Oct. 24, 2009
Final Stats |
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
Rice coach David Bailiff had every reason to worry over the UCF defensive front, a unit spearheaded by fabulous junior end Bruce Miller.
Last weekend against in-state rival Miami the Knights produced six sacks of Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris, and given the Owls' injury concerns with their offensive line, Rice quarterback Nick Fanuzzi was set to spend Saturday looking for receivers and dodging defenders.
Victimized by yet another injury up front, this one to left tackle Kody Emmert, the Owls struggled providing Fanuzzi with protection and fell 49-7 at Historic Rice Stadium in an intersectional Conference USA game.
Fanuzzi and his backup, fifth-year senior John Thomas Shepherd, were dropped five times as UCF (4-3, 2-2 C-USA) delivered a relentless pass rush. The Owls (0-8, 0-4 C-USA) moved the chains three times on a promising opening drive, but the Knights quickly got their defense in gear and Rice mustered only two additional first downs in the first half.
"Obviously we weren't ready to play. It's like we're stuck in a circle, and somehow we've got to get out of it," Bailiff said. "I'm glad open week is here when it is; it's going to let me evaluate everything from the top to the bottom of this program. Evaluate everything we're doing, evaluate personnel, from me to everything in this program."
The Knights needed just 13 minutes to take a three-touchdown lead. Knights receiver A.J. Guyton converted a 76-yard catch-and-run into a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, and after the Owls bogged down at the UFC 42 to close their first possession, UCF responded with a 14-play, 87-yard drive that burned 6:33 off the clock. Knights quarterback Brett Hodges capped that march with a one-yard scoring plunge, and after the Owls ended their ensuing drive with a five-yard punt, UCF tailback Ronnie Weaver scored on the next snap on a 27-yard run that upped the UCF lead to 21-0 at the 2:02 mark of the first quarter.
"We just keep putting ourselves in those holes early," Owls safety Travis Bradshaw
said. "We've got to, first, learn to not put ourselves in that hole, and if we're in it be able to come back out of it. We've struggled with that definitely this year. We've just got to keep everybody focused."
Rice held the Knights without a first down over the three possessions following the Weaver touchdown run, but UCF covered 89 yards in six plays just before the intermission, with Kamar Aiken nabbing a 36-yard pass from Guyton before backing into the end zone for a 28-0 lead with 1:55 remaining in the half. The Owls forced UCF to punt on its opening possession of the second half, but John Robinson picked off a Fanuzzi pass intended for Toren Dixon and returned it 24 yards for a touchdown and a 35-0 lead with 7:32 left in the third quarter. The Owls snuffed the Knights' shutout bid with Charles Ross' one-yard run with 11:03 to play.
The Owls matched their season high of nine penalties and were guilty of seven fumbles, three of which UCF recovered. The Owls committed four turnovers while forcing none. Ross paced the Owls with 63 rushing yards, including a 54-yard run that was the Owls' longest this season. Dixon totaled 54 receiving yards on six catches to tie Doug Cunningham (1975-78) for fifth on the Rice career receiving yardage list with 1,522.
Bradshaw led the Owls with a dozen tackles, matching his career single-game high. He has eight double-digit tackle performances in 14 starts.
Rice will not play next week and will resume its season Nov. 7 at SMU.