Friday, August 30, 2013

Ag Football Preview: Rice Owls

Surprisingly, we haven't faced Rice since 1995 as the SWC came to an end.  It was an annual match-up where in A&M won twenty one of the last twenty two meetings (fifteen consecutive).  Rice has literally not beaten A&M in my lifetime.

The series started back in 1914 and this will be the 80th meeting between the two teams.  That makes the last 17 year absence so much more surprising to me.

The Owls are not a historical powerhouse.  They're just historical.  Their best run of football was the 9-year stretch from 1946 to 1954.  They went 9-0 against the Ags. and won three of their seven SWC crowns (four shared titled).  They also played in three bowl games during that stretch (they have played in only five since).

In the mid-50s, it was Rice who, threatened by what newly hired Bear Bryant was building in College Station, turned him in to the NCAA for recruiting violations, although they themselves (and any SWC team of the era) were just as guilty.
Owls celebrate upset over A&M (1957)
It was also just the day before the Rice game in 1957 that the Houston Post leaked that Bryant was going to be leaving A&M to go to Bama - and it was just enough distraction to allow the #20 Rice Owls sniff out a 7-6 win over the undefeated Ags after six A&M fumbles.  A mere two wins away from a national title.  Rice went on to win the SWC and play in the Cotton Bowl.

Rice was obviously one of the schools left for dead when the SWC dissolved but it was good for them, or at least for their record.  They played in the WAC from 1996-2004 and then moved to their current affiliation with C-USA in 2005.

I don't even have the heart to give you a current picture of Rice Stadium - it's really sad.  At one time Rice Stadium was a jewel of college football (it hosted a Super Bowl for Pete's sake) but now it is just old, empty, dingy and sad.  The running joke is that there are more seats in Rice Stadium than living Rice Alum.  Frankly, it's probably not a joke - there are 70,000 seats and a total enrollment of ~5,000 students.

As I was looking for picture of Rice Stadium, I realized that my first college football experiences occured at Rice Stadium.  I remember going to a handful of games with my Dad when I was a kid - I remember a game against UH (but only because I vaguely remember the program cover).  There was another we went to with a couple of my buddies and we were given football cards with Rice players on them and we just looked at the cards all game.  I also remember being at Rice Stadium and my Dad pointing out Bevo to me - it might have been the same game we got the cards) and we were sitting at almost the exact angle of that picture above, but much closer to the field..  Looking at their schedules, the game against the horns had to have been either 1989 or 1991.

Interestingly, the most vivid memory I have of Rice Stadium as a kid was the men's room.  The trough urinals had to have been 40 years old at the time and there was one big one in the middle of the room and one on each wall flanking the middle one.  I don't have any recollection of any people being in the men's room, but I'm pretty sure it was my first experience with a trough urinal and I was pretty horrified by the prospect of it.

More recently, the Owls have had a little more success than the previous 45ish years.  They played in the New Orleans Bowl in 2006 and then the Texas Bowl in 2008.  Then last season they knocked off Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl to finish on a five game win streak to end the season (7-6 overall).

The MOB (Marching Owl Band) will not be making a trip to College Station this season, which is a little bit of a disappointment.  The MOB is a scatter band and their routines are typically parodies and skits - some clever and some toeing the line of offensive.  They're slightly better than the football team.

I'm not going to dive too much into the current Rice squad.  You can find that information elsewhere.  I will say that they will be without a couple of their key defenders who are out via suspension or injury.

One of my favorite things to do when we play a team like Rice is to go through their roster and look for interesting facts
  • Sr CB Alex Francis had four uncles who played in the NFL (including Lamar Lathon). I hope for his father's sake those uncles are all on his mother's side
  • Freshman TE, Robbie Wells III, is broadcaster Jim Nantz's cousin
  • Texans HC Gary Kubiak's younger son is on the roster....and apparently, Gary Kubiak's brother-in-law is SHSU head baseball coach, David Pierce
  • Larry Edmondson (Passing Coordinator/QB Coach) lettered at A&M and graduated in '83
  • DC Chris Thurmond coached at A&M during the Fran era as a CB coach ('03-'05)....remember when you were always yelling at our corners, "TURN AROUND AND LOOK FOR THE DAMN BALL!" and the clinic's put on by Larry Fitzgerald and Austin Flynn (!?!).  That was under his tutelage.
Frankly, even if Johnny doesn't take a snap, we should beat Rice by double digits.

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