We're dredging up the kind of history no one wants to remember. We owe it you, our valued readers, to give a thorough and complete accounting of such history, the good, the bad, and most certainly the ugly. Welcome to our new series, Bad Beats, the epic beatdowns in the history of Texas College football. Relax, everyone gets a turn.
4,093 fans paid to watch Rice and San Jose State do WAC-battle on October 2, 2004. Most left before the game ended leaving Spartan Stadium almost empty as the final gun sounded. San Jose isn't a football hotbed, but on October 2, 2004, the few hearty souls who stayed to the bitter end saw one of the most pointsy games of all time and also saw a bad beat.
A brief Bright Spot
The modern history of Rice football is a minefield of bad beats. The Owls, once nationally relevant, became an also-ran by the mid to late 1950s, then they became the doormat of the SWC before the powers that were, plus Ann Richards, shut the league down.
From there the Owls traveled west to the now defunct football arm of the Western Athletic Conference. At first, the league made some sense, but by 2004, the travel and late kicks were taking its toll.
Ken Hatfield coached the Owls, and his option-based offense became a dangerous matchup for the pass-happy WAC. The Owls won seven games twice during his teams venture west and eight games in 2001. For Rice, winning seven or eight games was cause for celebration, well for Rice, hearty applause.
2004 started similarly well; the Owls beat crosstown rival Houston in their opener and Hawaii at home a week later. In week three Rice traveled to Austin and number five Texas where, predictably, the Owls lost but by a respectable margin, 35-13.
Do you know the Way to San Jose?
In San Jose, the Spartans were hospitable to a fault to their opponents. Through three games San Jose State was 1-2. In two losses the Spartans allowed 76 points. In their one win, vs. FBS opponent Morgan State they'd allowed 28 points.
As the 2004 season played out, San Jose was the worst defense in FBS football. Their defense allowed 5.1 yards a carry. That's a hefty number for any squad, but compared to their afternoon against the Owls, it was downright stingy.
Fritz Hill may be the last man outside of Bavaria named Fritz. That's an assumption based on subjective data. Objectively, Fritz Hill spent four years at San Jose State driving the struggle bus. His teams won fourteen games in four seasons or 29%.
Hill is a military man, a devout Christian, he had a doctorate and had significant experience coaching with Houston Nutt at Arkansas; if only he could have replicated himself ten times and tackled.
"The Conventional Rules of Football Did Not Apply"
Rather than give you a blow by blow of the nineteen touchdowns (19!), no one has time for that, let's give you the numbers.
- The two team combined for 1089 yards.
- Rice had a school record 634 yards.
- Rice rushed for 570 yards averaging 6.7 yards a carry.
- Owls Marcus Rucker rushed for 201 yards, Greg Henderson added 156 and Joel Armstrong finished with 120 yards.
- The Owls scored 34 points in the first eighteen minutes of the game.
- San Jose State scored ten touchdowns and yet held the ball for less than eighteen minutes of the 60-minute game.
- The Spartans made up for their lack time with speed, scoring on plays of 77, 74, 67, 54, 45, and 29 yards.
- Spartan quarterback Dale Rogers completed ten passes for 359 yards.
- Five of his completions went for touchdowns.
- He also played with a hyperextended knee.
- The 133 points were the most scored in a non-overtime game.
And yet through all that, Rice kind of, sort of, dominated the game. The Owls led by 27 points early on and later, in the fourth quarter by fourteen. Then things hit the fan. Perhaps they were already hitting the fan but came at a more rapid rate. San Jose scored the final 21 points, somehow mustering three defensive stands in the last quarter.
The Spartan defense even scored the game winner, a pick-six by Brian Nunez, celebrated by the tens and tens in attendance.
San Jose State used that momentum to carry them to a WAC title. Just kidding, they lost their next seven games and finished 2-9. Rice turned around the next week and kicked the hell out of SMU to move their record to a respectable 3-2, but the SMU was their last as the Owls dropped six straight.