When the Rice Owls take the field tonight, they will be looking for the team’s first bowl win in over half a century.
The 9-3 Owls will face the Western Michigan Broncos, also 9-3, in the third annual Texas Bowl at Reliant Stadium. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
A win would not only give Rice their first bowl victory since 1954, it will leave the team with a ten-win season, something that only occurred once before in team history. The last time a Rice football team topped nine victories in a season was in 1949.
Rice’s last bowl win was over Alabama in the 1954 Cotton Bowl.
Their last bowl appearance was in 2006, when the Owls were clobbered by Troy State 41-17 in the New Orleans Bowl.
The 22 seniors on the Owl squad have come a long way since their first season in 2005 when the team managed only a single victory. The 1-10 season hastened the departure of then-Head Coach Ken Hatfield.
The team has also managed an impressive turnaround following a 3-9 campaign last year. Head Coach David Bailiff said the key was getting the team to believe in itself.
“I really thought we could win six this year, but it’s been really amazing to see what these young men can achieve when they do it together,” Bailiff said.
Rice tied with Tulsa for the championship of Conference USA’s Western Division.
At the same time, a bowl victory would be equally sweet for Western Michigan. The Broncos are winless in their three previous bowl appearances.
WMU finished second behind Ball State in the Mid-American Conference’s Western Division.
“We are excited to be playing in the Texas Bowl against an extremely talented Rice team that also has nine wins and has a powerful offense,” said Broncos Coach Bill Cubit.
The Broncos are led by quarterback Tim Hiller, who ranks 14th nationally with 294.1 total offense yards per game. Receiver Jamarko Simmons is third nationally with 8.17 receptions per game and Brandon West is sixth nationally with 167.6 all-purpose yards per game.
This year’s Texas Bowl will be televised live on the NFL Network. The game will also be broadcast nationally by Westwood One radio.
TCU defeated the University of Houston 20-13 in the 2007 Texas Bowl before a crowd of 62,097. In the inaugural 2006 Texas Bowl, Rutgers topped Kansas State 37-10 with an attendance of 52,210.