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2021 Arkansas page

Arkansas 38, Rice 17x




Jordan Myers plunges across goal to give Owls second-quarter lead; Wiley Green assists refs in call from his excellent viewing angle (PTH photo)


Owls' Treshawn Chamberlain cuts off Hog runner trying to turn the corner -- nothing doing (PTH photo)

FAYETTEVILLE (Sept.5) -- Rice football fans, old and new, have learned to be wary of early leads these days.

So it was in the hills of Northwest Arkansas this unexpectedly hot afternoon. The Owls had taken a 17-7 lead midway through the third quarter against an Arkansas team that was sputtering against a Rice defense that was all over the field, allowing only a single, improvised first-quarter touchdown on a 34-yard scramble by Hog QB K. J. Jefferson.

As the sun rose higher over the Ozark hills, the Owls had responded with a 25-yard Collin Riccitelli field goal set up by an emphatic Kenneth Orji block of a Hog punt attempt at the Razorback 21.

The Owls, sensing a chance for a quick TD response, were able to et as far as the Razorback seven yard land via line plunges by Kahlan Griffin and Jordan Myers.

Bogged down there, the Owls got a three-pointer to take partial advantage of the blocked punt. A touchdown was what the doctor ordered, but the Owl offense couldn’t produce one.

Owl defense kept churning up gifts for offense

Turned out next possession the Rice defense fashioned another present for the offense, when Sean Fresch leapt in front of a Hog receiver to make a solid pick at midfield.

That big play was one of many for the Owl defense in the first half, a fact which drew plaudits from Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren.

The tale of the tape shows that the Owls kept Arkansas well in check via five three-and-out defensive stops in the first two quarters of play.

“I think that, gosh, it was a really good performance for them and I don’t know what the numbers are going to say in totality – I guess they had 373 total yards – but that first half was a thing of beauty,” Bloomgren said.

“They had that one drive...where we let them extend a drive on third-and-long where we missed a tackle, but for that and the long run to end it by that large quarterback...we played really, really well in the first half.


But the offense sputtered.  With a chance to take the lead, the Owls failed to produce, a first-down Wiley Green pass missing the mark, followed by two inconsequential plunges into the line.

An exchange of punts set up the Owls at the Razorback 41, though, after a Reid Bauer punt traveled only 25 yards before fizzling out of bounds.

Then followed the only sustained scoring drive the Owl offense could manage on the day, as Khalan Griffin broke through for seven yards on first down, followed by a 20-yard pitch-and-catch, Wiley to Jake Bailey setting up the Flock on the Pig 14.

From there, several Owls attempts at smash-mouth-into-the-line once again failed to produce results, although an obvious pass interference penalty set up the Flock at the Razorback two yard line.

From there, credit the offense for producing a couple of one-yard plunges that took them to the pay station, Jordan Myers going low to squiggle across and score from the Hog 1.

Rice’s 10-7 halftime lead quieted the Arkansas crowd of close to 65,000, and halftime expectations ran high among the diminutive group of Owl fans tucked away in a far corner of the stadium, looking right into the sun.

With halftime lead, Owls seemed in position to win

Those expectations were heightened after the Owls took the second-half kickoff, when Wiley Green completed consecutive passes to Jack Bradley and Jaeger Bull, setting up the Institute Boys at Arkansas 40.

But from there, the offense regressed to the mean. Two line plunges on first and second down yielded what....all together now...”third...and.....long”, and a pressured Wiley Green missed a covered August Pitre on the third down try.

On the Hogs’ first series of downs after receiving Charlie Mendez’ shanked 17-yard punt, they set up camp on their own 47. Again, the Owl defense rose to the occasion, Kenneth Orji, Treshawn Chamberlain and Ikenna Enechukwu combing to make stops yielding a fourth-and-two.

The SEC contingent decided to exert domination by going for the first down, but Trey Schuman chased down Hog QB, Jefferson short of the line to gain.

Now next came the kind of offensive audacity Owl fans have been waiting for, as Wiley Green quick-dropped and found a wide, and we mean WIDE open August Pitre at the 10 yard line, from where he waltzed into the end zone to give the Owls a 17-7 lead. Fourty-four yards in one play. Now that’s what ah’m talkin’ about!

The stadium crowd went silent at that point, sensing a beat-down.

Nevertheless, the locals’ hopes were uplifted when Arkansas’ Ladarius Bishop returned the Rice kickoff for 42 yards to the Hog 43. From there, the Razorbacks methodically rolled to a 57-yard, six-play scoring drive, K. J. Jefferson doing the honors on his feet from five yards out.

The Owls needed to answer. And they almost did, this time under the leadership of Luke McCaffrey. The Nebraska/Louisville transfer came in and threw three straight lasers to August Pitre, Robert French and Jake Bailey which covered 50 yards in all.

Moments later, facing third and six from the Arkansas 23, McCaffrey scrambled toward the sideline where he was stopped just short of the first-down line.

Intellectural Brutality strikes again

Fourth and one. Time for a little Intellectual Brutality, right?

When McCaf had to leave the game helmetless, Wiley came back in to handle the fourth-and-one call. The handoff went to Jordan Myers with the expectation that a narrow seam in the line scrum would enable a plunge for the firstt down, but Jordan was confronted by a solid wall of Hog defenders, whereas he bounced back and headed for the first-down sideline marker, but not quite getting there.

Was that the play that turned Owl fortunes to pig slop? You tell us.

As it was, the Hogs were able to bounce right back, marching 65 yards in response, settling for a 34-yard Cam Little field goal which knotted the score at 17.

That was it for the third quarter, with the Owls to receive the return kickoff and maybe return tit for tat.

It was then when the wheels fell off.

Suffice it to say that when your quarterback tosses three interceptions in a crucial fourth quarter, the first being without fault but the second two going awry without a great deal of pressure, but in must-throw situations....anyway, when that happens, guess what? You’re going to lose the ball game.

And lose the game the Owls indeed did, as the Hog Hatters refused to take foot off the accelerator in surging to three fourth-quarter touchdowns to win 38-17, the last of them with under a minute left toplay.

Respect your opponent, take a knee? Not here in Hog land, where the locak folks are unfailingly friendly and polite, but the football coach schemes like he’s got money on the game.

It's more a matter of concern over future games than an excuse for this Arkansas loss, but the Owls had a whole number of players needing help getting off the field on Saturday. 

Foremost among them were standout receivers Bradley Rozner, who left early in the game and returned to the sideline with a stabilizer on his leg, and August Pitre, who left late in the game but did not appear to be so severely affected.

“We had some guys cramp up, we had some injuries and we weren’t able to stand toe-to-toe with them for 60 minutes like we wanted to,” Coach Bloom said.

"We were exactly where we wanted to be, had our chances and didn’t get it done,” he added. “It is as simple as that."

--PTH