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'06 Army game page

Rice 48, Army 14
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Owls emerge from tragedy in triumph

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It was a day for the offensive line to shine -- has to be, when you've scored 48 points (PTH photo)

WEST POINT, NY (Oct. 1) -- The Rice Owls cast off heartbreak, frustration, injuries, and the inevitable detritus of a horrendous September schedule, leaving it all on the Plain of West Point here Saturday in overwhelming a stunned Army team 48-14, and in so doing dominating every phase of the game.

The death of freshman Rice defensive back Dale Lloyd quietly pervaded emotions, thoughts, feelings, for every Insitute man on the sideline this grey, overcast day. But the sense of tragedy overcome clearly served as a unifying principle for a Rice team that played exactly the way Todd Graham first said they would on New Year's Day of this year.

The return of quarterback Chase Clement, too, turned out to be an enormous boost for an Owl offense that simply had been designed around him. Functioning not unlike the CPU of a computer, Chase riddled the Black Knight defense for 299 yards passing, going 29 for 39 and throwing five touchdown passes -- the most for a Rice quarterback ever, and the first time an Owl helmsman has thrown for at least four TD passes in a game since 1981.

Loss left Army looking for answers

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Tommy Henderson had a good outing, here seen cradling the ball after making catch for first down yardage (PTH photo)

In the home team locker room, Army head coach Bobby Ross sounded distraught. The Cadets had fully expected to win this game, then easily defeat Division 1-AA VMI at home next week for a 4-2 record going into the second half of the season. But the best laid plans....

"It's really agonizing because it was something I wanted really badly for this program," a Coach Ross said of Army's failed attempt at topping the .500 mark. "I really did. And to fall on our face like we did, it's really agonizing."

But for the first few minutes of the game, it looked as if this one would be just like the first four the Owls have played this year -- another loss.

"This game started out like all of our games," Coach Graham deadpanned afterwards. "They took the ball down and scored."

Sure enough, the Owls did spot the Army a 7-0 lead, just as they have all of the other opponents they’ve played this year. This time, though, chalk it up to poor field position brought about by a 30-yard Corey Anderson return of the opening kickoff. The Cadets took the ball 55 yards in nine plays, with the key play of the drive being a third-and-six conversion from the Rice 11, when David Pevoto zipped the ball on a slant pattern to Tim Dunn for a first and goal at the three.

Maybe that easy touchdown didn’t wind up helping the Army cause. They’d doubtless heard how "bad" this Rice bunch was all week, and the Rice defense didn’t do all that much to dispell the notion on that game-opening Army drive.

 But as soon as the Owls got the ball, the skies seemed to darken a bit, and Chase Clement took the field as the cloudy sky formed a perfect, glareless backdrop for his surgical passing game.

The way the Owls put up their opening points seemed to underscore the problems that the Army defenders wound up having with Rice’s Chase Clement-led offensive strategy. For if they backed off and tried to cover everybody, that left the tackle-guard gap vulnerable to the quarterback scramble.

Chase did that, taking what was given to him, the first play of the game, picking up six.

Next play, Army found out that you can’t cover Jarett Dillard one-on-one, as the budding Owl star scooped up Chase’s perfect pass for 19 yards and a first down at the Army 42. Jarett picked up five more on a quick out two plays later, so next play Army flooded the passing zones.

Naturally Chase took what he was given again, this time zipping for 14 yards before sliding to the turf a la Kenny Stabler.

You keep doing that Chase. We want you to be the hero with your arm, not your feet.

"I did do some extra running while I was rehabbing my hand," he told us after the game. "I guess it didn’t hurt when the time came to tuck it under."

The Owls then tried Quinton Smith into the line, first for no gain; then for three. So on third and seven from the Navy 20, when Jarett Dillard set up wide, it looked as it every military eye in Michie Stadium was on him. Jarett floated toward the post, drawing his man and a middle linebacker his way.

The left the gut of the end zone wide open for Owl tight end Taylor Wardlaw, who silenced the partisan crowd with a deft reception of an on-the-money pass five yards deep in the end zone.

Chase was back.

