Rice looks to end years of futility Navy set to face bowl-hungry Owls

November 21, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- It last happened here at Rice University the last time that Navy contended for a national championship, the year when Roger Staubach was a Heisman Trophy winner and the season that marked the last time the Midshipmen beat Notre Dame.

The year was 1963 when Rice finished the season at 6-4 -- the last time the Owls had a winning record.

Twenty-nine years of futility can end at Rice Stadium this afternoon when Rice (5-4) plays host to Navy (1-8). With two games remaining, the Owls need just one win to clinch a winning season. And going into today's game a heavy favorite (24 points), it has been difficult for Rice to control its enthusiasm.

"We're taking it all day to day," said Rice coach Fred Goldsmith. "You always want to come into November with a chance to play for your goals. To win three games in a row [going into today], and know you have something to play for, it's good."

The Owls will be playing for a winning season, and a lot more. Although Goldsmith has said it's premature to talk about it, Rice has an outside shot at a bowl game -- something that hasn't happened since 1961, when the Owls lost to Kansas in the Bluebonnet Bowl. Rice would be in a good position for a bowl bid with wins over Navy and cross-town rival Houston in the final two games.

"Obviously if we win out and beat the two fine teams we have left, we'd be deserving," Goldsmith said. "But, after 29 years . . . the winning season is paramount at this moment."

Just winning a game is paramount at the moment for Navy, which lost to Vanderbilt after winning its first game two weeks ago against Tulane. Navy had a difficult time moving the ball inside the "red zone" on two long drives in the Vanderbilt loss, and quarterback Jason Van Matre had a poor passing day with just six completions.

"We had opportunities but couldn't get it done," said Navy coach George Chaump. "We played well at times against Vanderbilt but at other times we seemed to have a lapse on both sides of the ball."

A lapse on defense against Rice could lead to another embarrassing afternoon for Navy. In Trevor Cobb, the Owls have the nation's third best rusher (129.4 yards per game). Cobb, who enters the game 285 yards shy of Darren Lewis' Southwest Conference record of 5,012.

"Trevor is a great kid," said Goldsmith of the first recruit he signed after taking over at Rice in 1989. "He's an unselfish young man and he's the hardest worker I've coached."

But Goldsmith credits the play of quarterback Bert Emanuel as the key to Rice's turnaround this season. After quarterback Josh LaRocca went down with a season-ending injury in the second game, Emanuel has effectively run the team and has put together a streak of 63 passes without an interception.

"He was rusty at the start, but he has tremendous skills," Goldsmith said of Emanuel. "He's so quick and he has been the catalyst in the turnaround of our season."

Chaump said containing Emanuel will be the biggest challenge for the Navy defense.

"Our biggest concern is Emanuel dropping back to pass, then running," Chaump said. "We have to contain the quarterback -- not let him break out -- and contain Cobb."

Facing two quality players in Cobb and Emanuel, Chaump's "contain" game plan will be easier said than done.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.