Black Knights capitalize on Owls’ miscues
Rice quarterback Miklo Smalls probably didn’t imagine his fifth career pass would go for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for Rice, it was a score for Army on the way to its 49-12 win Saturday night at Rice Stadium.
The Owls’ third drive of the game looked promising after tight end Jordan Myers ran 4 yards for a first down. But a play later, Max Regan intercepted Smalls and took it back 48 yards for the Black Knights.
Over the next four minutes, Rice coughed the ball up three times as Army turned each fumble into a touchdown.
Just four seconds into the second quarter, Rice trailed 28-0.
“Coming into the second half of the season we never thought we’d be 1-5,” Owls coach David Bailiff said. “We had high hopes, big goals and big expectations for the second half of the season, so we’ve got to change.”
Despite a new look at quarterback, the results remained largely the same for struggling Rice, which lost its fourth consecutive game to Army (4-2).
With starting quarterback Sam Glaesmann out for the third consecutive week and backup Jackson Tyner throwing three interceptions last Saturday at Pittsburgh, Rice gave Smalls the start.
A touted freshman out of Plano, Smalls completed two of five passes for 11 yards and gained 2 yards on the ground. He was pulled after fumbling the handoff to Austin Walter on a sweep play — after just five possessions.
“(Smalls) had energized the team through some of the plays he was making out there at practice this week,” Bailiff said. “So I thought his development was where he could go out there and win a football game for us.”
Tyner finished the game, completing seven of 16 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown, adding 19 yards rushing.
Rice got on the board early in the third quarter when running back Emmanuel Esukpa (six carries for 56 yards) burst up field for a 22-yard touchdown, but the extra-point kick was blocked.
The Owls scored again on a fourth-quarter, 58-yard pass to receiver Aaron Cephus, but failed to convert the two-point conversion.
Rice ended the game with six turnovers, including five fumbles.
“We only had one (takeaway),” Bailiff said. “We’ve got to get the turnover battles going, I don’t think we’ve won one this year.”
On defense, a unit that came in ranked 35th against the run was tasked with slowing the third-best ground attack in college football.
The Owls played well through Army’s first two possessions but melted as Rice turnovers enabled the Black Knights to pound the ball.
On three consecutive drives, the Rice defense took the field after less than a minute of rest on the sideline.
Army rushed for 418 yards with all but their defensive touchdown coming on the ground. Sophomore running back Kell Walker led Army with 127 yards on 10 carries.
Army’s Kell Walker, left, takes off against the Owls. Walker was the game’s leading rusher, carrying 10 times for 127 yards.