trfwbanner (2).jpg (26347 bytes)Rice-University of Houston game page
Front Page

Rice Forum
CUSA Forum

CUSA site
Rice roster
Last Update
Email us



Houston 34, Rice 27

Ball is jarred loose from Coog receiver by Tre'shawn Chamberlain...

...whereupon the ball caroms neatly into the hands of Myron Morrison, who definitely was in the right place at the right time (David Speed Elder photos)

HOUSTON (Sept. 25) – Say what you will, Rice’s overall performance against the University of Houston Saturday was a different animal from what Owl fans have been used to seeing the last four years.

There was an intensity, a will to win, a refusal to accept defeat – and yessir, the apparent death  of that pound-the-rock philosophy – things that, one may expect, presented an entirely new ethos despite the Flock’s excruciating loss.

Take the Owls’ game-ending possession, for example.  Protecting a pilfered 34-27 lead, the Cougars punted out to the Rice six yard line.  Twenty-four seconds remained on the scoreboard clock. At that point, the game was over.  Coog fans jubilantly began to file out of their seats.  ESPN’s IPhone app popped up a final score. But Rice quarterback TJ McMahon wasn’t through yet.

First , he drilled a 19-yard sideline route to Bradley Rozner.  Next, across the middle to Isaiah Esdale for 15 more. Now nine seconds remained on the clock, and TJ heaved the ball as far as he could toward the far pylon, miraculously pulled down again and out of bounds by Rozner at the UH 9, with one second remaining.  It all happened so quickly that few on the field or in the stands had time to digest what was going on.

Time for one more shot in the end zone.  It went to Luke McCaffrey, but a Coog defender managed to tip the ball away.  Game over.

Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren let it be known that if the Owls had scored, they’d have gone for two to try to take the game.

“The way these kids fought and the way these kids stuck together when things were getting tough out there — gotta love it,”  an obviously disappointed but nonetheless energized Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren said postgame. “We’re gonna find a way to win these kinds of games.”

It was a game in which the lead changed hands six times – but more minutes than not, the Owls were in front. Houston scored first, but the Owls surged back with two long touchdown drives to take a 14-10 into the halftime locker room.

The Owls’ first tally was sparked by Myron Morrison’s interception of a Clayton Tune pass, short down the middle. TJ immediately connected  we Luke McCaffery for 15, and then Bradley Rozner for 30 more.

On first and goal at the two, Ari Broussard vaulted over the goal for the score, evening things up at 7.

The Rice defense completely snuffed the Coog offense on next possession,  shot down when Josh Pearch roared in to sack UH QB Tune for a loss of eight on third down.

It took the Owls five plays to travel the 63 yards necessary for them to go up 14-7 highlighted by Kobe Campbell’s 37-yard dash to the UH 7.  Two plays later, Broussard scored again, hauling in a quick slant in the end zone.

Houston had one more second quarter drive left in them, but it looked as if the Owls had it stopped when on third and 14 from the Houston 41, UH’s tune lofted an uncatchable ball over the home sideline, and Gabe Taylor had his defender well-covered to boot, but guys in the striped shirts whistled him for interference, and the 15 yard walkoff gave the Coogs new life in Rice territory.

Next play, UH’s Ta’Zhawn Henry threaded his way for 18 yards to put the Coogs in field goal range, and a couple of plays later, Bubba Baxa nailed a three-pointer from 37 yards out, resulting in the 14-10 halftime score. 

UH received the second-half kickoff and came out like a house afire. On first and ten at the Rice 40, Clayton Tune fired a looping pass aiming for the home-side pylon.  His receiver, Nathaniel Dell, skied for the catch, and came down with the ball with his foot firmly planted on the inside edge of the out-of-bounds line.  Ruled a catch and a touchdown, upon review “the play stands.”

So two minutes deep in the third period, the Owls found themselves behind for the first time since midway in the first quarter, 17-14.

That’s when the Rice offense came back more determined than ever.  TJ worked his team to near mid-field, mixing the pass and run.  Then on first and ten, he took a deep drop, looked downfield and saw Luke McCaffery behind his defender.  The ensuing pass was perfect (see page one photo), and Luke outraced a surprised Coog defender to the goal line.  Just like that, the Owls were back up, 21-17.