Defensive unit shines at last

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Andrew Sendejo is literally on top of things, this play (PTH photo)

Next it was time for the Rice defensive unit to put on a little showtime. When Clark Fangmeier pooched the ball high and wide, the ball went out of bounds at the Army 34, just as, it seemed, an Owl charged forwards and cradled the ball onside in his hands. The play was ruled no recovery, however, but that just set the stage for some Rice defensive heroics the likes of which had not been seen thus far this season.

Army quarterback David Pevoto’s apparent distraction didn’t hurt matters for the Owls. First play, he underthrew his receiver. On second down, then, Brian Raines delivered a big stick on USMA’s Tim Frye. Then on third and seven, Pevoto’s receiver dropped his hurried ball, and the Cadets had to kick it away.

The Owls, then, started at their own 24 and struck quickly. First, Chase hit Tommy Henderson on the swing pattern and he rolled for 11 yards. A quick out to Jarett Dillard netted nine more, which was augmented by a minor face mask infraction, putting the ball squarely at midfield.

Whatever Army was expecting, the next play, they didn’t get it, as, instead, a wide open Jarett Dillard hauled in Chase Clement’s pass at the 10 yard line and rolled in untouched.

All of a sudden, there were getting to be some smiles popping up on the visitor’s sideline. This was kinda fun.

So much fun, in fact, that the defense wanted in on the act, too. So they came out and reprised their three-and-out routine as Jon Cary and Brian Raines combined to stack up Jamal Robinson on first down.

Facing a heavy rush, QB Pevoto misfired on two straight attempts, and the Army punt team was on the field again. This time, Army punter Owen Tolson sailed a beauty for 51 yards, and the Owls were set back even further, to their own seven yard line, thanks to a half-the-distance holding call.

This time, the Rice offensive unit downright violated the Geneva Conventions with its 93-yard, Chinese water torture drive. In a 12-play, five-minutes-plus drive, Quinton Smith, Chase Clement, Joel Armstrong, Tommy Henderson and John Wall all got touches of the ball.

The key play involved a bit of trickery that was perfectly executed. Chase rolled one way, but flipped the ball back to Joel Armstrong going the other way on the reverse. Joel made it look like a run, but suddenly reared up and threw a perfect strike to, you guessed it, Jarett Dillard, who made an acrobatic catch as he headed out of bounds just short of the pylon.

You know, that play oughta be good for 20 or 30 yards once a game, every game. It was good for 30, this time.

When the Army defense bunched up to stop Q Smith for no gain on first and goal, the Owls took the air route again, Chase hitting a wide-open John Wall on a down and out pattern for the touchdown.

With Chase in, Rice coaches free to place chess pieces advantageously

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Chase Clement scrambles for yardage -- he took what he was given (PTH photo)

That made the score 21-7, and over 12 minutes still remained in the half. The difference in this Rice team, with Clement at the helm, and, one hastens to add, with possibly Rice’s best all-around athlete, Joel Armstrong, on the field at wideout, playing in a place where he can maximize his own contribution – well, it was a huge difference-maker, Coach Graham said afterwards.

"I knew what a difference it makes to put 16 back at quarterback and to have 13 go back to receiver. And then people don't even realize what 81 is capable of," Graham said.

For those of you who’re visitors to this site, the program reads: 16 – Chase Clement; 13 – Joel Armstrong; 81 – future All-American.

Army came storming back, however, as Wesley McMahand took a delayed handoff and threaded his way for 32 yards to the Rice 36 before Ja’Corey Shepherd dragged him down. McMahand picked up six more on the next play, but that’s when the train stopped for Army.

First, George Chukwu threw off his blocker and nailed Jamal Robinson for a loss of two. Then, Pevoto went to the well once too often on his slant pattern – something that the Rice defensive masterminds in the press box had picked up and relayed down to the field.

"I made an adjustment," Rice corner Andray Downs said afterwards. That adjustment put him right in position to make the pick, with smooth sailing ahead. There was no chance of a clip, as Andray had a ten-yard head start on his nearest defender– and, as for the rest of it, he let instinct take over.

"I was thinking, ‘Don’t get caught," he said after the game, with a slight grin on his face. "Coach had told us at practice during the week, if anyone of us got the interception and had a chance for a runback, don’t let the quarterback catch you, or you’ll never stop hearing about it."

"I have to say, too, that another thing crossed my mind as I was crossing the goal line. I was thinking about Dale a little bit," Dre said. "It was bittersweet. I wanted him to be out there with us, but in spirit he was. We really dedicated our game to him."

