Rice Football passes McNeese State on Space Night

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Wearing space-themed jerseys, Rice’s football passed McNeese State, picking up a dominating win for the Owls in their home opener.

On a night in honor of the 60th anniversary of JFK’s Moon Speech, Rice’s football nearly reached 60 points, short of that sky-high total as they passed the McNeese State Cowboys in dominant fashion. Rice topped the scoreboard. They dominated in defense. They dominated in attack. From time of possession to total yards and points, Rice ran away from McNeese to secure her first win of the season.

And they are sure looked good I do.

Here are some immediate reactions from the game:

The first tremors fade quickly

Despite the space-themed jerseys, Rice’s football didn’t come out of the gate like it was aiming for the moon. It took some time to get all the systems up and running. TJ McMahon and the offense moved the ball well enough, but were hampered by a hold call and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that forced a punt from midfield.

McNeese gave them possession straight away with a first play fumble, but Rice spent three unsuccessful plays inside the 10-yard line, including a third down pass that was blasted off the hands of Bradley Rozner then he was heading for the goal line. Instead of a possible touchdown, Rice settled for a basket.

The Roost Podcast: Stay tuned for this week’s match recap – Rice football vs McNeese state

Then the afterburners started. The defense forced its second turnover of the day on the next drive thanks to a deflected pass that landed conveniently in the open arms of safety Treshawn Chamberlain. The offense took over from there, marching upfield and capping the start with a nine-yard touchdown by TJ McMahon to take a 17-0 lead with 10 minutes left before halftime.

From there, it was all Owls for the rest of the contest.

Takeaways set the tone

McNeese State handed the ball directly to Rice on their first offensive snap. Then the Cowboys turned him on their third practice. And on their fourth disc. And on their fifth disc. In fact, the only two Cowboys drives in the first half that didn’t end in turnovers were three-and-outs in which the Owls’ average starting position was the McNeese 43-yard line.

The highlight of the evening came courtesy of Gabriel Taylor, who returned this intercept 91 yards to pay, the third-longest interception return touchdown in program history.

Rice lost the turnover battle 4-0 to USC. They won 5-0 against McNeese and scored 23 points straight off those turnovers. It was a masterful defense effort.

Owls won despite costly mistakes

Tight end Jack Bradley was called for making the first offensive play of the game. Guard Braedon Nutter was assessed a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the same run. He was quickly sat on the bench for the next series with John Hughes moving to left guard and Ethan Onianwa checking in at right tackle. Then Rice kicked.

On a subsequent drive, Luke McCaffrey committed a false start, nullifying a wide-opening touchdown reception in the second quarter. Rice’s defense brutalized the passer, sparking a drive that saw McNeese reach the red zone for the first time all night.

It all happened before halftime. Rice football committed all of these offenses in a performance that was far from clean. 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 had to play a near-perfect game to hit any opponent that much. The rice was far from perfect today, but their highs far outweighed their lows. If they can clean up those mistakes and mental errors, this team could make some noise in Conference USA.

Do business in style

Without their starting quarterback and starting center, Rice’s football won its first home game against McNeese State and went 1-1 this season. Injuries aside, through two games, that’s where this team was supposed to be if they were to retain their aspirations of a playoff trip. So far, so good.

Winning was the priority on Saturday night. And though Rice’s head football coach, Mike Bloomgren, might be hesitant to argue against it, the style points were noticed and appreciated.

Bloomgren opted to take a timeout with less than three minutes left before halftime so his side could have a chance to extend their 31-0 lead. Immediately after McNeese’s breakaway touchdown, the Owls composed a 75-yard touchdown attack for Bradley Rozner.

All of the actions indicated that Rice not only wanted to win, but that they wanted to make a statement.

It was heard, loud and clear. Now the bigger question arises, can they do it again?

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run away with it

If it looked like Rice’s football hadn’t kicked in a while, it’s because what the Owls did to the Cowboys on Saturday night was the most decisive win of the Bloomgren era. And it didn’t stop there.

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