Rice football ended 2019 on a high note with a win over UTEP, setting the stage for what many expect to be a breakthrough 2020 season.
If you had walked into the Rice football locker room on Saturday evening, you’d have seen the full range of emotions. As players celebrated their third consecutive victory there were seniors who shed tears, arms draped around underclassmen while they processed the end of their own college careers.
Mike Bloomgren stood in the middle of it all. Elated by what this team had accomplished, all the while knowing when the wheels touched down in Houston early Sunday morning it would be time to get right back to work. They broke down the tape and had a full staff meeting, all before hosting a recruiting visit later that night. As the calendar turns to December, it’s still all hands on deck as they try to finalize the majority of the 2020 Rice Football recruiting class.
But before he could get to that tomorrow, Bloomgren stopped to process the here and now.
“That’s really what [this win] is all about,” Bloomgren said. “It’s about a group of men that made a decision. They made a decision to win their last three games and to do everything they could for each other to ensure that that happened. Today is the culmination of that. It’s the culmination of our 2019 season. It’s the start of something really cool too.”
The magnitude of what this team accomplished was sizable. No Rice team had won three-straight to close out a season since the 2013 squad that won the Conference USA championship.
And for the most part, they’re coming back. The defense will lose starting tackle Myles Adams. The offense will have to replace three grad transfer offensive lineman and quarterback Tom Stewart. The answer at quarterback might have been solved in the second half when JoVoni Johnson took over and scored his first two career touchdowns. If Rice can recruit and develop depth on the offensive line, they could bring back a fully stocked cupboard on both sides of the football next season.
Building from a strong base, the 2020 Rice football team is full of players who refuse to succumb to the status quo. “[We] just want to keep going. keep growing, continue to be better and continue to help our team be better,” team captain Austin Trammell said after the game. Junior linebacker Blaze Alldredge echoed those words, hoping the team could “carry this momentum into the offseason and develop into even better players for next year.”
Momentum, talent and a desire to be better from top to bottom. The makings of something special are being assembled on South Main. Year three of the Mike Bloomgren era is already off to a great start.
But first, it’s time to celebrate. “I’m proud to be their coach, I know that much,” Bloomgren said, content to enjoy the present before the future arrives. After all, the process demands it.
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