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"
Rice also came within nine seconds of notching its first shutout
in nine years, a complete turnaround from its 48-14 loss to Houston
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
They had much more material to work with this time and it
"I think they were hungrier than we were and that's squarely on
my shoulders," Briles said. "Last year, everything went right for
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.