5:00 PM ET, September 5, 2004
5:00 PM ET, September 5, 2004
HOUSTON (AP) -- With a little more time to prepare and lots more film to review, Rice had no trouble solving Houston's complicated offense this time.
Ed Bailey scored on a 2-yard run and the Owls avenged last year's humiliating 34-point loss to their cross-town rivals, beating Houston 10-7 on Sunday night.
"It was unbelievable. Everything clicked," said Rice defensive end John Syptak, who led the team with eight tackles and two sacks. "We came out strong and it was beautiful. Last year we had no clue what they were going to do."
The Owls won the traditional season opener against Houston for the first time since 2001, grinding out a victory in the lowest-scoring game in the 30-year history of the "Bayou Bucket" series.
Rice also came within nine seconds of notching its first shutout in nine years, a complete turnaround from its 48-14 loss to Houston in 2003.
Houston rushed for only eight yards and nearly half of their 212 total yards came on a 99-yard scoring drive in the final minutes of the game. Kevin Kolb threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Vincent Marshall with nine seconds left, helping the Cougars avert their first shutout since a 48-0 loss at Texas in 2000.
"Tonight, nothing went right," said Kolb, who was sacked seven times and hit nearly twice that much. "It's everybody's fault."
Rice didn't fare much better, finishing with only 13 first downs and 186 yards of offense. Quarterback Greg Henderson led the Owls with 74 yards rushing and Bailey added 57.
Bailey's touchdown capped a nine-play, 67-yard drive midway through the second quarter, giving the Owls an early 7-0 lead.
The Owls then relied on a dominant defensive effort -- totaling nine sacks and 14 tackles for a loss -- to win their fourth-straight game dating to last year.
"This is probably the best defensive performance that we've been around and it was fun to be a part of it," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said. "The real key to the game was disrupting the quarterback. Kolb had to run a 40-yard sprint sideways sometimes and we really threw him out of rhythm."
Houston ranked 12th nationally in overall offense and 16th in scoring last season under first-year coach Art Briles and freshman quarterback Kolb, a former pupil of Briles' at Stephenville High School. Briles' confounding schemes -- mostly concocted during his days at the West Texas prep powerhouse -- led the Cougars to their first bowl game in seven years.
The Cougars overwhelmed Rice in last year's opener, rolling up 412 yards of offense at an average of 7.4 yards a play.
Rice players and coaches acknowledged their were totally befuddled in Briles' debut last season. That's not surprising considering he came to Houston after spending three years as an assistant at Texas Tech and 12 years at Stephenville.
The Owls prepared for that game by watching grainy videotapes of Briles' teams at Stephenville and a few snippets from his years at Texas Tech.
They had much more material to work with this time and it showed.
"I think they were hungrier than we were and that's squarely on my shoulders," Briles said. "Last year, everything went right for us."
Kolb, the nation's top freshman passer last season, went 15-of-33 for 204 yards with an interception and the touchdown to Marshall. He was under pressure all night, however, often struggling just to set his feet to throw.
The loss to the Owls doesn't bode well for Houston, especially since it comes the week before a game at No. 2 Oklahoma. It'll be one of four games in 19 days for the Cougars.