Rice football did not impress in their first-ever American Conference game, squandering a halftime lead in disappointing fashion.
Even before star quarterback JT Daniels left the game with an injury in the third quarter, it was a disappointing showing across the board for Rice football in its first-ever American Conference game. The Owls defense got torched for a staggering 597 yards. The running game posted just one (not a typo, that’s literally just one) total yard on the ground. Special teams contributed two missed field goals and a series of well below-average punts.
“Every phase of this game that we played today, offense, defense special teams, we were not at our best, to say the least,” head coach Mike Bloomgren said in the aftermath, specifically singling out his teams’ second half performance.
The Owls led 14-13 at halftime and were outgaining the Bulls while limiting their opponents to just 2-of-5 conversions on third down. When the second half arrived, everything fell apart, starting with the opening series in which USF raced down the field and took the lead before the team was (mentally) back from halftime.
USF scored touchdowns on three successive drives in the second half. Slicing and dicing a Rice defense that had no answers. Rice lost one-on-one matchups over and over again.
“I didn’t think anybody could do that to our defense,” Bloomgren said, stunned.
Even though it reached 29 points, the offense had its own woes. Bloomgren said he decided to “scrap the run game” because of how the Owls were having success down the field. That fizzled when Daniels left, giving way to backup quarterback AJ Padgett who took some time to settle into the game. Unfortunately for the Owls, time was not on their side.
The typically even-keeled Luke McCaffrey, who reeled in nine passes for a career-best 199 yards, owned up to the team’s lackluster day. “I don’t think next Saturday can come soon enough,” he said. “I think this is one of those games you want to make up for.”
Rice plays its first AAC home game next Saturday against East Carolina. JT Daniels’ status is uncertain, but no matter who plays quarterback, Rice has a lot to fix before they return to the field again.
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