"I was thinking, ‘This is Dale’s place out here.’ This was the kind of play he was conditioned to make, and I sort of mentored him in the off season, going over our coverage with him and working out with him. I guess I got to know him pretty well, and I couldn’t help but flash back to that after I came down to earth."

That lightning-strike interception return covered 72 yards, and it came at 10:06 of the second quarter. The Owls had been playing ball for less than 20 minutes, had had three offensive possession, and by golly, had just lit up the scoreboard for 28 points.

Andray’s interception return was the coffin nail for Army, according to Army quarterback David Pevoto.

"We dug ourselves in a hole with that interception," Cadet Pevoto said, "and we tried to come back. Give credit to Rice. They played a great game."

Rice didn't look like winless team to Army

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Courtney Gordon sloughs off his blocker -- note the Army guy's feet going out from underneath him (PTH photo)

At that point, middle-aged Pointers in the stands were muttering to themselves, ‘who are these guys?’ And how on earth had they managed to lose all but one of their last 19 games?

The muttering turned to outright expressions of disgust when, on the next drive, Army fumbled away the ball at the Rice 32 after amounting a creditworthy drive. But on first and ten from the Rice 32, Chad Price nailed Army’s Tony Moore for a loss of one. Next play, Moore got that yard back but was stifled without further progress by Marcus Rucker and Will Wood.

Then on third and long, Pevoto hit his receiver David Trimble, but Andray Downs was there to wrap him up after a short gain. Facing fourth and six, the Army called time out and cooked up something special on the sideline.

Rice was ready for it. The linebackers came in on Pevoto on the short drop, and Brian Raines rocked him with a big hit that separated ball and ball carrier.Vernon James was there to hop on the fumble and the Owls had stopped the Army again.

The Owls almost took it all the way yet again, but this time wound up settling for a 43-yard Luke Juist field goal. In moving the ball down the field to set up that three-pointer, Chase Clement distributed his passes to four different receivers: Quinton Smith; Tommy Henderson, Joel Armstrong, and Jarett Dillard.

The drive-staller for the Owls was an eight-yard sack on Chase Clement by Army’s Cameron Craig, as the Owls faced first and ten from the Army 28. But that kind of thing didn’t happen very often, this day.

It seemed as if the Owls would be taking their 31-7 lead into the halftime dressing room, as the clock ticked away while Army marched ponderously and fitfully down the field.

When Courtney Gordon sacked Peveto on first and ten from the Rice 29, less than a minute remained in the half. An incompletion and a quarterback scramble for no gain depleted the game clock even more. Army faced fourth and 13 from the Rice 32 with only seconds left on the scoreboard clock when they called time out to discuss the matter.

The Rice defense looked as if it had done its job in yet again keeping Army out of the end zone, for only a pure prayer could give USMA any relief in this situation. And that’s exactly what they got.

Scrambling under a heavy rush, Army quarterback David Peveto simply reared back and flung the ball as high and as far as he could, in the general direction of the end zone. Rice’s Andray Downs appeared to have his man well-covered, but hesitated just for a split second as if he had lost the ball in the stadium lights, which were already burning due to the heavy overcast.

And dag nab it, the Army’s Jeremy Trimble reached up and managed to get the tips of his fingers on the ball, keeping it airworthy for an extra split second. As Trimble fell to the earth, flat on his back, the ball lodged neatly into his mid-section, where he cradled it as he fell.   Six points, Army.

Concern that late Army TD might have been momentum builder

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Jarett Dillard in one of his eleven catches on the day (PTH photo)

After all that effort, and all that one-sided domination of Army, instead of 31-to-boo, it was 31-14 as the two teams shuffled into their locker rooms at the half. The prev iously-dead Army crowd had roared back to life, and the Cadets obviously managed to rescue a little momentum as they anticipated a much closer second half of the game.

"We WILL win," the Army cheer went as the Black Knights came back onto the field. But curiously, they trotted out rather lackadaisically as a steady drizzle began to pelt the stadium.

It turned out that Rice indeed did not score on its opening possession of the second half – the first time in the game that that could be said. In fact, the Owls were kept out of the end zone entirely during the third stanza. They didn’t score at all.

