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It is Monday, and by now David Bailiff is ready to move on. He and his staff have reviewed the film from the Owls' 28-20 victory over Tulane and are shifting their full attention to defeating UTEP this Saturday at HRS. The Miners, given their history of woeful road efforts and tradition of inefficient performances, most certainly can be had. Bailiff is mindful of that fact, so he has already initiated the process of preparing the Owls for their second victory of this season.

However, in this instance, lingering is acceptable. In fact, it should be mandatory. And just because Bailiff is ready to move forward doesn't mean everyone else should be as hasty. Bailiff has his moments of coachspeak and sometimes it is difficult to draw a genuine comment from his postgame pressers, but his lauding the Owls for their practice habits in the midst of what was a winless season resonated. This team didn't quit when Joe Webb embarrassed them. They didn't falter when injuries started to mount. They didn't relent when their faint hopes for a postseason bowl were extinguished, and they didn't roll over when C-USA West leader SMU stole what should have been the Owls' first victory of this season. Instead, the Owls showed up for work last Monday as enthusiastic and energetic as ever. Their attitude is deserving of extended applause, even more so than their win over Tulane.

For some, a win over the hapless Green Wave was never in doubt. There have been coaching blunders this season to be sure, both in preparation and execution, but the chances are good that the Owls would have at least three triumphs had their youthful roster not been ravaged by injuries to Nick Fanuzzi, Jake Hicks, Tyler Smith, etc. Given the way the Owls played defensively against Vanderbilt and Tulsa, a full stock of offensive weapons might have produced victories in both contests. That interpretation of the events yielded confidence in the outcome of Rice-Tulane even prior to kickoff, although it is understandable that several others might have required a few signs of divine intervention to get on board with that sort of thinking.

The clearest sign came when Tulane scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and then muffed the ensuing PAT that would have tied the game. That miscue was akin to a ray of sunlight breaking through a sky crowded with ominous clouds, and it signified impending victory. Sure the brilliant execution by Fanuzzi and Toren Dixon later that period sealed the deal, but that final score was gratuitous, an opportunity for both quarterback and receiver to pad their stats and head coach to proudly display his testicular fortitude. Given the way the defense had played for most of the afternoon, there was no way Tulane would walk down the field and post the winning score. Not on that afternoon, and not against that inspired squad.

"It was just meant to be," Owls sophomore safety Travis Bradshaw said. "After last week being so close, everybody had the attitude that (a victory) was going to happen. And it happened."

Props to Coach Z for committing to running the football and refusing to deviate, because that stubborn approach produced gaps in the secondary that Fanuzzi exploited. Kudos to Chuck Driesbach and Craig Naivar for keeping the defense mentally fit after Tulane posted two touchdowns in the first quarter, for that resilience enabled the offense to get up off the mat. And Bailiff deserves a hearty pat on the back for ceaselessly clapping his hands and exhorting his troops despite the building temptation to jut his hands to the heavens and curse his fate.

"I have to give credit to Rice. I am happy for David Bailiff; he's a good man and a good coach," Tulane coach Bob Toledo said. "To be zero and nine and to come back like this (down 14-0), he did a nice job getting his team ready to play, and it's a real credit to David and his staff."

And while dishing out plaudits, how about a few for Ben Braun, whose shrewd manipulation of the Rice Basketball Challenge schedule produced the desired result? The inexperienced Owls got their feet wet while dismissing outclassed Sacramento State on Friday, showed true grit in outlasting South Alabama on Saturday, and survived mental and physical fatigue while overcoming HBU on Sunday afternoon. Veterans Connor Frizzelle and Suleiman Braimoh spoke afterward about how the wins bolstered the Owls' confidence, which is exactly what Braun had in mind when he constructed the tournament schedule in the fashion that he did.

Three wins do not a season make, but three wins can certainly shape opinions - both internally and externally. Few outside of Tudor Fieldhouse are expecting the Owls to give Arizona a game in Tuscon on Thursday, but what was evident in the Owls' eyes following their resoundingly successful weekend was a belief in themselves and their coaching staff. It's one thing when coaches preach particular tenets of winning programs; it's something different when players skillfully apply those principles in games and watch triumph come to fruition. The Owls will face hardship in the future, and their reliance on freshmen and sophomores will produce bumps in the road. But believing is the first step in achieving, and after vanquishing three opponents in just under 50 hours, the Owls are starting to believe in their approach.

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MK -

Hey - nice write-up as always, but ...

I for one do think that the Owls can (and will) be competitive in Tucson Thursday night. Outside of Nic Wise and Jamelle Horne, Arizona is a pretty young (but admittedly talented) team still breaking in a new coach.

November should be the best time to play them. And - it should be a great test/measuring stick for Tamir (and Connor) matching up with Wise.

Looking forward to it.

MK -- Will you be going to Arizona to cover the game? Can't wait!

Karrie: No. I will be listening along with everyone else. - MK

Good job by the players and staff in the Tulane game. If they can beat UTEP and be competitive against UofH, then they will be building some excitement for next year.

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