Workers at Reliant Stadium put the finishing touches on the Rice logo at midfield on Friday, and the countdown to the opening of the 2010 football season entered its final stage.
The Owls held a short practice at Rice Stadium, then made the short bus ride down Main Street as the veteran Owls re-acquainted themselves with the venue where they ended the 2008 season with a victory in the Texas Bowl. The younger Owls got their first look at the venue where, in a few hours, many will be making their college debuts.
Texas holds a 69-21-1 overall lead in the series, including a 28-13-1 mark in games played in Houston. Rice University's last win in the series came in front of a national-television audience on a rainy Sunday night in 1994 as the Owls held on for a 19-14 victory.
The win snapped a 28-game winning streak by the Horns which began the year after Rice's last victory in Austin, a 20-17 win in 1965. In the first 14 games of the series, the winning team posted a shutout 10 times (Texas 8, Rice 2), but since the Owls posted their last shutout of Texas (7-0 at Rice Stadium in 1960), there have only been two shutouts by the Longhorns, and none since a 34-0 Texas win at Rice Stadium in 1978.
With advance ticket sales topping 66,000 by late in the week, Saturday's game against Texas will be the largest, season-opening crowd for the Owls since they played in front of 94,379 on the road at Ohio State on Sept. 7, 1996.
The last time Rice opened a home season with a crowd larger than 64,000 was on Sept. 23, 1961, when 73,000 saw the Owls defeat LSU 16-3, the largest crowd to see the Owls open at home in their history.
Since the opening of Rice Stadium in 1950, Rice and Texas have played seven times in front of crowds of 70,000 or better, with the last coming in 1970. The largest crowd to see the two teams play came in 1962, when 73,000 packed Rice Stadium.
The last time the crowd count was announced as 65,000 or better was in 1972 when 65,000 were announced for the game.
Kickoff is set for 2:36 on Saturday, shortly after the Owls, along with honorary captains Earl Cooper, ND Kalu, Trevor Cobb and James Casey take part in the coin flip featuring Rice head baseball coach Wayne Graham and consensus player of the year Anthony Rendon.
A capacity crowd is expected for the game, while a national television audience will also tune in to ESPN's coverage. Ron Franklin and Ed Cunningham will call the action while Jeannie Edwards will cover the sidelines. Look for some feature angles regarding the Owls that Edwards has worked on over the past several days.