The Bayou Bucket ended about how we all expected, but after one half of play, the natural world itself was turned on its head. OK, maybe that's being a bit dramatic, but just a year ago Houston romped to a 38-3 win over Rice without much resistence. This Owls team had a heck of a lot more fight.
A bit of a mixed bag for Houston
With Ed Oliver returning and Kendal Briles taking over the offense, this is supposed to be a breakout season for Major Applewhite's team. The first half didn't play out that way, as Rice led for much of it, and looked like a team finding another gear. For the Owls, that's really good news, but more on that in a minute. Houston trailed 24-17 at the break, and couldn't stop a fantastic two-minute drill by Rice. But huge credit to whatever happened at halftime, as Houston roared to a 28-3 advantage in the second half. D'Eriq King threw for 320 yards and 3 touchdowns and ran for another. He looked every bit the perfect fit in Briles' system, hitting seven receivers on the day. Oliver did his job, recording 13 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss.
Breakout game for a few Coogs
Get used to hearing Bryson Smith’s name. The former John Tyler quarterback – much like Greg Ward Jr. – is a player Houston was all-in on early in the recruiting process, and after one game, he looks like he’s going to be an integral part of the offense. He doesn't jump off the final stat sheet, but he definitely set himself apart on the field. Similarly, Isaiah Chambers set himself apart on the defensive front. The Coogs have been looking for someone to step up in the space created by the Oliver double teams, and Chambers just may be that guy. The TCU transfer has put a lot of weight on his frame, and he wreaked havoc. Marquez Stevenson, Courtney Lark and Keith Corbin had a promising first outing as the heart of the new receiving corps dead set on taking the offense to another level.
Resounding positives for Rice
After scraping by Prairie View A&M last week, very little was expected from Mike Bloomgren’s bunch. The Owls scared the life out of their crosstown foes for a full half, and they didn’t do it by playing negative, boring football. They went big in key moments, and gave Owls fans some long-awaited excitement. Shawn Stankavage was solid, completing 21 of 30 for 204 yards and 3 touchdowns, and had plenty of help from running back Austin Walter and receiver Aaron Cephus, who at one point hauled in a one-handed grab during one of the Owls' crucial, early drives. The energy at Rice Stadium was at a level it hasn't been at in some time, and after a really frustrating week for the Owls, things are very much looking up after Saturday's high notes.