A look at Rice's statistics and playmakers heading into Saturday's 2:30PM match up.
Rice 49, Tulane 47: Recap and Reaction
After the teams traded possession Tulane narrowed the margin to 7 after Ryan Griffin found Wilson Van Hooser for a 35 yard touchdown reception on a 4 play 51 yard drive. Turnovers continued to trouble the Wave, with Xavier Rush fumbling while stiff arming a defender and Darion Monroe botching a punt catch attempt which translated into 7 points after driving 34 yards and scoring on a 6 yard option run from RB Turner Petersen. On the fourth turnover in the first half, Gabe Baker had a Ryan Griffin pass deflected straight to him and he returned the interception 55 yards for a touchdown to put Rice up 28 to 7.
Rice's defensive secondary did a much more admirable job against the Wave's wide receivers than what UAB displayed last week. Their press coverage made it difficult to find the open man for Ryan Griffin through the first half.
Tulane finally caught a break when the Owls fumbled after an option pitch found the turf inside Tulane's 5 yard line and Shak Smith recovered. The offensive theme of the first half continued, however, with Tulane going 3 and out and ceding possession back to Rice. On the last possession of the half the Wave managed to get the ball in Cairo Santos range and he managed to make a 57 yard attempt, setting a Tulane record and moving the score to 28 to 10.
The second half looked like more of the same when Ryan Griffin was intercepted on the first play after a Rice defensive end tipped a ball at the line and caught it himself. The script was flipped however when Ryan Travis grabbed a deflected pass and took it 74 yards to the end zone for the first points of the second half. Rice countered the little bit of momentum created by Tulane and drove 75 yards on 5 plays, capped off by a 11 yard touchdown run from Charles Ross. The Wave had a quick response on the ensuing drive, getting down to Rice's 7 yard line on a 68 yard pass to Ryan Grant that set up a 7 yard TD reception by Rob Kelley. After forcing the Owls off the field on their next drive and found the end zone on another big play with Xavier Rush slipping a tackle and taking a reception 62 yards for a touchdown.
Tulane's defense continued playing decently in the second half, forcing another 3 and out and giving Ryan Griffin and the offense a chance to take the lead. They seized that opportunity and after Ryan Griffin hit Ryan Grant for a 62 yard completion down to the Owls' 1 yard line. The Wave took the lead after a 1 yard Orleans Darkwa run for a touchdown, 38 to 35. The game started to look like last weeks match up against UAB as the big offensive plays and easy scoring drives appeared again, with Rice taking their next drive 75 yards on 8 plays to go up 42 to 38 on a 3 yard run by Luke Turner. Tulane's next drive ate up 5:49 as they went 56 yards on 9 plays that set up a 42 Cairo Santos kick that put the Wave down 1 point with 8:34 left in the game.
The defense started to break down as Rice looked to put it away on their next drive, going 85 yards on 9 plays and eating up 5:52 of clock in the fourth quarter. The drive was finalized with a 2 yard touchdown run by Luke Turner. The door was open for Tulane to try and tie the game with 2:42 left to go. After keeping the drive alive with a defensive pass interference on 4th down, Ryan Griffin found Wilson Van Hooser for a few plays later for a 33 yard touchdown reception to put the Wave down 2 with 0:57 left on the clock. The needed 2 point conversion failed, however, when Ryan Grant could not snag a pass at the back of the end zone. The Rice Owls held onto to win 49 to 47 in another wild match up for the Green Wave.
- This was a tough loss as the Wave seemingly snagged the momentum in the second half, but the defense again had trouble keeping the opposing offense out of it. That said, it's hard to be too down when considering the team was down 28 to 7 in the first half and committed 5 turnovers. Climbing that deficit and eventually taking the lead shows a lot of resilience.
- There are definite signs of progress. Given the offensive output through the first half of the season it is encouraging to see such prolific production. Granted, Ryan Griffin is a big reason for this, but the wide receivers and running backs are performing at a higher level. The production from Ryan Grant is somewhat expected, but Xavier Rush, Jusytn Shackelford, Wilson Van Hooser, and even Marc Edwards have all given solid performances while being 2nd or 3rd options.
- The much maligned offensive line has shown improvement after a shaky start to the season. Not just in relation to sacks allowed, but the QB has not taken the big hits after the throw as we saw through the first 4 or 5 match ups.
- Every game Darion Monroe continues to impress. The team's leading tackler is a solid tackler, always flying to ball, and not afraid to sacrifice his body. It will be fun to watch him continually develop and be the huge force of this defense.
- Cairo Santos 57 yard field goal was a Tulane record and that make helped give the team a little momentum going into the half. Pretty remarkable how he's managed to remained perfect with the amount of long field goals he has attempted.
- Ryan Griffin was Ryan Griffin, and his two interceptions were not necessarily bad throws - they just took an unfortunate bounce. He went 28/49 for 476 yards and 4 TDs. Can only imagine his total stat line if he didn't miss any time.
- One concerning stat from this game is the huge split between pass attempts and rush attempts (49 to 14). While the run game is not always effective and the team was playing from behind for the vast majority of the game, more balance would make the offense even more dangerous.
- A win would have been great, but signs of improvement and hard play are encouraging for the long term.
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