W Michigan 14


Rice 38


Coverage: NFL Network

8:00 PM ET, December 30, 2008

1 2 3 4 T
WMU 0 0 0 1414
RICE 10 14 7 738

Top Performers

Passing: C. Clement (RICE) - 307 YDS, 3 TD

Rushing: C. Clement (RICE) - 12 CAR, 72 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Casey (RICE) - 7 REC, 112 YDS, 1 TD

W. Michigan-Rice Preview

HOUSTON (AP) -- Not exactly steeped in tradition, Rice or Western Michigan will add a milestone victory to their modest football histories Tuesday at the Texas Bowl.

The Owls (9-3) haven't won a bowl game in over 50 years, while the Broncos (9-3) are winless in three previous bowl appearances. Western Michigan is trying to secure its first 10-win season, while Rice is trying to reach double-digit wins for the first time since 1949.

"A lot of people aren't going to look at this and say, 'Look at that matchup," said Rice senior quarterback Chase Clement. "But I know we've got a great opportunity, because of the season they've had, and for us to get to 10 wins. We have a great opportunity to accomplish a lot, just by winning this game."

Rice lost to Troy in the 2006 New Orleans Bowl, ending a 45-year postseason drought. The Owls' last bowl victory came Jan. 1, 1954, a 28-6 win over Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.

Western Michigan lost to Cincinnati in the International Bowl after the 2006 season, two years removed from a 1-10 campaign. The Broncos have reached nine wins for just the second time since 1988, the year they lost to Fresno State in the California Bowl. The only other bowl appearance came in 1961, and the current players have talked about what a victory in Houston would mean for the program.

"We'd love to be remembered as the best team ever to go through Western," junior quarterback Tim Hiller said.

The matchup at Reliant Stadium -- home of the NFL's Houston Texans -- figures to be one of the highest-scoring games of the bowl season. Both teams pass about 40 times per game and rank among the top 25 nationally in total offense.

The Owls ranked 10th nationally in total offense (472 yards per game) and eighth in scoring (42 points). Clement ranked third in total offense (369 yards) and sixth in pass efficiency, finishing the regular season with a 165.4 rating.

Rice was the only team in the nation with two players in the top 10 in receiving yards per game -- Jarett Dillard and James Casey. Dillard is the NCAA's career leader in touchdown catches (59) and he needs nine catches in the bowl game to crack the top 10 in that category.

"He's got great body control in the air," said Rice coach David Bailiff, finishing his second season. "If you took a football out of his hands and put a basketball in it, you'd think he was Dr. J. His leaping ability, at times, he's still going up when others are coming down."

The Broncos ranked 24th in total offense (423 yards per game) and 37th in scoring (30 points per game). Hiller led the Mid-American Conference in yards passing (294 per game) and Jamarko Simmons ranked second in the league in yards receiving (98.7 per game).

"The only thing that's stopped us is us," said Hiller, who threw 34 touchdowns to only eight interceptions. "We have a lot of confidence in ourselves."

Western Michigan's defense ranked seventh in the MAC and 11th against the pass, an ominous sign. But senior defensive back E.J. Biggers said the Broncos won't be caught off-guard by the Owls, since they face a high-powered offense every day in practice.

"They have some great firepower," said Biggers. "But we have great firepower, too, and that's going to make it easier for us to prepare."

The Owls ranked as one of the nation's worst defenses, allowing 467 yards and 35 points per game. They allowed 30 points or more five times -- and won all five of those games.

Rice led Conference USA with a plus-13 turnover margin and Bailiff said that will be a key statistic in the bowl game. Western Michigan was minus-3 in the category.

But Bailiff isn't expecting either defense to hold down the opposing offense. He said defenses across the country are still trying to catch up as offenses -- like the two in this game -- have evolved and become more complex.

"You used to tell a defensive lineman they had 4 seconds to get to a quarterback. Now you have 1.8 seconds and the ball's probably gone anyway," he said. "It used to be that your defense had to be in the teens to win a football game. Now, if you can hold somebody to 28, you're probably in pretty good shape, you know, in the fourth quarter.

"Football has changed," he said. "The quarterbacks are so much more intelligent on reading all the different coverages. They know where the soft spots are. It's a wide-open football game."


Passing Leaders

Z. Terrell67.934432610
C. Davis100.01800
D. Jackson57.72842248
T. Stehling63.215910

Rushing Leaders

J. Franklin30615515.124
D. Chance693214.71
J. Davis2459563.96
D. Dillard1346524.911

Receiving Leaders

C. Davis78140818.115
D. Braverman8699711.66
J. Taylor5484215.67
M. Hull3262119.48