Rice football earned a monumental program victory on Saturday, upsetting Houston to win the Bayou Bucket and sending South Main into celebration.
On Saturday night in the Brian Patterson Center, Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren and his players attempted to put into words the significance of the Owls’ double-overtime victory over the University of Houston.
There were the obvious talking points — Rice’s first victory in the series in eight tries, the first win over Houston since 2010 and the first Power 5 victory for Rice since 2013 — but the emotions emanating from South Main transcended what could be easily described.
“The quietest guys were jumping around and screaming,” corner Tre’shon Devones said, attempting to describe the postgame locker room. “I think I saw new personalities from people I’ve never seen before. You have guys that have only said like two or three words since I’ve been here and now they’re just jumping around, screaming. Some of them have some good dance moves. I didn’t know that either.”
“It was just an environment you’ll never forget.”
Bloomgren and his staff have been searching for a moment like this since he was hired prior to the 2018 season. Since his arrival, Rice had lost to Houston by final scores of 45-27, 44-7 and 34-27.
On Saturday, the Owls broke through. Rice scored 28 unanswered points, allowed 35 points in a row, and then stopped Houston on a two-point try in the fourth quarter to seal the monumental win that, for many on South Main, went beyond words.
“How beautiful is football, right?” wide receiver Luke McCaffrey asked with an almost stunned smile.
The win will go down as the most significant of the Bloomgren era to date. “We’ve been close a lot of times,” Bloomgren admitted. On Saturday, they finished.
When asked to pinpoint what made this team different and what made this game unique, Bloomgren pointed to the unity he saw in his players. “This isn’t just about today, it’s not just about this week of prep, it’s all the things we do,” he said. “This is the cumulative effect of a bunch of guys making the decision to fight for each other. It’s a great result and really cool for this program.”
And how much fun was the post-game celebration? Bloomgren likened it to “a club that I don’t go to anymore,” laughing and smiling as he worked to keep his traditional even-keel demeanor.
Bloomgren talked about the progression he’s seen the program go through under his tenure at the Owls’ helm. From losing big to losing small to winning small and, hopefully, to soon winning big. Whether or not Saturday’s win counts in the small or big category is in the eye of the beholder, but nobody in the room seemed to care which it was as they hoisted the Bayou Bucket trophy high.
But it was after that raucous celebration and euphoric locker room that the why finally began to crystalize. When Devones took his turn at the microphone he shared a difference he saw in this team that he gleaned through the midst of the celebrations.
“The difference between now and then,” Devones said of prior Rice teams he’s been on, “Today when we won, we had people going around already thinking about things we can get better at. That’s a real stepping stone that I’ve seen. That just goes to show the mentality of the team now.”
“Yeah, we’re okay with winning, but this needs to be the standard now.”
There are no current games scheduled between Rice and Houston, although both administrations have publically expressed their desire to keep the series going. Regardless of when the next Bucket is played, though, a new high has been reached. If the Owls can turn that mountaintop into the new standard they’ll be more than ready to defend their trophy the next time they meet the Cougars.
Subscribe on Patreon for exclusive Rice football recruiting updates, practice notes and more.