Oct. 7, 2012
After shutting out Memphis through the first 30 minutes, the Rice Owls found the tables turned in the second half, as the Tigers blank the Owls while finding the end zone twice to claim a 14-10 victory at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday night.
The Owls hit the midpoint of the game with a 10-0 lead, thanks to 12-yard return of a fumble by Phillip Gaines on Memphis' first play from scrimmaged and a strong defensive effort that limited the Tigers to just 97 yards in the first two quarters. But poor field position and costly penalties in the third quarter led to a pair of Memphis touchdowns while the Tigers defense stymied the Owls in the second half.
"The opening play of the game, we created a turnover and scored a touchdown, then go up 10-0, then manage to not score a point the rest of the game," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "First off, we had a lot of stupid, selfish penalties, you can't have those. We talk to the team all of the time about being the hardest-working and smartest team, we did not play smart; it led to a lot of penalties and some turnovers. This is a game that obviously will hurt, this is a game we had great opportunities to win, but we didn't seize the moment."
The Owls force four punts and a pair of turnovers in the first half and opened the second half by forcing the Tigers' fifth punt of the night, but Dennis Parks fumbled the attempt at a fair catch and the Tigers had the ball at the Rice 27. While the Owls defense responded and forced another punt, the field position battle shifted further in favor of Memphis, after the punt was downed at the Rice one yard line.
Memphis forced a Rice punt and then embarked on a seven play, 44 yard drive to reach the end zone for the first time. The Tigers then attempted to surprise the Owls with an onside kick attempt, but Andre Gautreaux foiled the attempt to set Rice up at the Memphis 39.
But the Tigers allowed just three yards on three plays, and Chris Boswell's 53-yard field goal was short of the mark. Memphis took over at its 36 and marched 64 yards in eight plays to take the lead.
The Owls were held to only two first down in the second half and could never mount a serious scoring threat over their last three possessions.
Quarterback Taylor McHargue, who missed the Houston game with an injury sustained late in the C-USA opener vs. Marshall, returned to the starting lineup and hit on 16 of 30 passes for 117 yards. Turner Petersen, who also missed the Houston game, led the Owls in rushing. Linebacker James Radcliffe, making his first career start, was credited with a career-high 12 tackles, including three for losses. Cody Bauer was credited with nine tackles, including three for losses and also recovered a fumble.
The 24 combined points in the game were the fewest in C-USA game for the Owls in their eight seasons in the league and the fewest in any game since they defeated Houston 10-7 in the opening game of the 2004 season.
The Owls will step out of conference action this week, hosting the UTSA Roadrunners at 2:30 next Saturday. The game will be the centerpiece of activities celebrating the culmination of the Rice Centennial. In addition, former Owl All America Tommy Kramer will be honored by the National Football Foundation with his on-campus salute for his pending induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.