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Rice-Navy: Abandon Ship!!!

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Saturday was not about Andrew Sendejo, who despite blowing coverage on the Middies' first play from scrimmage, played valiantly in recording 17 tackles (including 15 of the solo variety). And it certainly wasn't about Nick Fanuzzi, who certainly wasn't sharp (20-for-33 for 242 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns) in his first game action in three weeks. This debacle against the Naval Academy was about David Bailiff and his staff, who did not have the Owls prepared to play against the Middies. This embarrassment falls squarely on their shoulders.

And, as is his custom, Bailiff attempted to fall on the sword in the aftermath of the Owls' 63-14 loss. But this time there could be no escaping with his patented 'players win games, coaches lose 'em' spiel. Knowing full well what the Middies planned to do, the Owls still surrendered 471 rushing yards, including 82 yards and three touchdowns to backup quarterback Kriss Proctor. How? Why? And what were the Owls doing in practice this week?

"It's not important how much I know or the coaches now, it's what we can get taught to the young men. And not just taught to where they know it, but how they execute it," Bailiff said. "We didn't do that, and got outplayed today.

"It's just learning how to defend that offense. This is a team that took Ohio State to the brink, it's a team that's been to six straight bowl games, it's a university we need to try to emulate where we're going to six straight bowl games."

I'd rather not revert to the option, thank you very much. In fact, given that Navy picks through the leavings of other programs, especially here in Texas, no one should ever have to witness what transpired at HRS. The Middies not only outplayed the Owls, they out-toughed and out-coached the Owls. That should not happen, especially in such dramatic fashion. Navy walked up and down the field, and the Owls appeared clueless on defense. And offensively it was the same ineptitude, even with The Nick at the controls. Something is systemically wrong when a team averaging 230.2 rushing yards per game after having played Ohio State and Pitt can more than double that total against a defense playing respectably of late. Very wrong.

"Every adjustment we made, everything we did didn't work," Bailiff said before stating he needed to look at the film to determine what went wrong right before his eyes an hour earlier. "We couldn't get off blocks (or) make plays. We've got to put them in situations where they can be successful.

"It was a matter of them operating at a game speed that we can't simulate in practice."

That statement sounds like a program-building problem. Bailiff has done a solid job recruiting in his three seasons on South Main, and it's going to take another year or two before this roster completely reflects his evaluation of talent. We all know that the Owls lack quality depth, and Bailiff seems well on his way to developing a talent pool that should serve Rice well.

However, one has to wonder when schematic advantages will unfold. When will the Owls take advantage of the individual brilliance of many of their players? When will the coordinators concoct game plans that are successful despite the lack of 6-3, 230-pound linebackers on the bench? Shouldn't we see more of Charles Ross, and not in option plays against option teams? Shouldn't we see Luke WIllson taking advantage of smallish linebackers and Derek Clark breaking free against undersized corners? When will this team look smarter than its foes?

It remains to be seen whether this staff is an X's and O's staff, or one known for recruiting and motivating. And, at this stage, it's easy to question whether last season's success had more to do with senior leadership, which looks more valuable at this point than ever before, than anything the coaches did in terms of game preparation and management. The Owls lost way too much in terms of leadership and production, but even those losses shouldn't yield this. No matter what Navy did at the Horseshoe, the Middies should not hang 63 points on the Owls.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Bailiff said. "We knew this was going to be a tough year. There are wins out there for us. The thing we've got to do is not fragment, keep working hard and work through this. History is full of guys that quit; we're not going to quit. I'm not going to tell you we've quit.

"We're trying to get a group of men that have not played a lot of games together and get them seasoned and ready fast, and it hasn't happened. And that falls on me."

Agreed.

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7 Comments

MK, I totally agree with you. This is completely on the staff. What did they do during that "extra time" they spent preparing? They never had the basic plays covered. Ever. One time, the pitchman would be wide open. The next, Dobbs could just walk down the field. Just terrible.

I am beginning to wonder the same way you are. Do the coaches have the schematic talent to take advantage of the talent we have? Hello, OC or DC, are you there? Do you know what you are doing? I'm sure not seeing it. Heck, Navy scored more points on us than Tech or Ok. State. And this was at our place. That just can't happen. What an embarrassment for this team. Really puts a dent in my faith in this staff in its present configuration. You can recruit all you want but if you can't do the Xs and Os, there are going to be problems.

