It didn’t take Rice football coach David Bailiff long this week to start quoting a former president.
“I think President Kennedy summed it up when he asked, ‘Why does Rice play Texas? Because it is hard,’” he said.
Kennedy’s quote came from his famous speech at Rice Stadium on September 12, 1962, encouraging and challenging the country to pursue the goal of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.
“Why, some say the moon?” JFK asked. “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? Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Maybe it isn’t as hard as Bailiff or Kennedy once thought. Rice has won 19 games over the last two seasons and one week, including a bowl victory last year in Hawaii. Texas has won just 14 games over that same span, and gained a meager 59 yards of total offense last year in the Advocare Texas Bowl. The Horns didn’t look much better last week, losing 38-3 at Notre Dame.
Saturday night at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin, the Longhorns and Owls will find out if Kennedy’s words still ring true.
The last time Rice won in Austin was 1965, three years after Kennedy’s speech. It would seem like Saturday’s match-up presents the best opportunity for the Owls to pull off a signature win as any that have come before during Bailiff’s Rice tenure. Texas was embarrassed in South Bend, forcing Charlie Strong to change play callers among his offensive coaching staff. The Horns quarterback situation continues to be unsettled. That is being kind. Call it a mess if you so choose.
In contrast, Rice is led by a fifth-year senior and second year starter in Driphus Jackson, who accounted for more than 3,000 total yards last season. Can Jackson and the Owls pull the upset? The odds makers don’t seem to think so. Rice is somewhere in the neighborhood of a 14 point underdog.
“Our kids relish those moments of going and playing a Notre Dame or the University of Texas,” Bailiff said Monday. “That is one where you go in dreaming big. We are dreaming big right now.”
The Longhorn fans are just hoping they don’t endure another nightmare.
“Charlie (Strong), he is a good football coach and they will find their identity,” Bailiff said. “You know they are searching hard this week.”
Rice will also break out a secret weapon, white helmets with a blue R, to be worn for the first time. On the back there will be a decal that says, “Froggy” in honor of Froggy Williams, an iconic figure at Rice who passed away in June. Williams was a College Football Hall of Famer who kicked a field goal in 1949 as time expired to defeat Texas 17-15.
A win of any score would give Rice some severe bragging rights over Longhorn Nation. Bailiff however, doesn’t expect anything to come easy in Austin.
“You know when a team (Texas) struggles like that, they are more determined the next week,” he said. “What would have been best for us was for them to beat Notre Dame. You know those are proud young men. It is a proud program. I really feel we will see a very different University of Texas team.”
Charlie Strong and the Longhorns hope Bailiff is right.
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