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FAU 17, Rice 14


BOCA RATON, FL (Oct. 16) -- For one quarter of play here in Boca Saturday, a place on the map the locals refer to as “Paradise” without of hint of irony, the Rice Owls looked as if they had picked up where they’d left off a week ago in vanquishing league favorite UAB at home on South Main.

By the end of that first period, the Flock had surged to a 14-0 lead on two long scoring drives, while the Owl defense kept FAU's offense completely at bay.  It was starting out to look like one of those “name the score” games we so seldom get to see; this, against an upstart school those same locals derisively refer to as “Find Another University.”

But “So-So-Boca” turned out not to be less than so-so for our boys, as 15 minutes deep into the game, the offensive unit flamed out like a whole squadron of P-51 Mustangs plumb out of gas, failing to score another point the entire evening while the local contingent sleazed its way to 17 of them, just enough to take the win.

It was a loss that played out in a manner such as to negate whatever brief Era of Good Feeling the Flock’s erstwhile three home wins might’ve engendered.  Prior to this week’s result, some message board prognosticators went so far as to predict, without a touch of irony,  double-digit wins on the season, further kicking around those which might be the most desirable of several possible bowl destinations for this year’s team. Now, those same prognosticators are searching for three more possibly winnable games.

“I’m disappointed that we didn't perform a little better today,” Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren averred afterwards. “I’m disappointed we did some things to hurt ourselves. We have got to learn and grow from those things, and we will."

Boy, but the Owls were cooking on those two early scoring drives.  The first one went 90 yards in four plays, the last 78 of them coming from a TJ-to-Bradley Rozner pitch and catch down the middle where the Big Roz from Needville shrugged off his defender as he hauled in the pass 20 yards down the middle, and then hoofed untouched the rest of the way.  That was the longest Rice TD pass in eight years.  Looked good.

Next locals' possessoin, facing third and six from the FAU 40, Josh Pearcy roared in to sack FAU QB N’kosi Perry for a loss of ten.  Following a deep punt, the Owls set up once again, first and ten at their own 11 yards line.

From there, they breezed 89 yards in ten plays to go up 14-0.  The biggest gash on that series was another pitch and catch to Bradley Rozner for 29 yards to the FAU 12.  Four plays later, Ari Broussard lunged in from the three, and the Flock was up by two TDs with 3:21 still left in the first quarter.

For a recounting of the activities of the FAU offense which led to their 17-14 win, you’re welcome to resort to the game story links on page 1. We'll just cover some of the low spots on the Rice side. 

“I don’t think FAU did much to change,” Coach Bloom said postgame. “They played a rotation of coverages like they typically do. They maybe pressured a little less than we had expected from their past performances. They simplified things pretty well. I think they did a good job of being in a couple different coverages, very few pressures, and they played fast."

Three drive-killing interceptions spelled doom for the Rice offense. Two of those pickoffs took place in the FAU end zone, both in the fourth quarter. The Owls lacked one single scoring drive – for that matter just a field goal by the usually deadeye Van Sickle would have been enough to win the game – or at least take it to overtime.

Late in the game, Rice seemed to be on the edge of pulling it out when they had driven to a second and five from the FAU seven-yard line. But FAU safety Dwight Toombs deftly managed to hold Luke McCaffrey’s arm away from the ball when he was open in the end zone.  Naturally, Mister Magoo wasn’t paying attention, and instead of interference,  first and goal from the two, it was touchback, ball to FAU on the pick.

“All we had to do was get in field goal range to keep this game alive or score a touchdown and win it,” Coach Bloom lamented. “It wasn’t a big ask we were making of our offense. We just needed them to be efficient, put a drive together, and we would have had some really good chances to have a different outcome.”

“Unfortunately, as we were trying to get ourselves going and I think TJ was trying to get ourselves going as well, some of those throws maybe would have been better served moving the sticks and helping us in that way,” Coach Bloom added. “We’re all still growing and (TJ)  is too. I think it was his fifth start ever in college football and we’re going to support him, we’re going to support our offense. We lose these things together and we win them together.” 

Aside from the resolute coach-speak, this contest wound up being one hell of a sorry loss.  If Rice winds up 5-and-7 at the end of the season (wanna take bets on it?) this one will hurt all the more.