That was almost entirely empty coachspeak.

Poor wording by Bailiff: "History is full of guys that quit; we're not going to quit. I'm not going to tell you we've quit."

Does that mean that they have quit but he's just not going to divulge it?...


I think the defense will do better the rest of the way facing more conventional offenses. But why is the offense (specifically the run game) still so horrid. Fanuzzi did fine considering, he is a big help to this offense, but the WRs, especially Mr. Dixon (he doesn't deserve TD right now) is really doing a poor job of leading that unit.

But the fact is that this team just collapsed after that blocked FG on the first drive. We've got to quit fouling up early opportunities to score and take momentum. It's killing us every week. Every Rice fan watching that game had the "oh no, here we go again" sentiment at that moment. Why would anyone think that sentiment isn't shared by the players? Sure, sure, you want your team to be mentally tougher than that, but come on, this is happening every week. At some point you have to capitalize and give your team the confidence that their hard work in their aspect (offense, defence, special teams) is going to pay off and mean something or else they are going to deflate when they see such a display of ineptitude.

One Word....UNACCEPTABLE

Nice piece, MK.

There's plenty of blame to go around. Players didn't make plays today. Passes were dropped. Other passes weren't contested allowing for easy INTs or near-INTs. Navy runners were in position to be dropped at the LOS, and our guys just missed them. Defenders looked like they were velcroed to Navy blockers, as feeble as their attempts to shed blocks and make plays were. Inexcusable.

I can excuse the defensive coaches to an extent. There's limited play-making ability there at key positions in this defense (LB, KAT), and weaknesses elsewhere on the line and the ability of the safeties to cover.

But the offensive coaches.. at this point, I've yet to see what Z was brought in for. He's supposedly a great QB developer-- yet all 3 QB's have looked unprepared essentially all season. His failure to focus on developing one is the focal point of this offense's struggles. There's no timing, no chemistry, and above all, no leadership. Entering the spring with the closest thing to leadership coming from a senior OL that never plays, and a 5th year QB that never should, developing a leader on the field should have been priority number one. It wasn't, and we're dealing with the results.

And this offense looks like it was installed by someone who has limited experience with it. Plays are excruciatingly slow to develop. The simplest option and screen plays still aren't executed. Misdirection is rare, and plays are often telegraphed (who didn't see the end around to Randolph coming?).

Your comments on personnel are spot on. I've already touched on the QB irrotation, but why do we keep moving away our bigger LBs to DE? Our LBs keep getting run over in holes and mowed over by blockers. We have some pretty athletic guys filling the depth chart at safety.. why do we continue to tolerate zero production at KAT?

Sigh, alright, it's out of the system. In the end, I'm happy with Bailiff. I expect the HC to recruit well, motivate well, and represent the university well. He's doing that. I'd just like to see him pursue more talent on his staff than experience.

I guess Ross was in the doghouse for something as after the botched snap I'm not sure he saw the field again.

After getting home I read the online chat dialogue and in it you said the blocked FG snap and hold were fine. From where we were sitting it appeared to us that the snap was a little high and it moved towards JT slightly. He seemed to bobble it slightly before getting it down late.

Going back to pre-season QB challenge it was obvious from Randolph's post game comments that it has had a major impact on the offense to date. He said he was tired of going 3 and out multiple times in a row. Jorge asked him about rhythm and he said not having a number one QB never allowed them to settle into a comfort zone. While I agree with that the receivers and Randolph personally fail to come back to the ball and it costs us pass breakups or like tonight an INT.

I am glad someone (Pat Randolph) was honest and forthcoming about what a disaster the coaches' handling of the QB situation was.

Sad to say, but the team on the field yesterday looked a lot like a team that had quit. Receivers were not blocking or going after balls that while poorly thrown were still up for grabs. The defense hardly seemed interested in wrapping up. That goal line play where almost every defender was lined up on the line and they still got pushed back emphatically was emblematic of the lack of fire. There were certainly exceptions, but the overall effort was of a team that couldn't wait to get off the field. Embarrassing.

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