The words "special" or "poetic" just aren't impactful enough. "Fantastic" is too ordinary, especially for these Owls.
Last night's 38-14 Texas Bowl win over Western Michigan, in dominating fashion, was at the least "inspiring". For many, it was simply "perfect".
By the numbers the win represented milestones not achieved at Rice in 50 years - 10 wins in a season, and a bowl victory.
But much more than that, our Rice heroes got to enjoy what they've earned: winning. This Owl team deserved to win last night. They've done things right, they've worked hard, they've treated people right, they've taken their share of lumps along the way. But more than anything else - they persevered and didn't ever give up. They've done things "the Rice way"; and shown that you can still win through hard work, caring about each other, and with a good coaching staff.
The story that is the career of Rice players like Chase Clement, Jarett Dillard, Brian Raines - and perhaps James Casey was written with the perfect ending last night. Not by a journalist - but on the field. And much better than I could do here.
So I'll just say congratulations, and a heartfelt thanks for what you've meant to me and thousands of other Rice fans. You will forever be heroes...
As mentioned Chase Clement took home Texas Bowl MVP honors for his performance last night. Clement was 30-of-44 passing, throwing for 307 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also scored a touchdown on a 26 yard run and also caught a touchdown pass.
Jarett Dillard had 8 catches for 86 yards in his final game as a Rice Owl. He threw his first completion as an Owl for a touchdown last night, hooking up with Chase Clement for their 51st touchdown together. Later he caught an 18 yard touchdown from Chase Clement in the 4th quarter, running their record to 52.
James Casey turned in his usual spectacular performance - 7 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. He caught a 45 yard touchdown just before the half that looked destined for Jarett Dillard, instead Casey never gave up on his route and caught the ball just ahead of Dillard, taking the ball in for the score.
The Rice Defense completely shut down Western Michigan's high powered Offense. They held the Broncos to just 15 first downs and only 278 total yards. While the Owls did not sack WMU QB Tim Hiller, they were in his face all night. Hiller had completed 68% of his passes this season. The Rice Defense held him to just 19-of-42 last night (45%) and also forced two interceptions.
Speaking of interceptions, Chris Jones and Andrew Sendejo each picked off Hiller last night. Sendejo's was a leaping, twirling, spectacular catch that Sendejo somehow held onto as he hit the ground flat on his back.
Once again, Safety Travis Bradshaw led the team in tackles last night with 8, 7 of them solo.
Rice also held the Broncos to just 61 yards rushing - well below their season average of 140 ypg. Rice Co-Defensive Coordinators Chuck Driesbach and Craig Naivar had the Owls extremely prepared last night - obviously the players did the rest.
David Falgout had an outstanding night on Special Teams. The walk-on from Beaumont had 3 solo tackles in kick coverage.
And so, we close the book on the tremendous story of Rice Football 2008. Congratulations to the Rice senior class; and also to the Rice coaching staff (the hardest working coaches in C-USA), and to all who made 2008 a very special year in Rice Football history.
Now, its time to work on next year. Recruiting never stops, so check here for the latest in recruiting news this January as Rice steams towards hauling in a fantastic group of future Owls on Signing Day 2009.