Alas, Houston responded just as forcefully, traveling 80 yards in eight plays on its next possession.  From the Rice 17, a UH holding penalty set them back to the where it was second and 29.  Figured that should’ve limited the Coogs to at most a field goal, right?

Nope. A lapse in Rice’s defensive midsection allows UH’s Ta’Zhawn Henry running room, and he zigged and zagged and juked all the way down to the Rice 4, carrying again for the remaining distance on the next down, and the Owls found themselves behind again, 24-21, with six minutes  remaining in the third quarter.

Taking the ensuing kickoff, the Owls cranked it up again.  A couple of key first-down-producing passes to MacCaffrey and Easdale advanced the pill. A blatant pass interference call against the Coogs helped matter along, and when the drive stalled at the UH 24,  Christian Van Sickle planted his 42-yard field goal attempt squarely between the uprights to tie the game again.

But the Owls wanted the lead back.  With UH facing a third and one at midfield, UH’s Tune tested the middle and was rebuffed by the Owls’ Chris Conti and Izeya Floyd.  So it was fourth and one for the Third Warders as the third quarter ended.

And naturally the decision by the UH offensive brain trust lay on the theory that surely, this  pantywaist Owl defensive front can’t pull that off two plays in a row.  Only they did. Scatback Ta’Zhawn Henry hadn’t been stopped cold all day, so he got the call.  And he was stopped cold, Owl defender Aidan Siano doing he honors.

With ample field position, it didn’t take the Flock long to maneuver into field goal range.  But on third and 9 at the Houston 19 TJ was dropped for a six-yard loss by Coog stalwart Trimarcus Cheeks.  So instead of six, the Owls settled for three to take the lead once again, with Van Sickle this time blasting a 43-yarder clean and true.  Rice 27, UH 24

“Everybody was juiced,” TJ said afterwards, commenting on his defense’s key sack. “Offense was so happy. Defense was so happy. We talk about our slogan ‘mudita,’ happiness for other people. Everybody was ecstatic for each other because they got us the ball back. Offense, it’s our job to get the ball and score, and the defense loves when we score because it makes their job easier.”

UH responded with a ponderous, 60-yard, 14 play drive that consumed eight minutes off the ticking scoreboard clock, eventually stalling out at the Rice 15.   You guessed it – another Bubba Baxa chip-shot field to knot the score once again.

The stage seemed set. Five minutes remained on the game clock.  The Owls had moved the ball consistently. Now perhaps it WAS time to pound the rock.  Just get in field goal range – Van Sickle had been deadeye all night.

As a countervailing defense tactic, the Coogies decided to blitz the student body each time TJ dropped back to pass.  The first time, he was hit and fumbled, the Owls’ Clay Servin covered up the pill.

Next play, undergoing another hard rush, TJs throwing arm distinctly moved forward.  The ball was not knocked away, but rather seemed as if shot by a canon, straight ahead but headed for the ground.

No whistle, apparently adjudged a live ball. So UH’s Ceasar Nelson picked  up the pigskin and trotted 11 yards the other way, into the Rice end zone.  Mr. Magoo in the white cap raised both arms high. Touchdown!  Touchdown?  Yup, UH 34, Rice 27, on what plainly appeared simply to be a forward pass that was broken up.

Still 3:34 left, enough time for the Owls to drive down the field and tie the score.  And they did move the ball.  Aided by a personal foul, from midfield, TJ connected with Luke McCaffrey for 17 yards and a first down. But testing the waters down the middle, next play, TJ’s pass was thrown a little behind, where it caromed off the hands of its intended receiver and right into the bread basket of UH’s Thabo Mwanwiki.

At that time only 2:08 remained in the game and it looked like curtains for the Owls.  All UH had to do was run off 90 seconds or so and then punt it away.  They did just that.  Then came the final 24 seconds which came just that far from making football history.

“They put a lot into this game,” Bloomgren said of his team. “When you sell out for something and it doesn’t go the way you want to, it hurts. The gap that we’ve closed or the fact that we were able to stand toe-to-toe with them and have a chance to tie or win the game... that’s pretty cool. I’m very proud of these guys.”