It might be an overstatement to say the pro-Texas A&M crowd at Kyle Field Saturday was nervous after Rice’s first two offensive possessions.
A bit uneasy or a tad troubled is probably a fair description though. After all, Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue and the Owls offense needed a total of 10 plays to go 153 yards and score two touchdowns.
“I'm really pleased with how this football game started,” said Rice coach David Bailiff. “We had a 94 yard touchdown drive. To come into Texas A&M and have over 500 yards of offense. To look at what we did great and to look at the mistakes we made, it shows we are going to be a really good team.”
Rice was stopped from scoring on the next several possessions and the final outcome was a 52-31 loss. But considering the talent level of the No. 7 ranked opponent, the Owls have to be confident they will put some big numbers in 2013.
Heck, they had a few gaudy numbers Saturday.
- Rice ran the ball for 306 yards, an average of 6 yards a carry
- The Owls outgained the Aggies overall 509 to 486.
- Rice’s offense possessed the ball for more than 38 minutes
- Rice converted 45 percent (9 of 20) of third and fourth down plays
- In four red zone trips, Rice scored four touchdowns
- Rice’s quarterbacks combined to rush for 133 yards
- Charles Ross gained 109 rushing yards, his fifth 100-yard career rushing game.
The caveat is the Aggies were missing four defensive starters because of suspensions. A fifth starter, DeShazor Everett, missed the first half with a suspension and then was ejected for targeting in the second half.
“I feel starting the game, we had a lot of young guys playing kind of nervous and on their toes, but as the game went on they got a little bit more confident,” said Texas A&M senior defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. “[They] came out in the second half and got a little bit more calm and made plays.”
While it’s impossible to know how many yards Rice would have gained against the Aggies starting 11, a mix of A&M first and second string defenders arguably provided a sterner test than what, for instance, Florida Atlantic or New Mexico State’s defenses will.
Rice’s first drive featured a 26 yard pass to tight end Connor Cella to get the Owls out of the shadow of their end zone and a career high 57-yard run by McHaruge.
The second drive included three plays of 14 or more yards. McHargue hit Donte Moore for 14, Charles Ross for 19 and rushed for 18 on a third down play.
“I’m proud of Charles Ross and the way the offensive line played,” Bailiff said.
Wide receiver Jordan Taylor provided some highlight reel catches, including one for a touchdown with 10 seconds to go in the half where he caught a deflected pass at the two yard line.
“It was great to start the way we did, with a touchdown the first series of the game,” McHargue said. “That was big for us. I thought the whole first half we moved the ball effectively. Then the second half, I have to play better than that. I think, besides the few mistakes, we played very well. We need to clean up the mental errors in the second half.”
Those errors included two McHargue interceptions, which helped A&M increase the lead from 7 to 17 in the third quarter.
McHargue gave way to Driphus Jackson for a few series with solid results. The sophomore quarterback had 55 yards rushing, including scrambling for 20 on one play. He was 3 for 7 on pass attempts for 23 yards.
Jackson was paired with redshirt freshman running back Darik Dillard on a long second half touchdown drive. Dillard carried the ball 9 times for 41 yards. With running back Turner Petersen sidelined with a collarbone injury, Dillard may see more carries when Ross needs a break.
The Owls have a bye this week. They will host Kansas at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 14.