The Rice Owls have played six football games at Reliant Stadium. They've won three of those games, including the Texas Bowl two years ago. But of the three games the Owls have lost, two of them have been to this week's opponent, the Texas Longhorns. And those losses to the Longhorns have all been by an embarrassing score.
But that doesn't matter to Rice Owls head coach David Bailiff ,who is entering his fourth season in charge of the Owls.
"I wish it was tomorrow," Bailiff said at Monday's press gathering at Rice Stadium. "We're ready to go. We're ready to play. The only bad news that we've had is Scott Solomon. He broke his fifth metatarsal, and he'll be out six to eight weeks, probably, if not longer. Other than that, we've got great chemistry, a positive attitude. The players are ready to go."
That bad news to Solomon is rather major news, however, as Solomon was the anchor to Rice's defensive line. And while Bailiff and his players claim that this Owls team has not only depth, but quality depth, with the setback one can't help but wonder if this is just the first step
toward a repeat of the Owls' injury-ridden 2-10 2009 season.
"2009 is over with," claims Rice defensive end Cheta Ozougwu. "We're looking forward to 2010. We're going to learn from that and move on."
But learning and moving on while playing Conference USA competition is one thing. Learning and moving on while playing the Texas Longhorns, ranked number four in the coaches preseason poll, is a rather daunting prospect. A daunting prospect which the Owls are eagerly awaiting.
"We're really excited about this upcoming game this weekend," receiver Pierre Beasley said. "We've been waiting for this since November. That was the last time we stepped off the field. We had a not so good taste in our mouths, so we're really anxious to just suit up this Saturday and take on the Horns."
Bailiff and the players claim that last season has made this Owl team stronger. It's left a chip on their shoulders that has made them work harder while they've also gotten bigger, quicker, and stronger. And bigger, quicker, stronger is all part of Bailiff's vision for the Rice Owl program. It's a vision that sees the Owls competing yearly in Conference USA (for as long as it should last, then whatever follows) and playing in a bowl game.
But what neither Bailiff nor his staff is doing at the moment is announcing his starting quarterback. He's got three candidates for the job, including Nick Fanuzzi, who finished last season as the starter for the Owls.
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SHOW ME HOW
"I think we have really three great quarterbacks," Bailiff says. "Each of them has really a different skill set. They know what we're doing. And we're going to go down to game time before we'll announce a starter. They know what we're doing. We know what we're doing."
Bailiff's not letting Texas intimidate him or his players. He just wants to get out there on that field and play some football. And come Saturda, at 2:30 p.m. on ESPN and before a stadium packed with bandwagon Longhorn fans, the Owls are going to get that they've been waiting for to play some football.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:
This will be the 99th season of Rice Owls football. The Owls' overall record is 428-548-32 in those 98 seasons....This is also the 91st time that the Owls and Longhorns have met, and Texas holds a 69-21-1 overall lead in the series, including a 28-13-1 mark for games played in Houston....The Horns, meanwhile, are 97-17-3 in season opening games, including a
record of 11-1 under Mack Brown, and they have won 38 of the last 39 games against Rice....
In non-football news, Rice third baseman and future MLB number one draft choice, Anthony Rendon, who had six screws inserted into his fibula after injuring his ankle while playing
for Team USA, is out of his cast and walking around. He's wearing a boot on the foot, and he is well on his way to a full recovery. He may not be ready to play by the start of the college baseball season in February, but he should be back in the lineup by the time C-USA play
gets started, if not sooner.