Rice football gets big-time ESPN love for its Purdue dramatics
It's one of the biggest wins in the last 50 years for Rice University football — certainly one of the most dramatic ever. OK, it wasn't the 1954 Cotton Bowl, but they didn't have ESPN back when the Owls whipped mighty Alabama, only to have Tommy Lewis steal the spotlight by coming off the sideline to tackle Dicky Maegle, the Owl no other Crimson Tide could take down.
So Maegle never sniffed Top Plays. Justin Allen did, by sneaking in to steal victory back from impending defeat.
You want drama? How about ending a 22-game losing to Bowl Championship Series (BCS) teams by blocking a 31-yard field goal on the last play of the game — in your own stadium, with the university president in the house and perfect blue skies overhead?
A 24-22 victory over Purdue is a postcard moment for Rice football and fifth-year coach David Bailiff, who let's be honest, is already coming off a better 2010 season than the University of Houston's much-more-publicized program enjoyed.
A 24-22 victory over Purdue is a postcard moment for Rice football and fifth-year coach David Bailiff, who let's be honest, is already coming off a better 2010 season than the University of Houston's much-more-publicized program enjoyed. More importantly, in this era of television dominance, it is an ESPN moment.
Yes, little Rice University made SportsCenter's Top Plays. Allen's block of Carson Wiggs' field-goal attempt, and the Owls' giddy, delirious on-field celebration afterwards, came in at No. 9 on SportsCenter's latest Top 10 countdown. Which means that it was played over-and-over again, every time SportsCenter aired, all Saturday night and into Sunday morning.
And why not?
You're not going to find a purer moment from this college football weekend. The Owls earned this ESPN love, from Allen to quarterback Taylor McHargue (19-for-29 for 230 yards and two touchdowns) to defensive end Scott Solomon (two sacks) to all-purpose back Sam McGuffie (11 touches for 86 total yards) to Bailiff.
No one's saying Purdue is any good. In fact, the Boilermakers may be the worst team in the Big Ten. But they're still a BCS program, still one of those haughty big-money conference superiors that look down on teams like Rice from Conference USA (maybe rightly so, if you look at UH's schedule this season).
It still snaps the streak. It still makes the Owls 1-1 after opening with BCS teams in back-to-back weeks. Bailiff's bunch still did it by blocking a virtual chip-shot from a preseason All-American kicker — after everyone else in the stadium had chalked this up as another heartbreaking loss. It's still something to cue up for potential recruits from here on out.
Rice as an ESPN darling? That seems right. Which makes it even better.