The Rice Owls saw their hopes for a memorable debut on an international stage end early as the 14th ranked Stanford Cardinal rolled to a 62-7 win in the second annual Sydney Cup at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia.
Junior running back Samuel Stewart led the Owls with 71 yards rushing and added a career-high 41 yards on three receptions while senior co-captain Emmanuel Ellerbee recorded his eighth double digit tackle game in his last 12 games to lead the Owls.
"We're a good team, but we didn't play like it today," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "It's one of those things that as a coach you will go back and look at the film and analyze it and try to see what we can do better, what we can do different and what we need to get away from."
Playing on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the Southern Hemisphere while friends and family endured a turbulent Saturday night in Houston as the remnants of Hurricane Harvey unleashed torrential rains and tornados, the Owls saw their hopes for a quick start quashed as the Cardinal struck for a score in the first minute of the game.
Rice was unable to answer that initial score after they were pinned inside their own 10-yard line after a short return of the kickoff and a pair of penalties eventually setting up the Cardinal on a short field, which they quickly converted to double their advantage.
"When you play a team like Stanford, or any elite football team, you have to be the best team," Bailiff noted. "You can't make mistakes -- where you have two illegal procedure penalties that get you down in the hole immediately. We made some poor decisions early that got us in a hole."
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann completed seven of 18 passes for 69 yards in his collegiate debut and led the Owls on their lone scoring drive of the night early in the fourth quarter, which was capped by a 23-yard run by junior Austin Walter for the Owls first points outside the United States. Glaesmann's lone interception came on his final play of the day when the ball slipped from his hand into those of Stanford's Jovan Swann.
"I was pleased with how our young quarterback played," Bailiff said. "The ball came out of his hand, and we've got to get that fixed, but I thought from managing the game he was good at his play. A lot of the things that went wrong were because of the things that were around him."
Glaesmann was one of five Owls to make their first career
starts, joining Emmanuel
Esukpa, D.J. Green, Jordan
Myers and Kenneth
Thompson and one of nine players to make their collegiate debuts in the
opener (Glaesmann, Myers, Aaron
Cephus, Garrett Grammar, Cameron
Trammell). Trammell, who joined Grammar, Montgomery and Nyakwol in debuting
as true freshmen, picked up 10 yards on his first career carry.
While he acknowledged that the specter of the ongoing developments at home were never far from the minds of his players and staff, Bailiff also refused to use it as a major factor in the outcome of the game.
"You try to tell them to let me worry about that (Hurricane Harvey) and let them just play football," Bailiff stated. "I think we did the best that we could with what is going on back home. We're not going to use that as an excuse."
The Owls are slated to depart on Monday morning (Sydney time), with the first leg of their trip taking them to Los Angeles. Their remaining travel plans will be determined once the team arrives in California. Rice does not play again until September 9 when they travel to El Paso to take on UTEP.
Despite the outcome of the game, Bailiff said the experiences of the past week will be one his team and staff will long remember.
"What an incredible experience for our football team," Bailiff said. "The Australian people are a one-of-a-kind people. They are very friendly, humble, outgoing, and anything we needed, they helped us out. I appreciate the hospitality of the Australian people a lot.
"The game obviously isn't a great memory, but the tour of the harbor, some of the sites and sounds and the cultural exchange with the University of Sydney is one that these guys, 10, 20 30 years from now will always reflect back to."