Losing isn’t fun, but although they suffered a tough loss to Army in Week 1, Rice football proved to themselves and the nation they’ve come a long way.
“Defensively I just don’t know if we could have asked for more.” That’s how Mike Bloomgren opened his comments following what can only be labeled a heartbreaking loss on the road to Army in Week 1. The Owls defense had indeed stood tall, limiting a high-powered Army offense to 14 points — the Black Knights had dropped 70 points on crosstown rival Houston in their last game.
That defense, led by Antonio Montero’s 11 tackle performance, helped set the Rice offense up with a one-score game in the fourth quarter. The Owls were able to push the ball into Army territory but failed to convert on a fourth and one.
Seven points from the offense was disappointing, but the end result, a narrow defeat to a quality opponent, gave the entire team a confidence boost. “[We] took a team to deep water,” Bloomgren remarked, “took a team of that caliber to deep water… and we came up a play short at the end of the day. We’re going to learn from it.”
Montero echoed those sentiments. “If we can hang in with a really good team like Army we can win a lot of games this season and down the road,” he said.
Hope is a dangerous thing. Entering Friday night, that belief was the only thing Bloomgren and his players had to hold onto. Now they have data, real life results of their hope in action. It wasn’t perfect and the taste in their mouthes is decidedly bitter. But something clicked on Friday. The Owls were able to prove to themselves they were different from a year ago.
Bloomgren said it best. “There’s so many things that will be so obvious to so many people that we are no the same team from 2018, we’re just not,” he declared. “The programs different. The way guys are working is different. Everything is just different.”
Following a 2-11 season, different is a very good thing. Thus far in 2019, Rice Football is 0-1 with 11 more opportunities to turn that confidence into reality. The next game can’t come soon enough.
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