Dissecting Saturday's loss to Baylor is just too disgusting to do, so I'll save most of the game details for the newspapers and focus on some perspective here with my wrap-up.
A good friend gave me his two cents on the game and I have to agree with him on what is the root of this team's "ills" – it's all between the ears. The difference between last year and this year is a matter of what I'll call "urgency." How urgently do the Owls want to win? They've all said they want to win, for the new coach, for themselves as a team, and several other reasons – the least of which isn't just to keep the ride going from last year.
Do they feel like they have to win though? I don't question this football team's attitude or effort – but something's not right with the chemistry yet.
Mental mistakes, not so much physical, have resulted in not making plays. There are only a certain number of plays in every football game. It's a simple game really, football. The team who does more with their chances wins the game. Move the ball on offense, score in the red zone. Keep the other team from moving the ball, one play at a time.
Count the number of mental mistakes that have resulted in busted plays this year. An interception in the flat. A missed blocking assignment on the punt team. Kickoff returns twice of more than 65 yards. Dropped passes. Dropped interceptions. A 3 yard route when we needed 4. All of these are correctable. So why did they happen in the first place? I can't say why but either the team is feeling so much pressure they are thinking instead of just playing, or they aren't feeling enough pressure to concentrate. A lot of fans out there right now are leaning towards "not feeling enough pressure".
Right now Coach Bailiff and crew are in a tough spot – everyone on the team, on the sidelines, and in the stands is looking for answers. To his credit Bailiff has been accountable, but he and the staff aren't making all the mistakes alone. As a whole team the Owls have to analyze, diagnose, and solve this problem, and quickly. They are staring at the reality of 0-2 already, with the possibility of 0-6 coming in the form of their toughest part of the schedule – Texas Tech, Texas, Houston, and Southern Miss. The Owls will have to get better even if while losing. Even if they drop the next four – they still have a chance to win their last 6 and go to a bowl. One only need look to last year to see the possibilities.
While we're expecting all this from the team – what about our expectations? Have we fairly estimated the abilities of this team? I know we'd all like to think the coaching change should have just made the Owls stronger mentally. Has it really? How many first year coaches come in and have immediate success anyway? Think about that.
"Well, the coach should have just chewed their (tails) more right?!"
We didn't want to hear it when Coach Bailiff said he had a rebuilding job to do when he got here. Before you say, "Hell no we're not rebuilding!" think about this too. The rebuilding he had to do wasn't so much about offense and defense, he kept a lot of the same schemes intact – it was rebuilding the team's confidence and trust. What must a team have to be mentally tough? Among other things confidence and trust. Remember this team's psyche was pretty shaken when he got here. They had been run into the ground after an emotional sequence of cardiac finishes, been regularly cursed at and yelled at, and some even forced to play injured. They had each put forth an incredible investment in football and to "the former coach", then like the rest of us were duped as the person collecting those physical and emotional dollars skipped town overnight. With the team in disarray, players giving up football, players injured, and players just flat out asking "why is all this happening", do you really think the best solution at the time was another self serving task master? We had 53 players available for spring football. Do you think we could afford to lose a single player more? The coach's options were pretty limited in my opinion. I think the team would have revolted if another TG showed up.
Rice fans let's give this team, and this coach, a chance to keep cooking here. He didn't come here to make "Minute Rice" like the last guy. He's said all along that he's committed to doing things the right way, not necessarily the "right now way. Nope he's preparing "Rice" the old fashioned way – which takes time. Rest easy, I'm sure he'll be turning up the fire on "the water" when Monday practice starts.
One need look no further than programs like Miami or Iowa State or Colorado to see how tough it is to win with new coaches. And all have recruited far better than we have, at least on paper, but are struggling just as mightily.
I think we all need to stop and re-think what's realistic here people...