Know Your Program...Rice

While we've got some time here in the offseason, let's go over our history. Those who don't know their history are bound to think that the world started and stopped with Nick Saban. Perish the thought. If we're going to pull together to start a new, beautiful Southwest Conference, we may as well know who the hell we're inviting. This week let's get to know the nerds. The ones who we either work for or who control the financial infrastructure of the world, the Rice Owls. 

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That one time Rice and Sam Houston Cancelled. Sort of. 

Back in 1913 Rice Institute, as it was known, and Sam Houston Normal, as it was known, were all set to play a football game up in Huntsvegas. 

One problem, Rice didn't make the trip. 

Owl coach Phillip Arbuckle claimed Sam Houston Normal promised to pay the expenses for "18 men" to travel from Houston to Sam Houston the Friday before the game; however Sam Houston disagreed and offered to pay for "14 men" to make the trip before the game or 18 the day of. Arbuckle wouldn't agree to play with three substitutes or catch the 6:00 a.m. train.  

The Owls, rather than cancel, just never showed. 

What Else Did JFK Say?

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You've surely heard or read the famous statements made by John F. Kennedy from September 12, 1962, at Rice Stadium. The most famous line is "[w]e choose to got the moon in this decade and do other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

But what else did JFK say that day at Rice Stadium? We've pulled some of our favorite excerpts. 

"But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?"

"We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three..."

"I appreciate your president having made me an honorary visiting professor, and I will assure you that my first lecture will be very brief."

"I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute."

You can read the entire transcript here.


Rice Owl Wins

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You remember Dickie Maegle the infamous 1954 Cotton Bowl run, once the most memorable play in college football history. 

Dickie Maegle and Tommy Lewis after the Cotton Bowl.  Carl E. Linde/Associated Press

Dickie Maegle and Tommy Lewis after the Cotton Bowl. Carl E. Linde/Associated Press

Who am I kidding? You guys were all born during the Clinton Administration or later. 1954 is a long time ago. Let me catch you up. Maegle and Rice were kicking the hell out of Alabama. Maegle had already broken off a 79-yard touchdown run. He off on a 95-yard trot when reserve Alabama fullback Tommy Lewis came off the bench and tackled Maegle, fortunately not injuring Maegle. Lewis' excuse was that he was just "too full of Alabama." In 1954, we can probably take that statement to mean any number of things. Mostly bad. Heck in 2018 the connotation is pretty awful. 

Either way, Rice won the game and Maegle survived. 

There's a lot more to Dickie Maegle than that fateful play. Maegle came to Rice from Taylor, Texas as a 16-year old scrawny kid. He team with Dave Johnson to form one of college football's most lethal running tandems. They led Rice to a 1953 SWC title and a showdown with Bama. 

As a senior, he rushed for 905 yards and led the nation in punt return yardage. He left Rice holding 26 school records. Maegle was voted to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1979. 

He played professionally for San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Dallas, making the Pro Bowl in 1955. Maegle was known more for his defense, intercepting six passes in 1955 and 1956, then posting eight picks in 1957. In a fairly brief NFL career, Maegle picked off 28 passes. 

Of course, most folks remember him because of that dumbass from Alabama. 


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Grand Opening

Rice Stadium opened in 1950 with the Owls hosting the Santa Clara Broncos. Santa Clara wasn't a pushover by any stretch; they were the defending Orange Bowl champions and a West coast power. 

The local union goons threatened to picket the stadium, alleging that Brown and Root refused to an agreement to use only union craftsmen. The Owls didn't need union craftsmen to beat Santa Clara. The Owls jumped out to a 21-0 lead in front of a near capacity 68,000 fans. Imagine that for a second. Vernon Glass tossed four touchdowns in the 27-7 win. 

On the same day, Baylor opened its new stadium, later named Floyd Casey, by beating Houston 34-7. 

A week later the Owls beat LSU 35-20. 


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You could argue the David Bailiff run of three straight bowl games tops the charts, certainly in the modern era. But we're going to go with the period '46-'53 when Rice finished in the top ten three times and won the league twice. 

The 1949 team finished with one loss, a seven-point setback to LSU on the road, and won the Cotton Bowl over North Carolina. They also beat three top ten teams, SMU, Texas, and Baylor. The 1953 team beat four top 20 teams including #13 in the Cotton Bowl.  

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The early 80s, boy they were bad to the Owls. First Ray Alborn won 19% of his games before the powers that be had enough. Then Rice hired the wrong Brown brother, Watson instead of Mack. Watson won 18% of his games. The Owls turned the keys over to Jerry Berndt who won another 18% of their games. That's called consistency. 