But neither did Army. The stat sheet shows that the Rice offense controlled the ball for just over 11 minutes of that crucial third quarter, and when you can’t get your hands on the ball, you can’t score.

In fact, there were only two possession changes during the third quarter. Rice held the ball for six plays, opening possession. Army then held onto the pill for eight plays, covering only 28 yards dring that interim – hardly theapproach to take if you’re trying to make up a 17-point second half deficit. Ask Ken Hatfield.

When Army had to punt the ball away at midfield, setting up the Owls at their 20 after the touchback, then came the drive of the game. Speaking of our former coaching mentor, this drive of the Owls was positively Hatfield-esque. Yet most of it came through the air.

The Owls first overcame a holding penalty with a 21-yard Clement-to-Dillard strike at the Rice 44. Then they dinked away, keeping the clock running.

When the third quarter time expired, the Owls were sitting pretty at the Army 17, and had held the ball on that single drive for just short of seven minutes.

When the drive appeared to stall at the Army 11, the Owls, facing a fourth and one, drew a defender offside, Chase alertly taking the snap and spiking the ball so as not let the Army guy get back onsides.

That gave the Owls first and goal from the six, and two players later, Chase found his favorite receiver loose in a seam beyond the goal line, and it was six more for the Owls.

With 38-14 lead, offense was content to slow down, but not defense

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Joel Armstrong makes catch, jukes inside to make a five-yard gain out of a tackle for loss (PTH photo)

With a 38-14 lead, the Rice offensive brain trust was content to let the air out of the tires and let the game clock tick down. But the Rice defense had other ideas, choosing to make its most spectcular play of the day work to get the ball back into the hands of the Rice offense with advantageous field position.

On the ensuing kickoff, Chad Price put a huge hit on Army’s Corey Anderson, who coughed up the football to the Owls' Bencil Smith at the Army 23. After the Owls failed to connect on a couple of end zone passes, Clark Fangmeier nailed his field goal attempt from 34 yards out, and it was Rice 41, Army 14 with 12:07 left.

Next possession, Army handled the ball on the kickoff, but on third and ten, when QB Pevoto hit Tim Dunn in the flat, this time it was Andray Downs who applied the quietus on him. Ball went one way, Army guy went the other, and Chad Price was there to scoop up the fumble on the fly at the Army 21.

Was it piling on to send Chase Clement out there one more time and throw the ball, to boot? Not when you’ve been through the hell the Owls have suffered, on the field and off, their first four games of the season.

Rice did have its starting skill players on the field, as it scored its sixth and final touchdown of the day on a nine-yard scoring strike from Chase Clement to Jarett Dillard. That was Jarett’s third touchdown reception of the day, giving him 11 catches in all for 171 yards. It was the biggest day for an Owl receiver since the Tommy Kramer era.

"It was just right back at home, like summertime playing catch with him," said Jarett. (Both he and Chase are from the San Antonio area.) "It felt good having Joel on the other side because I knew there wouldn't be so much emphasis on me."

"And Tommy Henderson had an excellent game, Joel, the backs – it felt good not having all the pressure on me to have to get the first down. Just go out there and play catch with Chase."

Some Army fans in the stands were heard to grumble a bit about that sixth and final Rice touchdown.

We won’t do like Bobby Bowden and say, "It was a possession pass, and the boy fell down." Nope, the Owls simply had another score in them that they wanted to put up on the board, so light it up to the tune of 48-14, they did.

Hey, it was bad week. A really, really bad week.

Then again, in a way, it was a really, really inspiring week.

--Paul T. Hlavinka

Bonus coverage:   more post-game interviews from Michie Stadium after Rice's win over Army....
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Brian Raines (L), Andray Downs ponder journalists' questions in Michie Stadium interview room Saturday after the Army game (PTH photo)

sammyjalopy35.jpg (26369 bytes)Coach Graham:  "We know Dale's in a better place..."wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)

Jarett Dillard:   "It was just like playing catch"wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)

Andray Downs:   "All I could think of was, 'don't get caught!'"wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)

Brian Raines: "This game shows us that the system works -- but we've still got a lot of work to do, inside the system"wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)

'We’re just going to pull together'
Owls pick themselves up and head
for West Point, game with Army
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(Cartoon from 1958 Rice-Army game program cover; game held at Rice Stadium)

HOUSTON (September 28) – Now townsmen of a stiller town, the Rice Owls aim to swallow their sorrows, at least in regard to the mission at hand, and travel to the fields of friendly strife at West Point for a Saturday football game with the U. S. Military Academy, one that has taken on a different perspective in light of the tragic events affecting Rice football in the past week.

