The result: Rice 41, Southern Mississippi 23 (Saturday in Hattiesburg, Miss.)
The records: Rice is 1-3, 1-1 in Conference USA. Southern Miss is 2-3, 0-1 in C-USA.
The significance: Just getting a win Saturday by any means necessary was the first objective after three straight losses to open the season. It took awhile to pull away from a team still in rebuilding mode, but the Owls made enough big plays and big stops to get in the win column. With two lousy non-conference opponents (Hawaii, Army) next on the schedule, Rice should get back to .500 – and regain its swagger – before the next C-USA contest.
The grade: B: Rice’s defense as a whole showed improvement after giving up 45 points to Old Dominion the previous Saturday. Southern Miss did move the ball through the air well, but when it came to fourth down, the Owl defense rose to the occasion. “They were 0-for-3 on fourth down,“ Rice coach David Bailiff said. “Those are turnovers on downs. Those were all game-changing, field-position-changing plays.” Offensively, Driphus Jackson made mostly good decisions and the Owls running game wore down Southern Miss.
The play: After a Mario Hull touchdown catch put Rice up 27-16 late in the third quarter, Southern Miss had a second and 10 at its own 37. Rice freshman Graysen Schantz made his first career sack and dislodged the ball from Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens. Rice’s Bryce Callahan recovered the fumble and advanced it 6 yards to the Eagles 25. Rice’s Luke Turner scored the knockout touchdown 3 minutes later.
The good stat: Rice‘s defense held Southern Miss to 40 rushing yards on 23 carries.
The bad stat: Nine different Golden Eagles had catches of 12 yards or more.
The X-factor: Rice is staring to get healthier, giving the team more depth and experience. Jordan Taylor wasn’t a factor statistically Saturday (1 catch for 1 yard), but his presence aided Hull’s 4-catch, 85-yard evening. Defensive tackle Christian Covington returned to the field and helped shut down the Southern Miss running game.
The David Bailiff quote: “They [Southern Miss] gave us a 4-1 box. When you’ve got five guys in the box, you’re supposed to be able to run the ball. They’re very athletic, very fast. I thought the offensive staff did a great job of mixing it up and spreading the field. That’s a big win. First win in conference.”
The player quote (Driphus Jackson, quarterback): “We needed those two big plays with Mario [Hull]. He came through. At that end of the day, that is what we expect of him. Obviously he is a great receiver for us, we just have to be able to capitalize off of all of the opportunities because we may not be able to have those opportunities again. Me and Mario bump heads all of the time because we’re so competitive, but we’re always on the same page as wanting to get that win.”
The Southern Miss quote (Coach Todd Monken): “That game was right there for the taking. We weren’t mature enough in a lot of areas to take advantage of it. Give them [Rice] credit. They made the plays when they needed to make the plays, from the field goal to PAT to kickoff to turnovers on our own end to some of the big third downs they got.”
The game story: can be found here
The fun fact: Hull caught two passes for 74 yards on a 3rd quarter drive that covered 73 yards. Rice moved back 5 yards for an illegal forward pass, allowing for the statistical oddity.
The overall series: Rice 4, Southern Miss 1
Rice Examiner Players of the Game:
1. Jowan Davis- 29 carries for 131 yards, 2 catches 38 yards, 2 touchdowns
2. Mario Hull- 4 catches for 85 yards, touchdown
3. Tabari McGaskey, 5 tackles (1 for loss), 1 sack, 1 pass breakup
Up Next: Road hosts Hawaii on Saturday, 6 p.m. kickoff