Rice storms back to wash away Navy Owls win, 27-22, after 63-min. delay

November 22, 1992|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Staff Writer

HOUSTON -- For three quarters Navy's plan to control the Rice rushing attack was working to near perfection, holding in check the nation's third-best rusher and staying only three points behind a team that entered the game a 24-point favorite.

But the Midshipmen had no defense for Mother Nature. Trailing 10-7 after three quarters, a fierce storm that spawned tornadoes not far from the stadium resulted in a 63-minute delay. By the time this bizarre game was resumed, it was the Rice offense coming up with a deluge of points, scoring 17 in a span of just more than seven minutes in the fourth quarter on its way to a 27-22 win before a sparse crowd at Rice Stadium.

In winning, Rice (6-4) clinched its first winning season since 1963 and put itself in position for a possible bowl bid going into next week's game against cross-town rival Houston. In losing, Navy (1-9) saw a severe storm take away the momentum of an evenly-played game that was winnable before the delay.

"Our defense played well, about as well as they've played in weeks," Navy coach George Chaump said.

"I don't know if they cooled down or what [after the delay], but they gave them two, easy, quick touchdowns."

And the key player in the decisive fourth quarter was junior quarterback Bert Emanuel, who completed 16 of 25 passes for a career-high 272 yards.

Emanuel, who also rushed for 61 yards, ended the game with 11 straight completions, including a shuffle pass to Jimmy Lee for a 45-yard touchdown that gave Rice a 24-14 lead.

That pass to Lee ended a wild three minutes and one second of play during which Rice scored two touchdowns and Navy one. The Navy score, on a 16-yard run by Cleavon Smith that pulled the Midshipmen to 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, capped a three-play drive -- Navy's shortest scoring drive of the season.

Navy did not score again until the last play of the game, when James ran in from the 2. James was barely in the end zone when fans rushed into the end zone and tore down the goal post. It took nearly 15 minutes to clear the field, and Navy converted a two-point conversion at the opposite end of the field to complete the scoring.

That sparked another celebration, as Rice ended a string of 29 losing seasons.

"The Lord has blessed me to give me the opportunity to be the coach here at the right time," Rice coach Fred Goldsmith said. "This was going to happen, and I was just blessed to be here. This has brought a lot of people together."

The Owls were able to get the job done with a less-than-spectacular effort by Trevor Cobb, whose 129.4 yards per game going into yesterday's game ranked third in the nation. Cobb rushed 30 yards for 100 yards, but some of those yards came late, and the senior was never a factor.

"We were really on him after he tried to hit it outside," Navy linebacker Javier Zuluaga said. "We knew we had to stop him before he got going because he [accelerates] after hitting the hole."

At the half, Cobb had 36 yards, with Navy announcing its intention to stop the run by placing seven men on the line on the Owls' first play.

"With [Rice playing] a one-back offense, it's hard to get outside," Chaump said. "We just didn't give him much daylight."

But Emanuel was able to create his with his speed. With Rice trailing 7-3, after a 5-yard run by Navy's Smith in the second quarter, Emanuel sparked the Rice comeback. On a 79-yard drive in which he scrambled and threw the ball, Emanuel capped it with a 15-yard run that gave the Owls a 10-7 halftime lead with 58 seconds left.

The score remained close through the third quarter, which was played in heavy rain and lightning near the stadium. It was Rice that benefited from the break with 17 fourth-quarter points that clinched the winning season.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm so proud of our players," Goldsmith said.

"We've had two very emotional games against Texas Tech and Baylor, and sometimes it's hard to keep that going. We knew all along that [Navy] was much better than its record. You've got to give them credit."

Chaump couldn't help notice the emotions that flowed on the Rice sideline after the Owls clinched the winning season.

After telling his players how proud he was of their effort, he said that he expects similar celebrations by Navy.

"We're shooting for the same thing as Rice, although we haven't been losing for quite as long," Chaump said. "If Rice can do it, the Naval Academy can do it. I really think our program is on the way up, and we're going to get our day someday."

Next for Navy: Army

;/

When: Dec. 5, at Philadelphia, 12:10 p.m.

Record: 4-6

Yesterday: Lost to Boston College, 41-24.

Last year: The Midshipmen dominated Army, 24-3, for their only victory of the season.

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