Marshall finally jumps into Conference USA football play this week.
And if I told you that the game was going to be played in a facility that once hosted a Super Bowl, you’d probably scratch your head, wondered if you had misread the Herd’s schedule and had perhaps confused Rice with Tulane … but relax, Marshall will hook up with the Owls in Houston on Saturday.
But, you see, that’s the thing.
Rice Stadium once was host to a Super Bowl -- VIII, in 1974. When the Miami Dolphins squared off against Minnesota in Super Bowl VIII, the site of the game was one of many things that broke the mold, in regard to pro football’s biggest showcase.
This would be the first time that the Super Bowl site was not played on the site of a NFL franchise; the Houston Oilers (now Tennessee Titans) played in the Astrodome, remember? This was also the first Super Bowl not to be held in Los Angeles, Miami, or New Orleans.
The game itself was a bit of a snoozer; still considered among the most boring of the Super Bowls. Miami dominated the Vikings 24-7 to give Coach Don Shula his second straight Super Bowl title.
But while the game itself was forgettable, the coverage of it, and the scene surrounding it, detailed by Rolling Stone’s Hunter S. Thompson, was anything but. After “Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl” hit the newsstand, sports journalism has never really been the same.
Although Rice Stadium has been around for more than 60 years, when you settle in to watch a game there, you are suddenly struck by its simple lines and modern, functional design. It’s a football- only facility, which has been the home over the years for Rice, the Houston Cougars, the AFL’s
Houston Oilers (from 1965-67) and around a dozen Bluebonnet Bowls.
But while the design of the stadium may have been ahead of its time, the anticipation of the large crowds that would flock to it a half-century later was vastly overestimated.
Originally intended to seat 70,000 comfortably, beginning in 2006, the end zone seats were covered with tarps, which knocked capacity down to around 50,000 – a good start, but the average crowd for a Rice game these days is still in the 15,000 range.
Rice won outright or shared seven Southwest Conference titles, six of them coming in a 25-year span beginning in 1934, but the pickings have been relatively slim since then. Arguably, the biggest moment in Rice football history occurred in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, when the Owls’ Dickey Moegle was racing down the sidelines for an apparent touchdown against Alabama, when the Tide’s Tommy Lewis came off the sideline -- without a helmet -- to tackle him.
The officials rewarded Moegle a 95 yard touchdown and Rice went on to win the Cotton Bowl, 28-6. The Owls wouldn’t win another bowl game until the 2008 Texas Bowl.
But as Rice prepares to host the Herd on Saturday, the Owls are feeling pretty good about themselves.
Rice made a little school history earlier this month on the road, when kicker Chris Boswell buried a 45-yard, game-winning field goal to lift the Owls past Kansas, 25-24. It was Rice’s first win over a Big 12 foe – in history.
Boswell is a threat to hurt the Herd from long range. Consider, heading into last weekend’s game with future C-USA member Louisiana Tech,
Boswell had knocked through a school-record six field goals from 50 yards or beyond, including a 53-yarder against UCLA in the Owls’ opener.
Boswell had a 60-yard try at Northwestern hit the crossbar last season, so his range is pretty much unlimited.
The Herd is hoping that Rice’s inability to keep from giving up the big play continues Saturday. Last season, the Owls allowed 23 plays of 40 yards
or more, second only to Fresno State (28) among FBS teams.
That trend continued in Rice’s 2012 season opener against UCLA. On the Bruins’ first offensive play from scrimmage, quarterback Brett Hundley
found his way to the right sideline and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone, putting UCLA on top early with a 72-yard touchdown run.
But as quite a few Rice foes have found, the Owls also make their share of big plays of their own. Former Rice All-America wide receiver Jarett
Dillard gave C-USA opponents fits during his career and another Dillard is on the way, as his younger brother, Darik, is a true freshman running back this season for David Bailiff.
Making the roadie to Rice for a football game is underrated; it’s a good trip. BTW, if you are going, make sure to hit the Rice Village for some great
places to eat; Prego is very good if you are craving Italian and Cafe Rabelais (French) is legendary – no reservations, but worth the wait.
Getting a decent meal and a Herd road victory is always a good combo, and there’s a good chance Marshall fans could come home with both from Rice this year.