And The Defense Shall Lead Them: Rice Defeats FAU
There's bad football. There's awful football. Then there's what the Rice Owls played on Saturday night. But here's the thing, as bad as the Rice Owls played on Saturday night, as bafflingly as some of the coaching decisions, as mind-numbingly stupid as some of the officiating, the Rice Owls still won the game, defeating the Owls of Florida Atlantic University 18-14 to go to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in Conference USA play.
Rice has the same record as the Texans. Imagine that.
The Rice Owls completed just seven passes on a night when FAU was stacking the box and daring them to throw the football. The Owls quarterbacks often misread the defenses on the read-option, opting time and time again to try and stretch the play around the line for a loss. At the end of the night, Rice had only 273 total yards on offense. But on this night more than any night, the Rice defense stepped up and shut down the opposition, getting key turnovers to spur a fourth quarter comeback win.
"To win in college football, that's hard from week to week," said Rice head coach David Bailiff after the game. "It takes a whole lot to win a football game, so I'm really proud of how this football team continued to fight, and play, and persevere for four quarters. You win as a team. You lose as a team."
Yet it was a troubling win that might not have been but for some strange FAU coaching. And it was a bothersome win because of continuing issues with the offense.
THE TURNING POINTS
FAU had a fourth and one at the Rice 14 early in the fourth quarter. Instead of kicking the field goal to go up 10-6, FAU went for the first down and were denied by the Rice defense - though some really piss-poor officiating tried to give FAU the first down. Rice didn't score, but the lack of points on the drive would hamper FAU's comeback prospects later in the game.
The second turning point came several drives later, with FAU up 14-6. FAU had a third and nine from its 17 when FAU quarterback Greg Hankerson went into scramble mode, trying to find a receiver. He fumbled the ball which was recovered by Rice's Cody Bauer at the seven who then walked it into the end zone for the touchdown.
Then on its next offensive drive, FAU's Hankerson was intercepted by Bryce Callahan. Three plays later, Rice's Darik Dillard took the ball up the middle and rushed 20-yards for the touchdown. Rice missed on the two-point conversion attempt, but were then in the lead 18-14.