Rice football started strong but stumbled to a lopsided finish in their season opener against USC, prompting the Owls to find a solution before next week.
“To say that things snowballed is probably an understatement.”
When Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren uttered those words following a 66-14 rout at the hands of the USC Trojans on Saturday night, the admission wasn’t surprising. Even heading into the game — Rice was a 32.5-point underdog on the road — it would have been foreseeable to envision a scenario in which a Top 15 program with a Heisman-caliber quarterback outplayed the Owls.
But nobody could have envisioned how the onslaught unfolded.
“There are four plays that really led to this game going the way that it did,” Bloomgren followed, making direct reference to the four interceptions thrown by Rice quarterbacks. Yes, quarterbacks, plural, because the Owls had their starter knocked from the game with an injury for the fifth time in their last 10 games.
If you want to talk about statistics more staggering than three pick-sixes in a single game, five injured quarterbacks in 10 games come pretty close.
There is no official diagnosis of Green’s injury nor is there an established timeline for his return. Once more, Rice football doesn’t have a lot of answers.
“This is a tough pill to swallow,” safety George Nyakwol said. “This is just a good wake-up call for us to prepare us for the rest of the season.”
Likewise somber, offensive lineman Shea Baker was already moving on to the next game. “We’ll watch the film, learn from our mistakes, not repeat the same mistakes and move on,” he said with a defiant resolve.
The offensive line undoubtedly has improvements to make in the running game as well as in pass protection. As Nyakwol would also go on to admit, the Owls’ tackling could stand to improve as well. There are lots of little tweaks to be made and things to correct before they take the field again next week against McNeese State.
But regardless of who is on the field or who is playing quarterback, three tipped pass interceptions that went in and out of the receiver’s hands, as Bloomgren himself described it — that won’t do. “You gotta be able to throw and catch,” Bloomgren said point blank. “We’re playing college football.”
Whatever happened on Saturday from the second quarter on was a miserable excuse for a college football game. It was a slaughter, brought on by correctable errors by players who have already proven they can play much better than they did against the Trojans.
To that end, Bloomgren’s final refrain seems believable, if not somewhat likely.
“I don’t see anything that’s terminal. I’m not gunna hang my head on this thing,” he declared. “I still think we are a very, very good football team and I think we showed that in spurts today but certainly not for a complete game.”
Rice football hosts McNeese State on Saturday, September 10. They will be expected to win.
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