who coughs up the pill. Prudy Calderon falls on it. Owls’ ball, first and ten, LSU 35. The crowd falls relative tame.

After incomplete pass on first down, two plunges into the LSU concrete defensive front by Astin Walter net one yard. Fifty-one yard field goal attempt by Jack Fox has plenty of distance, but sails wide right. Still 7-0, LSU.

Two plays later, LSU QB Joe Burrow connects with his Stephen Sullivan for 38 yards and the TD. LSU, 14-0, and the rout is on.

Second quarter, midway. Now down 28-0, Owls set up at 25 yard-line after 13-yard TD pass from Burrow to Foster Moreau. This time, Owls pound the rock and run the clock. The drive is paced, to boot, by an artistic 26-yard reception by D’Angelo Ellis. Astin Walter and Juma Otoviano carry the bulk of the mail on the ground. Owls. Rice reaches as far as the LSU 23, but eschew ten-yard gain in favor of five-yard offsides penalty against LSU.

On third and nine, Shawn Stankavage runs for his life and is sacked for a loss of five. Haden Tobola comes in and kicks a perfect 51-yard field goal try. So the Owls have gotten on the scoreboard, but not the way they wanted to. It’s 28-3 at the half.

Third quarter, Owls take opening kickoff. Again, AstonWalter and Juma Otoviana combine for a couple of quick first downs and the Owls are at midfield. But drive fizzles from there, thwarted by a heavy LSU defensive line rush which results in a quarterback sack and a third-down hurry. No points. No statement made.

Two subsequent second-half possessions by the Owls go for five plays, 22 yards, 3:12 burned off the clock, and eight plays, 27 yards, a full 4:54 clock time burned, but no points.

So it’s 42-3 LSU, eleven minutes left. Playing for Pride now. And the Owls engineer a 75-yard, 13-play drive that features, once again, the running of senior Astin Walter and freshman Juma Otoviano, plus yet another acrobatic 27-yard hookup through the air, Stankavage to Ellis.

Juma gets his first career touchdown on a second-and-four from the LSU five yard line. That makes the final 42-10, LSU.

(For LSU’s scoring drives, we direct the reader to any one of a dozen game recounts by some surprising shoddy Louisiana-based sports writing.)

So the Owls play hard for 60 minutes. They’re certainly not embarrassed. They head for the post-game locker room with heads held high. Progress, actually, say players and coach alike.

“Obviously not the result any of us wanted,” Coach Bloom said afterwards. “We knew we had to play extremely well do you have a chance to win this game tonight. At times, actually we did. But you know, we were going against a really good football team and in a really unbelievable college football atmosphere.“

“(It was) a great opportunity for our kids today, and we did some good things,” the Rice mentor summed up. “In this world, where it’s so easy to hit the reset button, and just quit, I don’t think you saw any of our guys quit today. You saw them fight until the scoreboard said zero-zero-zero, and that’s a lot to build on.”


HOUSTON (Nov. 15) – What does a one-and-ten team do when it’s faced with traveling into a hostile territory, a packed house, facing the number seven team in the nation, with not just a hell of a lot good having gone down for them thus far in the season?

Well, just maybe that one-and-ten team goes into the contest with heads held high, relaxed but keyed up and ready, and takes to the gridiron and has itself some fun. This is a game for the young, after all.

The Rice Owls – yep, they’re that one-and-ten team -- face the seventh-ranked LSU Tigers, amid the unfriendly confines of Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge, locally known as Death Valley, with a 6:30 PM kickoff on Saturday night (ESPN-U).

“This Saturday, we have an opportunity to go into one of the premier venues in college football,” Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren said at his Tuesday press briefing. “I think it's so exciting for our kids. I think everyone has dreamed about it. I dreamed about it as a kid. Getting the chance to go in there and play. It's going to be a ton of fun.”

“The things that we've stressed to them is 'Look. You look at their roster one to 22 and they're going to be more talented than us. They're going to have more guys with stars by their name in terms of recruiting rankings.”

“ But every week in college football, you see a team go into one of those places and you see the score on your phone and you go 'Wow, those dudes beat them?' It happens every week. We have to go in there and worry about what we can control. Worry about our jobs and playing the best football we can and we'll be happy with the results.”

Speaking of results, the Owls are a mere 44-point underdogs in this one, but if one is strictly looking to cash in on the game, it may be wise to take Rice and the points.

Of the course comparative scores gambit is one of the least useful forms of analysis there is, and can never serve as any kind of reliable indication of a final outcome. Having said that, earlier in this season, in September, LSU defeated Louisiana Tech 38-21, in a competitive game at Tiger Stadium.

We’re aware of how things went down at LA Tech for the Owls this past Saturday. The game was competitive until the final moments. The Owls battled to within a single score in the fourth quarter, and with a lucky break here or there, or a little better play here or there, they might’ve been even, or possibly even come out ahead.

This upcoming soiree can be chalked up in the “experience“ department for Owl gridders, and while they get to deal with the excitement, and perhaps with a little bit of unavoidable butterflies, their efforts, good, bad or indifferent, will deliver up to Rice athletics administrators a cool $1.4 million in game royalty.

That figure is said to be the highest ever paid out by LSU for a visiting team in the Coach Ed Orgeron era, and perhaps ever. Geewhiz, we did we didn’t know we were that valuable commodity, didn’t we? Be that as it may, the Owls will enter the contest with the usual run of late-season issues, injuries, tired, banged up players, but gamers all.

Grad senior quarterback Shawn Stankavage once again is back on the field as starting quarterback after missing a month of games with a leg injry. Shawn has yet to experience a breakout game on this season, and it’s questioned whether he indeed has one in him.

One thing’s for sure, would he be Hercules, he still would have been ill-prepared to hoist all the misplays and misgivings of a half century of seldom-successful Rice football onto his lanky shoulders. That would have been to much to ask for any mere mortal.

But say he does come out with his best game of the season. Say the Rice offensive line suddenty gets wise, engerndering a modicum of successs with wide splits, trap plays, thing that don’t belong on a “pound the rock and run the clock” offense. Will it help any?

Probably somewhat, but not all that much. . This LSU team, after all, still has the distinct possibility of a top-four position and this an entry ticket into the national playoff. Last thing they’ll want to see in the Sunday papers is a report on a competitive game having visited upon them by those upstart Owls.

Yet that’s just what Coach Bloom says he realistically has on his mind. But it depends. “We can't come out of the tunnel and let Death Valley or Mike the Tiger score points for them,” he said. “We've got to make them line up across from us, go toe-to-toe and earn everything they get. And we've got to give it back to them. That's what I expect from our guys. I expect it to be a chance for them to go out on a great stage in front of 100,000 people and play their butts off.”

By the same token, the Bayou Bengals face the Texas Aggies one week later in another Death-Valley-type showdown on the floor of Kyle Field, the Holler Box on the Brazos. Hey, Coach Orgeron, maybe the prudent thing would be to give the first stringers plenty of rest on Saturday so as to prime them for the A&M game, which just might earn LSU on of the four, coverted national playoff spots

One similarly could further prognosticate that Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren will not be overextending his key performers in this game, either. That’s because the following week, at home, against Old Dominion, there lies a winnable game which could propel the Owls into the off-season with a much better frame of mind than a 1-12 season would yield.

One thing’s clear regarding this Saturday, though. Nobody expects a thing out of the Rice Owls. They’ll be playing with House Money. They’ll be playing for fun

“Nobody outside of these walls believes we can do it,” Coach Bloom summed up. “We know we can. So let's go. Let's just go play football and enjoy every minute."