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Dr. Saturday

Rice, led by backup quarterback, gets a decisive bowl win against Air Force

Frank Schwab
Dr. Saturday

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(USA Today Sports Images)

There's a lot of griping about there being too many bowl games, and it's not unjustified. When there's a game between a pair of 6-6 teams, as happened in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday morning, it's tough to argue that the bowl season isn't bloated.

But, that doesn't take into account what a bowl game like this does for a team like Rice.

Rice lost a lot of seniors after last season, and had just seven seniors playing in the Armed Forces Bowl. That's the smallest senior class among all FBS schools other than Texas-San Antonio, which is in just its first year in FBS.

This is what the Owls got out of a bowl experience: weeks of practice for young players, momentum heading into the offseason after a 33-14 win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl, and a huge game for an obviously talented freshman quarterback that he can build on.

Rice, which got just its second bowl win since 1954, isn't going to complain about being one of the last teams to get a bowl bid.

The Owls started the season with its young roster by losing five of its six games. Rice won four in a row to get to 6-6. That familiarity with adversity came in handy against Air Force.

The Owls were trailing 14-7 and down to their backup quarterback after Taylor McHargue took a huge shot from Falcons cornerback Steffon Batts.

The most positive development from this bowl experience for Rice might be the play of freshman quarterback Driphus Jackson off the bench. He had played well in limited action before, especially in a start against Houston in which he threw for 272 yards and two touchdowns, but his play against Air Force will give the Owls' coaches a lot to think about this offseason. Jackson was 15-of-21 for 265 yards and two touchdowns off the bench, making a few huge throws in third- and fourth-down situations to put away the game. McHargue is just a junior and a good quarterback, but it never hurts to have options.

While Rice's win over Air Force will just go down as a fairly nondescript result in a blur of almost three dozen bowl games this season, what the Owls got out of it will have an impact on that program for a while.

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