In the midst of that run, the Owls lost 26 straight SWC games. Find something you're good at and stick with it. For Rice in the 80s, it was losing football games.


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Rice quarterback Chase Clement finished his career ranked in the top 25 of all NCAA quarterback in touchdown passes with 99. In 2008 Clement played his most dominant football, leading the Owls to ten wins and a Texas Bowl win over Western Michigan. Clement finished ninth in attempts among FBS quarterbacks, seventh in completions, fifth in yards, fourth in touchdown passes, and seventh in passer efficiency. 

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The Hardware:

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National Titles: 0

Conference Titles: 7

SWC Championships: 1934, 1937, 1946, 1949, 1953, 1957, 1994

CUSA:  2013

All-Americans

Trevor Cobb  RB  1991

Buddy Dial  E  1958

Weldon Humble  L  1946

Tommy Kramer  QB  1976

Dicky Maegle  B  1954

James Williams  E  1949


The Great Al Conover

Former Rice head man Al Conover might've been one of the great interviews in college football. Conover coached the Owls from 1972 to 1975 and while his success on the field wasn't much to write home about, his interviews and antics off it filled volumes. 

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Conover ended fall practice with a "confidence builder" scrimmage vs. the freshman team. The starters usually wracked up endless points while throttling the first years. 

After Rice between Texas A&M in 1972 he stopped on his way off the field to direct the Aggie Band. 

At the end of practice, rather than ordering the players to run wind sprints, he once ordered his coaching staff to run. 

He threw a chair threw a window before the 1972 Arkansas game in Little Rock, then his team went out and upset the Razorbacks. 

The large Conover lamented that his players struggled to hoist him up for the "players carry the coach off the field play." "Were working on this," Conover said, "we've got some bigger boys this year."

On his offensive philosophy: "If everyone was passing, I'd be running. I like to be different."

When Rice played Notre Dame in 1973, he brought in a group of priests to sit on the Rice bench for the game. 

After one victory Conover took to turning somersaults on the field in celebration. 

Frank Broyles accused him of tampering with Arkansas' headsets in the '75 game in Houston, Conover replied if he was going to do something so underhanded, "I would go join the Mafia."


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What's the biggest give-up/beating segment on your local sports radio show? The Mount Rushmore Discussion. It's the worst. Here's a question for Dickey and the Weasel as they debate the four greatest left-handed starters for the Brewers, who's on the Mount Rushmore or Mount Rushmores? You have to put Mount Rushmore right? Or are there other Mount Rushmores more deserving? Debate that before taking "if you could start your franchise with any player besides Lebron James" calls. 

Anyway, here are the seminal figures in Rice history. 

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Jess Neely - The Architect

The Godfather of the Rice program has to be Neely. He shaped the Owls into a national power. The Owls finished in the final AP top 10 four times, finishing as high as fifth in 1949. Rice won the SWC four times during a rugged period when TCU, Texas, Arkansas, and Texas A&M all had top 10 finishes. Neely coached 27 years at Rice, winning 144 games, almost 90 more than any other Owl coach. 

Jarett Dillard - The Record Setter

Concerning consistent receiving productivity, Dillard is among the greats of all time. Dillard caught a touchdown pass in fifteen straight games; only Larry Fitzgerald tops him with eighteen. Dillard holds the NCAA records with 60, eight more than any other player. He led the NCAA in single-season receiving touchdowns three seasons in a row. He and Chase Clement helped lead Rice to its first bowl game in over 40 years. 

Tommy Kramer - The Outlier

When Kramer showed up on Rice's campus, the Owls were the doormat of the SWC. Kramer couldn't elevate the Owls to the top of the league, but he did become the first SWC quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards. He also threw for four of the top eight passing games in league history, finished his career with the second most passing yards and total yards in NCAA history, finished fifth in the Heisman balloting and was one of two quarterbacks in college football named consensus All-American while playing for a losing team. The other guy? John Elway. 

Trevor Cobb - Mr. Consistent

Cobb rushed for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and led the Owls to a second place finish in the league in 1992. That team recorded the first winning record for Rice team since 1964. Cobb rushed for 4,948 yards, including the most attempts in SWC history. He averaged solid 4.5 yards a carry with 38 touchdowns. He made Consensus All-American in 1991 and won the Doak Walker the same year. The first Rice All-American since Kramer in 1976. Cobb is Rice's career leader in rushing yards, by almost 1,300 yards. 


The Roundup...