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UNC-Charlotte 56, Rice 23

Josh Pearcy, Ikennah Enechukwu team for gang tackle; needed more of these (PTH photo)

HOUSTON (Oct 30) –In hindsight, we all should’ve seen this one coming.

Admit it. Discussions this past week among many of the faithful turned to holding off holiday plans because somewhere, some time, we just knew our boys would be bowling.  Talking about whether we’d cover a 16 point spread the upcoming Saturday. Maybe even win a bunch of games this year.

Surely it oughta be a written maxim in college football:  if you play a team the Saturday after their coach has been fired in midseason, you’d damn well better be ready.  If it’s not, write it down.

These Rice Owls: stars, bench warmers, coaches, students, fans, managers, ticket takers – even the couple of fat gray-haired old alums who take pictures on the sideline – none were ready  for the onslaught presented by a prepared, motivated, and not untalented UNC-Charlotte team here Saturday.

Now the fat, gray-haired old alums and the ticket-takers don't get paid a million dollars a year to do their jobs on fall Saturdays.  Someone else does.

But it’s easy enough to place all the blame and all the responsibility for this one miserable loss on the head coach.  In truth, letdowns like this one are inevitable except among the very tip-top of professional echelons of college football--and even there.  For case in point for fail thereof, look 90 miles north to College Station.

Issues with Rice sports administration and coaching competence are extant.  But they always are, aren’t they? They always have been, in our lifetimes – even the more venerable among us.

Then there is that problem staring those admins and coaches square in the face:  next year in the AAC, the level of competition goes up a notch.  If Rice doesn’t up its game in every men’s sport, the university risks becoming a laughingstock among those who pay attention to such things, at a time when such failure may once and for all result in collapse of Rice as even a fringe player in big-time college sports.

So this, in the final analysis, is what we are playing for, and what we are competing against.

Six-and-six was a crucial and attainable gridiron goal for Rice this season, and it appeared well in sight a couple of weeks ago, but now it’s over a precipice.  The UTEP game Thursday now becomes a “must win” contest, and then there needs to be one more win to bookend it.

It’s not likely, but it's feasible.  One must press on, shrug off this debacle, and find a way.  Forget the finger-pointing.