Making Progress (?)
The Owls put up 24 points Saturday, their highest point total of the year. Toren Dixon finally looks like the receiver the Owls, particularly Jarett Dillard, need him to be. Dixon had 6 catches for 64 yards and found the end zone for the first time as an Owl. C.J. Ugokwe rushed for 63 yards on 15 carries and he too hit pay dirt for the first time. The Owls haven't found a horse to hitch their wagon to – but Ugokwe looks more like that guy as each game goes by. Freshman Justin Hill looked explosive when he touched the ball. I'd like to see him play more. Chase Clement was 20-37 for 211 yards, hitting Toren Dixon and Jarett Dillard for touchdown passes. Once again he had a few passes dropped, and worse, one tipped for an interception. The offense really clicked in the 2nd quarter, one of the first times all year they looked in synch.
Still a Lot of Work To Do
The offensive line has taken a fair amount of criticism for its performance in the game Saturday and admittedly they have played better. Chase didn't have much time to throw the ball Saturday so 20-37 is probably more impressive than it appears. There were still a few too many drops by the receivers. Then there's the defense. Not many teams will have someone that can match up against 6-3 210 Michael Crabtree. He ran over, around, and through the Owls Saturday to the tune of 11 catches for 244 yards and 3 TDs. The middle of the secondary was open all day for the Red Raiders – and the Red Raiders scored at least 3 times on routes to the post and quick slants, where Grant Walker used his reported 4.25 forty time to burn past the secondary for a score. The pass rush Saturday was actually better than one might think. The Owls were able to get some pressure on Graham Harrell, in spite of some of the worst, or best holding I've ever seen by the massive Tech offensive line. Dietrich Davis was credited with the lone sack of the day. Ja'Corey Shepherd did an admirable job of slowing Crabtree a bit in the second half.
Rice freshmen continue to contribute early and often. Cheta Ozougwu and Cameron Thompson both saw plenty of playing time Saturday. Scott Solomon started again and pressured Harrell throughout the day but never quite got to him. Patrick Randolph continues to look like a natural receiver after making the switch from the defensive back. Justin Hill looked really good in limited action. Willie Garley played pretty well but drew the ire of Coach Bailiff for getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Victor Brooks played with good leverage from the defensive tackle position.
I liked the continuing development of the play book. I though we took chances in the game, which means to me we're trying to win. I thought the Owls fake punt call was a gutsy one – and one that looked there for the taking had Luke Juist been able to break to the sideline, instead taking it up the middle and coming up short. This game will have to be measured in terms of playing time for younger players and incremental gains on both sides of the ball. The Owls have a similar game coming up, but believe or not might match up better against the Horns than the Red Raiders.