Texas 48, Rice 13

HOUSTON (Sept. 15) -- Rice’s defeat at the hands of the University of Texas Saturday, even its measure of defeat, came hardly as a surprise to the those invested in Owl football fortunes.

The final result, indeed, came about roughly as expected. But it was the way the Owls so quickly succumbed, so clearly demonstrated the deficit in talent, that doubtless has more than a few of the more cynical diehards rushing to the barn to dig out their pitchforks.

The more evenhanded among the South Main cohort will once again point to the rebuilding aspect, to the depths to which Rice's once-proud football program has fallen in the eyes of the rank and file of this state of 30 million people, a lot of whom, if they think about Rice football at all, it’s only to wonder how long it is before they, like the University of Chicago, like Sewancee, like Southwestern, downgrade or just drop the charade altogether.

If your thoughts turned the same way as you trundled out of NRG Stadium Saturday night, there’s no compunction in that.

But it gives rise to those among us who insist that the current coaching staff is out of touch, that the only way the Rices and the Armies and the Tulanes of the college football world can compete is via contrarianism. That means triple option, or it means Air Raid. What it cannot suppport, the logic goes, is a system where two-star recruits try and push four- and five-star players around the field.

For evidentiary Exhibit “A” as to that theory, the thought continues, just take a look at the Rice starting unit’s first-half success against UT’s first-team eleven.

A quick look at the stat sheet shows that on Texas’ first possession, they marched down and scored easily, seven for seven passing. On Rice’s first: three and out. On Texas’ second possession same thing; on Rice’s second possession, same thing. On Texas' third possession, same thing. On Rice’s third possession, four and out.

Then there are halftime statistics to ponder. First downs: Texas 19, Rice 2. Texas led in total yardage, 350-56.  One could go on, but there’s no use in that. The score told the story: Texas 31 to nothing, Rice without ever having shown a spark of life on offense, while the defense, woefully overmatched as they were, gave it their best, but couldn’t hold.

From midway on in the third quarter,  into the fourth, it was different. The Texas coaching staff had started, as its said, “liberally substituting,“ and once Rice’s students began playing a Texas eleven which, though still outranking them in the aggregate recruiting stars, was at least a little down the depth chart in terms of experience, guess what: the Insitute played even-steven. More often than not, Rice's twos defeated UT's threes and fours and even a five or two.

Come fourth quarter, the Owls managed a six-minutes-plus, 73 yard scoring drive to finally get on the board at 38-6 with eight minutes left in the game. That's a "6", not a "7" -- the extra point was missed.

In response, the Texas second unit drove the ball against Rice’s defense, but had to settle for a 46-yard Cameron Dicker field goal to make 41-6, and the bookmakers were sweating. Dicker’s kick made a neat bookend to a 57-yarder he put through the uprights on the last play of the first half.

The Owls came right back with a nifty 75-yard, eight play drive paced by a 41-yard pass play, Tom Stewart to Brad Rozner, setting up the Flock at the Texas four.

From there, next play, Aston Walter hauled in his second TD pass reception of the night, ostensibly closing out the score at 38-13 with just under a minute left.

Only it didn’t close out the score. Instead, UT freshman D’Shawn Jamison returned a Will Harrison kickoff 98 yards for the touchdown, racing right through the Owl kickoff team with nary a hand laid on him. It was Texas' first TD kickoff return in seven years.

And it provided an ignominious end to a game that needed to be over with.

Playing the whole game for the Owls at the quarterback spot, Tom Stewart was 11 of 22 for 175 yards including the two touchdown passes of 3 yards and 4 yards to Aston Walter in the fourth quarter. Austin Trammell led Owl receivers with six catches for 97 yards.

"Tonight was a very frustrating night to be a coach," Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren said afterwards.. "It was a hard day at the office. We weren't just committed to the run, we were trying other things. Luckily, we popped a few passes at the end of the game and a few runs, and it was a little bit better."

“But from one to 22, we couldn’t match up with them; we only had a handful of guys who could match up with them for 60 minutes,” he added.

“But I thought our kids continued to fight in the fourth quarter – which is what I’m going to take away from this game and be proud of.”

Still, the overall result prompted newspaper headlines from down Austin way such as, “Why does Texas play Rice? Well, because it’s easy.”

Not because it's hard, but because it's easy.