Oct. 13, 2012
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On a day awash in tradition and commemoration, the Rice Owls extended their Homecoming winning streak and regained their footing after a frustrating three-week run, using a dominating performance along the line of scrimamge to down the UTSA Roadrunners 34-14 on Saturday afternoon at Rice Stadium.
"How nice was that?" Rice head coach David Bailiff asked. "All we had going on this weekend was a football game, a 100-year birthday party, Tommy Kramer coming in with the College Football Hall of Fame, and Homecoming. If you could pick one you definitely wanted to win, it would be that one."
Rice University concluded a year-long celebration of its Centennial on Saturday with the Homecoming football game serving as one of the final events. At the same time, Rice and the National Football Foundation honored former Owl All America Tommy Kramer with his on-campus salute, a prelude to his official induction into the College Football Hall of Fame in December.
Wearing throwback uniforms to honor some of the Owls' greatest teams of the past, the current edition of the Owls used a dominating performance by both lines to earn their eighth consecutive Homecoming victory and end a four-game losing streak. They also rebounded from a rugged four week stretch, something that Bailiff could see coming from the start of last week.
"We had a great week of preparation," Bailiff noted. "When the team came over on Monday, they had a chip on their shoulder because they know we could have easily won the one the last week too. They came over to practice with a great attitude. You have a decision to make when you're in this shape and you can go either way. This bunch has never quit and they don't have quit in them.
After a pair of Chris Boswell field goals in the first quarter, the Owls dipped into their bag of tricks to score their first offensive touchdown in the last six quarters. True freshman running back Luke Turner, who was a quarterback at Gilmer High School one year ago, threaded a pass to Donte Moore that resulted in a 38-yard scoring play.
UTSA mounted responding drive of its own, moving to the Rice one on second and goal. But a mishandled handoff resulted in a two-yard loss and James Radcliffe forced an incompletion on third down to hold the Roadrunners to a field goal.
Holding just a 13-3 lead after the first 30 minutes, the Owls turned to their youthful offensive line to open the second half. The line, which opened the year as one of the least experienced in college football and was playing Ian Gray making his first career start at right tackle in place of an injured Caleb Williams, led the Owls on a 12 play, 75 yard drive entirely on the ground to extend the margin to 20-3.
"We told them (the offensive line) we didn't want to have to throw a pass on the first drive," Bailiff said. "We expected the offensive line to take the game over. To have 12-straight running plays that led to a touchdown was good to see. Those men came together to dominate the line."
After a three-and-out by the defense, Taylor McHargue revisited a section of the playbook that had been off limits in his initial return from a shoulder injury at the end of the Marshall game, dashing down field and directing blocks by Vance McDonald and Donte Moore for a 44-yard touchdown to give the Owls additional breathing room.
After UTSA scored 11 points to cut the margin to 27-14, McHargue answered back with an 11-play, 72 yard march, ending it with a three-yard keeper on an option play.
McHargue finished the day with 212 yards of total offense, throwing for 144 and rushing for 68. The Owls rushing attack was fueled early by junior Charles Ross, who ran for a career-high 117 yards and later by Turner Petersen and true freshman Brandon Hamilton who added 53 yards each.
Defensively, Rice held an opponent out of the end zone for the second consecutive week and held a UTSA rushing attack that came in averaging nearly five yards per carry to just 3.7 on 26 attempts. They also recorded the first sack of the year against Roadrunner quarterback Eric Souza. The Owls offense effectively gave them the fourth quarter off, holding the ball for 12:17 of the final quarter.
The Owls closed out their 2012 non-conference schedule with a 2-2 mark, their best since they were 2-2 in 2008. They return to Conference USA action next Saturday with a road game at Tulsa. Kickoff is set for 2:30 and will be broadcast on FSN.
Bailiff said the Owls know the challenges that remain, but cautioned against looking too far forward.
"Every week we try to be 1-0. One thing this football team knows is that we've won two. We could have easily won four. We're not a bad team; the record's never indicated what our true football team is. Our team knows that; they're smart young men and they know if we keep playing the way we did today, we'll get some wins. And I can tell you we're not talking about bowls, we're talking about winning the next week. It's like climbing a mountain: if you look all the way to the top, you might fall off. We are keeping our eyes right in front, and that's it. "