At the beginning of October, Rice was 1-5 and left for dead. The Owls' only win was a 25-24 comeback at Kansas. For a program that had won a total of 11 games since the beginning of the 2009 season, not much was expected of Rice but more losing.
But David Bailiff, his staff and his players knew things weren't as bad as they appeared. Two of those were understandable setbacks to strong teams in UCLA and Louisiana Tech, and two more were close calls against Marshall and Memphis.
On Oct. 13, Rice beat UTSA 34-14. The next week they challenged eventual Conference USA champion Tulsa to a 28-24 final score on the road. Then things really started to pick up. A 44-17 win over Southern Miss and a 49-47 win over Tulane led into the Owls' finest performance of the season, a 36-14 drubbing of SMU. Those three wins put the Owls within one win of bowl eligibility, which they achieved by beating UTEP, 33-24, on Saturday.
The win moved Rice to 6-6, which means the Owls are now, for the first time for the vast majority of Rice's players stepped on campus, bowl eligible. Rice hasn't played in a bowl since 2008, when the current fifth-year seniors were in their redshirt year. Plenty of people say there are too many bowl games, and that's a debate for another day, but those who do need to see scenes like this inside Rice's locker room after reaching win the all-important No. 6.
Thanks to Rice SID Chuck Pool for passing this along.