Wearing space-themed jerseys, Rice football blasted past McNeese State, notching a dominant win for the Owls in their home opener.
On a night honoring the 60th anniversary of JFK’s Moon Speech, Rice football nearly reached 60 points, falling short of that sky-high total as they soared past the McNeese State Cowboys in dominant fashion. Rice dominated the scoreboard. They dominated on defense. They dominated on offense. From the time of possession to total yards and points, Rice ran away from McNeese to secure their first win of the season.
And they sure looked good doing it.
We choose to go to the Moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard!#GoOwls👐 x #Artemis1@NASA | @NASA_Johnson | @RiceUniversity | @RiceAlumni | @HoustonTX | @adidasUS | @UNISWAG pic.twitter.com/OqADRgZ8Xt
— Rice Football (@RiceFootball) September 6, 2022
Here are a few immediate reactions from the game:
Early jitters fade fast
Despite the space-themed jerseys, Rice football didn’t come out of the gate like they were aiming for the moon. It took some time to get all systems operational. TJ McMahon and the offense did move the ball fairly well, but were hampered by a holding call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that forced a punt from midfield.
McNeese gifted them possession right away with a first play fumble, but Rice went spent three fruitless plays inside the 10-yard line including a third down pass that was rocketed out of the hands of Bradley Rozner as he careened towards the goal line. Instead of a possible touchdown, Rice settled for a field goal.
The Roost Podcast: Stay tuned for the game recap this week – Rice football vs McNeese state
Then the afterburners kicked on. The defense forced their second turnover of the day on the following drive courtesy of a deflected pass that landed conveniently in the open arms of safety Treshawn Chamberlain. The offense took the baton from there, marching down the field and capping the drive off with a nine-yard touchdown run by TJ McMahon to take a commanding 17-0 lead with 10 minutes to play before halftime.
From there, it was all Owls for the remainder of the contest.
Takeaways set the tone
McNeese State handed the ball directly to Rice on their first offensive snap. Then the Cowboys turned it over on their third drive. And on their fourth drive. And on their fifth drive. In fact, the only two drives the Cowboys had in the first half that did not end in turnovers were three-and-outs in which the Owls’ average starting field position was the McNeese 43-yard line.
The highlight of the night came courtesy of Gabriel Taylor, who returned this interception 91 yards to paydirt, the third longest interception return touchdown in program history.
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) September 11, 2022
Rice lost the turnover battle 4-0 against USC. They won 5-0 against McNeese and scored 23 points directly off those turnovers. It was a masterful effort by the defense.
Owls won despite costly mistakes
Tight end Jack Bradley was called for holding on the first offensive play of the game. Guard Braedon Nutter was drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the same drive. He was promptly sat on the bench for the next several series with John Hughes moving to left guard and Ethan Onianwa checking in at right tackle. Then Rice punted.
On a following drive, Luke McCaffrey committed a false start, negating a wide-open touchdown reception in the second quarter. The Rice defense roughed the passer, jumpstarting a drive that saw McNeese reach the redzone for the first time of the night.
All of that happened before halftime. Rice football committed all of those offenses in a far from clean performance. They gave up a 62-yard touchdown run to start the third quarter, missing several tackles along the way. And they still won by 42 points.
Recent history has suggested that Rice needed to play a near-perfect game to thump any opponent this badly. Rice was far from perfect today but their highs far exceeded their lows. If they can clean up those mistakes and mental errors this team could make some noise in Conference USA.
Taking care of business in style
Without their starting quarterback and starting center, Rice football rolled through their home opener against McNeese State and has moved to 1-1 on the season. Injuries aside, through two games, this is where this team was expected to be if they were to keep their aspirations of a postseason trip alive. So far, so good.
Winning was the priority on Saturday night. And although Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren may be hesitant to stump for it, the style points were noticed and appreciated.
Bloomgren elected to take a timeout with less than three minutes to go before halftime so that his team could have a shot to extend their 31-0 advantage. Immediately following McNeese’s breakaway touchdown, the Owls dialed up a 75-yard touchdown strike to Bradley Rozner.
Bradley Rozner. For Six.pic.twitter.com/rQG2bQPsto
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) September 11, 2022
All actions indicated Rice not only wanted to win, but they wanted to make a statement.
It was heard, loud and clear. Now the bigger question looms, can they do it again?
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Running away with it
If it felt like Rice football hadn’t delivered a good thumping in some time, that’s because what the Owls did to the Cowboys on Saturday night was the most decisive victory of the Bloomgren era. And it didn’t stop there.
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