The Rice Owls started last week saying they were capable of winning any of their remaining games. They ended the week by having their ass kicked 64-27 by the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. So the Owls might have said they could beat anybody, but the reality was far different than what they wanted.
The game started promisingly. The Rice defense actually forced the Tulsa offense to punt. And on their second offensive play, QB Nick Fanuzzi went deep to Patrick Randolph for 50 yards as the Owls stormed off to the early 7-0 lead. That moment, only minutes into the game, was the last time the Owls would be prove to be a competitive match for Tulsa.
It was 20-7 Tulsa after the first period, and 41-7 at the half. Tulsa let up a bit in the second half, scoring only 23 points while the Owls put up 20. But even then, it was all as if Tulsa felt a bit sorry for Rice and let them have a few points to make the trip to Houston feel a bit better.
Perhaps it was thought that Tulsa would have a letdown after an upset victory over Notre Dame the week before. But Tulsa so thoroughly dominated the Owls that the only letdown may have been the Golden Hurricane not reaching triple digits on the scoreboard.
Tulsa racked up 612 yards of total offense, including 439 yards through the air. They controlled the ball for nearly 35 minutes. They had very few miscues. But except for the bomb for the first touchdown, and the general play of Sam McGuffie who finally had that breakout game all Rice fans have been awaiting, the Owls were able to do nearly nothing.
The win moved Tulsa to 6-3 on the season, and made them bowl eligible. The loss made Rice 2-7 on the season. Not that there was much doubt, but with the loss, the Owls were officially eliminated from bowl contention, and with the loss, perhaps a bigger question arises: just how in the hell have the Owls been able to win two games this season?
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The truth is, looking back, the Owls haven't so much won two games this year as they haven't lost nine games. The Owls played a half of perfect football against the Cougars -- the best the Owls have played the entire season -- and needed a UH fumble on fourth and inches and as the clock was ticking down to get the win. And against North Texas -- a team so bad the coach has already been fired -- the Owls stormed off to a big lead only to give it up and have to pull off a comeback to get the win.
Of the Owls' three remaining games, two are winnable, starting with Tulane in New Orleans on Saturday. Tulane's 3-6 on the season, including 1-4 in conference. The Tulane offense is about as good as the Rice offense, which means the Green Wave have trouble scoring just like Rice has trouble scoring. But Tulane's defense is better than Rice. Still, it's a game Rice can win, as is Rice's season ending game against UAB. The Blazers are 3-6 on the season (2-3 in conference).
It's somewhat strange that the season has gone the way it has, because this Rice team, unlike lots of Rice teams in the past, has some talent. Yet the coaching staff has never been able to figure out the best way to use all of their offensive talent, especially McGuffie. But in the end, talent doesn't matter if it's not used correctly.
Ultimately, when it came to Saturday's game against Tulsa, talent might not have mattered anyway. The Golden Hurricane were able to do anything they wanted to do, when they wanted to do it, and it just seemed that there was nothing Rice could do about it. Just as it has seemed the entire season.