The Rice Owls played about as perfect a football game as they could last week. Even then, they needed a UH fumble on fourth-and-one to preserve a 34-31 win.
This weekend, the Owls traveled to the land of Disney to take on the UCF Knights. The Owls saw a nearly perfect game played yet again. Only this time, the near-perfect game was played by the Knights as the Owls lost 41-14 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated.
"Their defensive line, and their offensive line, they're just big men that play extremely hard," said Rice head coach David Bailiff to Rice radio sideline reporter Jorge Vargas after the game. "We just, like I said, when you play a team that's that big and physical, you have to be at your best to win one. We [made] too many mistakes."
But it's questionable as to whether the Owl mistakes would have really mattered.
At least offensive mistakes, as UCF scored on its first five possessions -- four to start the game in the first half and the first possession in the second half. The Owls were down 7-0 before they even touched the ball, then got nowhere on their first possession.
The Knights scored again to go up 13-0 (one of UCF's few mistakes on the day was a missed extra point). At that point, UCF had 116 yards of offense compared to one yard for Rice, and it was pretty much over that point, though all involved insisted on playing the remaining three-and-a-half quarters.
The score was 27-0 at the half with UCF having held the ball for 18:31. The Knights had 254 yards of offense in that half against the Owls 79, and the Knights were doing whatever they wanted to do, whenever they wanted. And it's hard to argue that the Owls were making too many mistakes when they were dealing with a team that was just bigger, more athletic, and more physical.
The Knights were up 34-7 with 9:18 left in the game when they decided to go the classless routine by going for it on fourth-and-three at the Rice 40-yard line. Perhaps they were worried that the inept Owls offense would suddenly figure out how score 28 unanswered points, or perhaps they were just being jerks. Whatever, the resulting play was a pass that went for a touchdown to put the Knights up 41-7.
Then again, the Knights don't exactly have a national football identity, or even much of one in Florida, so running up the score was probably just seen as a way to get some national attention.
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After all, if the school is thought of nationally, it's as the school that hired the head coach, George O'Leary, who lied on his resume and cost himself a job with Notre Dame. And the football team also got some unwanted national attention back in August when O'Leary allowed a Orlando magazine to use the school locker room for a photo shoot with Playboy's Miss July wearing nothing but a few strategically placed pieces of UCF clothing.
In the end, running up the score, or not running up the score, the Knights totally dominated the Owls. The Owl offense, which clicked on all cylinders against Houston, was powerless against a UCF defense ranked among the best in the country. And the Rice defense, which shut down the Cougar defense for the first half last week, could stop neither the UCF running game, or the UCF passing game. Even Kyle Martens, Rice's all-everything punter, muffed a punt in the first quarter.
The Owls, 2-6 on the season, do not play again until November 6, so that gives them an extra week to lick their wounds and hopefully find some methods of dealing with better, more physical teams. The Knights are now 5-2 and 3-0 in C-USA and are already looking towards this weekend's game with East Carolina that will determine the supremacy of C-USA's East Division.
SOME MISCELLANEOUS NOTES: The Owls' next game will be in Tulsa where they face the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and Todd Graham, otherwise known as the former Rice head coach. If there's one game, beside the Houston game, that the Owls want to win, this is the game....The Owls' next home game isn't until November 20 when they host East Carolina....Sam McGuffie was once again Rice's best offensive player, collecting 65 rushing yards and 21 yards on two pass receptions.