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UNT 30, Rice 24 (OT)

HOUSTON (Oct. 31) – As appears to be so often the case, a stirring Rice upset over a relatively vaunted opponent once again was followed by an outcome inclined to send even the most loyal supporters heading for the stadium exits and zipping up their pocketbooks.

This time, our Institute boys followed last week's stirring win over UAB with a Homecoming loss against a 1-6 North Texas team that is likely not to see daylight the rest of the season.

While there was no lack of effort on part of the Blue and Gray in this game – the Owls four times fell behind, and four times came back to tie the score – the overall outcome exhibited the same fruitless  tendencies that Mike Bloomgren-coached teams have demonstrated consistently since Day One of his coaching tenure.

The offensive effort perhaps reached a new low in predictability, telegraphing almost every play on the ground, and requiring virtually every completed pass to be the result of the quarterback’s ability to run for his life.

Indeed, starting quarterback Wiley Green, who was named league offensive player of the week for his efforts at UAB, was successful in escaping with life and limb only for half a quarter, as on an early offensive possession, he sustained a broken tibia and dislocated ankle when sacked by some UNT studenathalete whose name doesn’t deserve mentioning.

The scene for that injury was set by a needless penalty. In this case,Wiley had led the Flock to a third and one in UNT territory with a fair degree of crisp generalship.

But a Rice offensive lineman jumped the snap and the third and one became a third and six. Since Rice averaged barely over 2 yards per rush for the game, that obvious running situation thus had become an obvious passing situation. Even the UNT brainiacs were able to figure that one out.

“Our inability to effectively run the ball and to stop the run -- two things that we think are trademarks of our program,” Rice head man Mike Bloomgren lamented, “when we can’t do those two things it’s going to be hard for the Rice Owls to win.”

In all, Rice incurred 15 penalties for 114 yards to the negative – the worst penalty stat shown by the Owls since well before the Bloomgren era begain. At the same time, North Texas was equally undisciplined, being flagged for seven penalties for 74 yards including a season high in unsportsmanlike conduct calls – all the more reason why Rice should have rambled over this bunch by at least two or three touchdowns. But that didn’t happen.

What did happen was  instructive. This game was not a case of “everything that could possibly have gone wrong, did.” The succession of failures was self-inflicted, beginning with a first half performance that produced all of three points, despite Rice's lone scoring drive which found the Owls running 19 plays in the possession, 13 of them from s inside the UNT 20-yard line.

Two North Texas unsportsmanlike penalties and a pass interference call set up that, er, unusual sequence. The result: after Rice ate up 12 minutes of second-quarter clock ending up 30-yard Chris Van Sickle field goal to tie the game at 3.

The Owl defense in fact had held the Mean Green to that mere three points in the first 28 minutes of the half, but in the final moments , UNT followed the Owls’ 12-minute possession with a literal two-minute drive that resulted in a 10-3 halftime lead for the Eagles

Midway in the third quarter, Rice QB Jake Constantine was able to shake off the rust and start up with a series of offensive possessions that brought the Flock yards in the air, and points, but nonetheless failed to produce a win, despite Jake’s heroics.

The Owls were able to tie the game at 10 midway in the third quarter having taking advantage of a short field, moving 38 yards in seven plays with Jordan Myers taking it over from the one.

Don’t get the wrong impression though – the Rice running game was probably as un-intellectual and un-brutal as one might imagine. All of Rice’s offensive success in the second half came as a result of Jake Constantine’s passing heroics, combined with the sticky hands of a trio of Owl receivers.

“The plays he made to Jake Bailey and plays he made with his feet, he gave us a chance,” Coach Bloom said. “That’s who that kid’s been since he’s been here. You know, he’s been a wild horse rider in finding a way to make plays.”

More than once Jake converted on fourth-down situations after having to run for his life to get outside, find a receiver along the sideline and throw a strike.

“Aw, I’ve been messing around, making those plays since I was a little kid,” the bronc buster quipped afterwards.

For that matter, give credit where it’s due: the Owls were successful in four out of four fourth-down attempts, after having gone five-for-five last week.

Jake Bailey, running back Jordan Myers and Cedric Patterson III accounted for 262 receiving yards out of the Owls’ 368 yards of total offense.

After UNT retook the lead at 17-10, the Owls moved 75 yards in 14 plays, a lot of then one- and two-yard runs. Jake Bailey hauled in a Constantine pass from 17 yards out with 11:50 left in regulation.

But when UNT came back to take a 24-17 lead with two minutes left in the game, it looked to be curtains for the Owls when the ensuing kickoff set them up at their own 11 yard line.

But ol’ Jake brought the Flock back again one more time, surging all 89 yards through the air, and finally connecting with Sir Cedric from 12 yards out. Overtime!

Ought to be a home-field advantage involved with that. But for the Owls, not with that sordid kicking game; not with the predictable, telegraphing offensive set.

During the overtime session, the Owls went on offense first. Their effort paced them to minus-four yards in three plays, followed by a missed 46-yard VanSickle field-goal attempt that had the leg but was blown leftward by the crosswind.

With the Flock failing to score, it seemed academic that UNT would march goalward, and they did go, grinding it out on the ground, Adeyi Ayo taking it over from the one for the win.

Of the heroic/then non-heroic game denouement, Coach Bloom said, “I thought the defense finding a way to get a stop at the end and the offense finding a way to take the ball down and send the game in overtime, that’s winning football.”

“Now what we did in overtime is not.”