Thursday night, the football team will hold private services for their teammate, Dale Lloyd, who died Monday morning after collapsing during a light workout the previous evening.

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Then Friday morning, the team flies to New York in anticipation of Saturday afternoon’s 3:30 p.m. kickoff (2:30 CDT) against the Black Knights. The team will be staying in northern New Jersey, about an hour’s drive from the West Point campus. One would expect it would be a time for the Owl team members to get away by themselves, reflect, and attain the kind of firm resolution that sometimes can be drawn from such tragic circumstances.

"Naturally it’s been a very difficult time," Rice head coach Todd Graham said. "But we’re going to press on, and we’re going to honor Dale in everything we do for the rest of the season."

"He meant a lot to this team. We recruited Dale; I remember watching his film and being excited about the future that he had here. He had great promise; a great future – he’s been on every trip with us. He had a heart of a champion; he was a very physical, tenacious person. He loved the blue and gray. He wanted to be a Rice Owl long before Coach Graham came here."

"His parents would want everyone to know that he was a strong Christian. He was a man of faith; a man of character. He was a great example of what a student athlete should be."

This week had to be dealt with in phases

Coach Graham admitted that it wasn’t easy to get up off the mat and resume any near a normal workout schedule. First, it was a matter of dealing with the emotional hit that the sudden notice of Dale’s death put onto every one of his teammates.

"They were crushed," TG said. "Yesterday in our team meeting, there wasn’t a dry eye in there. They loved Dale; we love each other. We are very committed to each other. Words can’t express the sorrow that each of us have. I’m supposed to be very tough, but I showed emotion to them. Told them it was alright to show emotion. But we’ve got to get back up; we’ve got to get back on that field. That’s the thing that Dale would want us to do."

"We’re just going to pull together and lock arm in arm, and get back up."

Coach Graham said that his first reaction was that he "couldn’t care less about a football game. At first, I didn’t even think about it. And then I’ve had some people talk to me, and I’ve talked to Dale’s parents, and our team captains, and the consensus was, ‘let’s press on.’"

Who were some of those people Todd spoke to? Well, it turns out that many were among the major lights and figures of college football today. Coach Graham mentioned former Baylor coach Grant Teaff. He said he received a gracious call from last week’s coaching opponent, Bobby Bowden, who spoke with him of the means he employed to come back from a similar tragedy involving his Seminole team two years ago in the sudden death of Houstonian and then-current player DeVaughn Darling.

But Todd said perhaps the most moving communication came from the guy he’s going to be standing across the field from on Saturday afternoon – current Army head coach Bobby Ross.

"Bobby Ross called me – what a class person he is." Coach Graham noted. "He said, ‘Todd, you’ve got to be strong and lead for those kids.’"

Coach Ross told his press corps this week that he was familiar with the territory that Todd Graham and his Owls lately have been forced to trod. Or not exactly, actually, because when Coach Dodd lost his players, none of those deaths occurred during the season.

"I was fortunate there," he said. "One of them died in June, another one died during spring mini-camp, another one died in the winter, and I had one player at Georgia Tech who died right after spring ball."

Coach Ross:  'It's not an easy thing'

"It’s not an easy thing.," he added. "There’s nothing in the playbook on how to deal with that. I just turn to my emotions on something like that. I did call coach and told him how sorry we were because you never want to see something like that happen to a young man with a great future ahead of him."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Rice team and the player’s family. It’s a tragedy to go through something like that during the season. We can’t afford to take them lightly because any team that plays with that type of emotion can be dangerous, and we know what they’re capable of doing, despite their record."

Granted, the Owls are certainly a more competitive team than their 0-4 record shows, given the nature of the competition they’ve faced. But the facts are, that the Black Knights are 2-2, and might just as easily have been 4-0 thus far this season. A narrow, 14-6 road loss to Arkansas State began the campaign. Then the Mules came back and edged Kent State, 17-14 at home.

