Rice football struggled through a difficult 2018 season, finally breaking through and ending the year on an all-important high note.
In seven of Rice Football’s first 12 games season they found themselves in a two-score game entering the fourth quarter. Excluding blowouts by Southern Miss, Wake Forest, UAB, and LSU Rice was in the game in the fourth quarter more often than they weren’t.
Just once this year did they take a lead into the final frame; they led Old Dominion 20-13 entering the fourth quarter, set up by one of Juma Otoviano‘s long touchdown runs. That touchdown proved to be the difference. In the final week of the regular season Mike Bloomgren’s team had found a way finish.
Bloomgren’s relief and excitement were expressed with an allusion to a classic, but an unexpected source of entertainment: Mortal Kombat.
Upon seeing the game once again within reach in the fourth quarter, Bloomgren couldn’t help but envision the video game in his mind. “You know when his head’s spinning and it’s like ‘finish him'”, Bloomgren recalled with anticipation, “Today we finished him. And you have to do that. You have to have that desire, that want to. You have to believe when you put up those four fingers in the fourth quarter that’s the way it’s going to go. Hey, we’re going to end this thing, together.”
And they did. When the clock hit 0:00 Rice had their first conference win under Mike Bloomgren. It took months to find the right formula, but they got it done. Now all they have to do is replicate it going forward in a new season, with some new players and new expectations.
This could be the new normal,” Bloomgren said wistfully before doubling down on his team’s performance in their final game of the season.”It’s the future of Rice football. It’s intellectual brutality. It’s pound the rock, control the clock and play great defense. And it’s everything we talk about on display today by everyone who touched the field for us. And it’s exciting.”
The difference between one win and two wins doesn’t mean a whole lot for boxscore scouts. There is plenty of progress to be made on that front at South Main. When this coaching staff, this team and the fanbase looks back at 2018 they’ll see the two wins and wish there were more. There will be, in time.
In their final Saturday before the offseason began this team learned how to finish. That alone is reason to believe the best is yet to come.
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