Rice football fell 42-10 in Death Valley to LSU in Week 11, but a score doesn’t accurately convey how meaningful this game was to this program.
Optically a 30+ point defeat doesn’t look good in a box score. Rice was outgained on the ground and through the air. The defense bent and bent some more. In the midst of what ended up becoming a one-sided affair, this team grew up.
Trailing by multiple touchdowns from the first quarter on, Rice fought. “In this world where it’s so easy to hit the reset button and to just quit, I don’t think you say any of our guys quit today,” said head coach Mike Bloomgren after the game, “I thought you saw them fight until the scoreboard said 0:00.”
As alluded to in the initial postgame reaction, playing the best teams makes you better. Against LSU, Rice had to play faster, hit harder and be more aggressive than they’d been at any point this season. Leaving Tiger Stadium with a loss is indicative of more work that needs to be done, but senior running back Aston Walter said the team was glad to have this chance.
“It was a great experience,” relayed Walter, “I feel like I got better this game, I fell like a lot of my teammates got better this game. It was good to say we played one of the top 10 teams in the country.” Their resolve was tested. Nevertheless, tucked away in a one-sided affair on the scoreboard were moments that individuals on this team will remember forever.
Freshman running back Juma Otoviano scored his first career touchdown. Hayden Tobola drilled a 51-yard field goal. Senior punter Jack Fox silenced the crowd with a booming kick, scampering down the field to make the tackle on his first punt of the day. All on one of the nation’s biggest stages against one of the nation’s best teams.
Fox called the moment “indescribable” and Walter echoed it, speaking positively about the trial-by-fire moment that forced he and his teammates to grow up quickly. Both players and Mike Bloomgren shared a crystal clear message. Winning and losing is what matters the most at the end of the day, but getting a chance to go 10 rounds with the best of the best is an unforgettable experience. One that, if you let it, impacts how you play your game moving forward.
The Owls are hoping they can harness those feelings and produce one more win next Saturday at home against Old Dominion.