So far, ho hum. But then the Army invaded neutral site San Antonio for a game that was expected to be a cakewalk by Texas A&M. But "Old Army" nearly got its collective ears pinned back by the keydets, with a last - gasp tackle being required to keep the Black Knights out of the end zone for a  win instead of  the 28-24, last-gasp loss they sustained.

Not to be outdone, the Black Knights came back to Texas the next week and torched Baylor, 27-20, in Waco, and all of a sudden, it appears that the Owls’ Death March through September just might be extended for one more week than was expected.

Now the Army returns to the friendly confines of Michie Stadium riding a bigger high than they’ve been able to muster in many a year.

"This team’s a good football team," Coach Graham warned. "They’re a very, very disciplined football team. They’re not the, you know, the physical specimens that we’ve been playing against so far – but they just do not make mistakes."

"The biggest thing this week has been the emotional challenges that we’ve had, and then just getting the kids to understand that we’re playing a very, very good football team."

"We’ve been looking to this game, too – with the staff, and the players. It’s hard not to be glad that the first part of our schedule’s over with," he added, referring, of course, to the Murderer’s Row of Houston, UCLA, Texas and Florida State, the Flock’s first four opponents of the season.

Though Army is talented, its raw material is comparable

This time, although Army has a fine team, the situation’s a little different, Todd said. "There’s no excuses. We definitely should be able to go out and compete with this team and we hope to go win."

"This team we’re going to play against is not going to make mistakes. They’re well-coached and very disciplined, and we’ve got to make sure that we have those mistakes we’ve been making corrected."

"They’ve got a lot of confidence right now, playing A&M the way that they did, and beating Baylor, and having the best record they’ve had there in a long time."

"But this is a team that there’s no doubt that we should be able to play with. And to get to where we want to go as a program, we’ve got to be able to go beat them."

The Black Knights are led on offense by quarterback David Pevoto, an experienced hand who’s exhibited competent, if not flashy, play at every turn of the season so far. In the win against Baylor, he completed 15-of-22 passes for 138 yards and tossed his first career touchdown pass.

He’s ably backed up by running backs Wesley McMahand and Tony Moore, who’ve definitely had more ups than downs so far this season. The sophomore McMahand is diminutive, going only 5-foot-6, 171 pounds, but he ground out 93 yards on 22 carries against Baylor last week – giving him 286 yards thus far this season.

His running mate, Tony Moore, was the guy who was stopped for no gain on the last play of the A&M game – could’a been quite the hero, had he been able to find the goal line on that play.

However, last week against Baylor he rebounded by scoring two Tds himself. Like almost all Army players, he’s a game, never-say-die kind of athlete.

Quarterback Pevoto told press he was enthused about the performance of his two running backs. "They’ve been running great and a lot of credit goes to the offensive line for that, but they’ve been breaking tackles and getting lots of yards after contact too," he said. "Tony (Moore) has a little more power, while Wesley (McMahand) has a little more speed and quickness. We’ll need them to perform well again this week to beat Rice."

Defensively, the Knights could be said to be a little less polished than on offense, but naturally they feature a disciplined, swarming defense that might give up 10 or 15 yards on one play and then come back and nail their man in the backfield the next.

Defensive leaders for Army include LB Barret Scruggs, DT Tony Fusco, DE Cameron Craig and LB Charlie Rockwood. Cadet Rockwood faced the media Monday and, boy, was he pumped.

"We’ve never been .500 since I’ve been here," he noted. "People can start to speculate that we have two easy games and we will be 4-2, but those games will be decided on the field."

" We’re treating Rice just like we have all our opponents this year: like it’s the last game of our lives. I think taking one game at a time is the key to our success."

The latest word from the floor of Rice Stadium is that the Owl team is getting itself back off the mat and getting ready to play a creditable football game against Army.

"We’ve had good workouts this week," Coach Graham told us earlier today. "You know I think they’re tired; I’m sure they’re not sleeping real well, but we’ve had decent workouts."

"I wouldn’t tell you they’ve been great workouts. But I know the kids are focused and they are determined to go out and represent Rice and our program the way we want it to be represented."


03sammytnsmall.jpg (3540 bytes)Coach Graham on the workouts this week, upcoming Army game....wavsymbol.jpg (416 bytes)new.gif (908 bytes)(Sept. 28)




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