On a perfect day for football Saturday, the Rice Owls played their best football of the 2012 season, beating the (surprisingly) win-less Southern Miss Golden Eagles 44-17.
The win couldn't have come at a better time after a series of disappointments this season, and perhaps is a sign that Rice is starting to play like the team many believed they would be in 2012. They controlled the game from the onset, and in the process kept their bowl hopes alive with their 3rd win of the season. However they must beat Tulane, SMU, and UTEP in their remaining games to do so.
Offensively, the Owls were more creative than they have been - getting touchdowns from new faces - and defensively they continued a trend of solid performances dating back to a solid effort at Memphis.
Next Saturday they travel to New Orleans to take on a resurgent Tulane Green Wave squad.
- Over their past 4 games Chris Thurmond's Rice Defense has held opponents to an average of 18.25 points per game. No coincidence they are 2-2 in those games and were in position to win all of those games late in the 4th quarter. After starting the season near the bottom of all NCAA Division I teams, the Owls under Thurmond have climbed to 100th overall in Total Defense, and are 94th in Scoring Defense.
- Turner Petersen rushed for a season high 136 yards on 19 carries, just missing his career-mark of 140 yards against UH last year. He also caught a 38 yard touchdown pass from Driphus Jackson. He leads the team in all-purpose yards with 603.
- Speaking of Driphus Jackson, the redshirt-freshman threw two touchdown passes of 38 (Petersen), and 25 (Donte Moore) yards yesterday. Alternating in the first half, then taking all the snaps in the second, he was 4-of-6 passing for 92 yards with no interceptions. Jackson also rushed for 40 yards on 6 carries, but was sacked for a 13 yard loss to net only 27.
- And, speaking of Donte Moore - he too had a stellar day. In fact a career day with two touchdowns. The first was on a 9 yard reverse just before the half; the other coming from Jackson in the 3rd quarter.
- Rice kept their gray face-masks, first seen as part of their "throwback" uniforms worn for the Centennial Game against UTSA. Saturday they replaced the white numerals with a pink Gothic "R", in observation of breast cancer awareness. Now, with gray face-mask in place, how about those gray pants...?
- The Owl Defense held USM to 372 yards of Offense - not bad in itself - but more importantly limited the big plays that have victimized them in every game this season. They allowed 19 first downs - but in spite of moving the chains USM only scored 17 points.
- Rice also came up with 3 interceptions (Cameron Nwosu, Paul Porras, and Julius White) and 2 fumble recoveries (James Radcliffe, Ross Winship). Nwosu returned his 19 yards while Porras returned his 75 yards for a touchdown.
- With Bryce Callahan out for the year with a broken arm suffered against Memphis (but not diagnosed until after the UTSA game) Malcolm Hill has moved over to Cornerback.
- Back-up CB and true freshman J.T. Blasingame was an instant success in his debut as a kick returner, bringing his first attempt out 40 yards. His second went for 46 yards. USM avoided another big return on their last kickoff with a "pooch" kick. J.T. finished with a 29 yard average on 3 returns.
- Starting at Strong Safety, Gabe Baker led the team in tackles with 9 - 8 of them solos.
- The Owl Defense came up with 3 sacks against USM (Bauer, Williams, Shahin/Covington) to give them 22 for the season - with 3 games remaining.
- After returning to the starting lineup at Tulsa, Right Tackle Caleb Williams has returned to his regular role. He's healthy after missing the UTSA game.
Owl Sports Watch