Add another game to that list of 8 points or less and raise the average for points too. In predictable fashion Saturday night the two teams played much more Offense than Defense, piling up 93 total points scored.
The Owls won the scoring contest, beating UTEP 49-44, also becoming bowl eligible with the victory. It was a step backwards for the Rice Defense, but a win nonetheless. And in this high scoring series, either side will gladly take a "W" from each year's hard fought contest.
For weeks I had this one circled as a tough game for the Owls for several reasons. First, it's a given that the Miners are always ready to play when they face Rice, but look deeper and consider that UTEP has a lot of speed and talent from jucos, transfers, and decent high school recruiting classes under Mike Price. Though their record doesn't show it they have played pretty well in spots this season too. They also had extra time from a bye week to prepare for the Owls. Plus, another incentive for the Miners was that they needed this game badly to keep their bowl hopes alive. Finally, the game was a late night affair starting at 8:05 pm cst, making for a long day for the visiting Owls.
This game had all the makings of a disappointing loss for the Owls.
Thankfully, Chase Clement and the Owl Offense refused to lose this one – and playing with plenty of incentive themselves, Rice did just enough to win. Throw out the stats, beating UTEP has been tough from year to year. We'll gladly take it.
The Owls achieved a nice balance with their Offensive output – 167 yards rushing and 376 yards passing. The rushing number in particular is perhaps the most encouraging and was key in allowing the Owls to sustain long scoring drives with series of 13 (twice), 10, and 9 plays (twice). Rice averaged 4.1 yards per carry and C.J. Ugokwe topped the 100 yards rushing mark for the second consecutive week with 103 yards on 19 carries.
Pierre Beasley caught his 3rd pass of the season Saturday, and his first touchdown. Beasley hauled in a 31 yard touchdown pass from Chase Clement in the first quarter to get the Owls on the scoreboard.
James Casey had another long day at the office yesterday – 12 catches for 142 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving; 7 carries for 28 yards and 1 touchdown rushing; and 1 punt return for 2 yards. Get the man some ice packs and a whirlpool!
After not allowing any sacks against Tulane, Chase Clement was sacked 3 times last night by UTEP.
Kyle Martens had his best game punting as an Owl. The freshman from South Dakota averaged 41.8 yards on 5 punts, boosted by a long effort of 57 yards. He placed two of those 5 inside the 20. Martens has been slowed by a sore hip, so the performance is particularly encouraging.
The Owls worked extensively on kickoff coverage this past week in practice but still gave up a 58 yard return to Jeff Moturi in last night's game.
Andrew Sendejo returned to the lineup last night, and of course led the team in tackles with 8. Travis Bradshaw was listed as the starter at Free Safety. Chris Jones also continues to play at a high level – he had 6 tackles last night and a pass break-up.
Chris Douglas had his best statistical game last night. The junior from Fort Worth had 6 tackles last night and a very timely interception in the end zone, thwarting a scoring drive what would have surely been at least 3 points for the Miners. Douglas has 3 interceptions for the season, which leads the team.
Speaking of Cornerbacks, freshman Jarrett Ben saw extensive playing time and had 4 solo tackles last night.
Keyshawn Carrington was credited with an assisted tackle and .05 tackles for a loss on the same play last night when he subbed in on the Defensive Line.
Chance Talbert also had a very active game last night – posting 6 tackles and constantly playing around the ball.
Rice committed an uncharacteristically high number of penalties last night – 10 for 93 yards. They had averaged only 4 per game for the season prior to last night's game.
The Owl Defense must immediately prepare a scheme to defend what was a familiar Offense for years at Rice Stadium – the Option attack. Army is ranked 9th in the country in rushing behind Fullback Collin Mooney. They host the Black Knights this Saturday at 2:00 at Rice Stadium.