Owls vs. Falcons: An Armed Forces Bowl preview

The Rice Owls will make their 10th bowl appearance when they travel to Fort Worth to take on the Air Force Falcons in the Dec. 29 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl at Texas Christian University’s Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Rice is 5-4 in bowl games; the Owls last appeared in the 2008 Texas Bowl at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, where they beat Western Michigan 38-16.

Rice alternate helmet with stars and stripes

Rice will use an alternate helmet in honor of the Armed Forces Bowl.

Rice has sold nearly 4,000 seats for the Armed Forces Bowl to fans who have gone to the school’s Bowl Central page. The Rice allotment assures fans they’ll be seated with other Rice supporters and help the school show its travel strength. Tickets for the game are still available.

The Owls surprised many when they won five of their final six games this season and four in a row to become bowl-eligible, but Owls head football coach David Bailiff said the players never quit on themselves or fans.

“We have a very resilient group of young men that showed up, even when we backed ourselves into the corner and knew we had to win out to become bowl-eligible,” Bailiff said.

Winning out meant that more than 90 student-athletes, including nine seniors, would have to adjust their holiday plans – something they were more than willing to do.

“We’re thrilled to be in this bowl game and to play against a well-coached and disciplined Air Force team,” Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue said. “This is an opportunity for a lot of guys who are from Dallas-Fort Worth to go play in a bowl in front of family and friends.”

Air Force, who is also 6-6 this season, and Rice have met six times in the past; the Falcons hold a 5-1 lead in the series. The teams last met in 1998 when Air Force beat Rice 22-16. Rice’s lone win in the series came in 1986 (21-17). The Owls will don special American flag-styled helmets to honor their opponent in the Armed Forces Bowl.

The team will travel to Fort Worth Christmas Day to begin final preparations, which include daily practices and bowl-related events. The Owls will practice a few days at Burleson Centennial High School, just outside of Fort Worth. Team events include dinners and luncheons with special speakers, like former NFL quarterback Joe Theismann addressing the teams Dec. 28. That event, the “Team Kickoff Luncheon,” is open to the public. Tickets for the lunch are $50. Members of both teams and coaches will visit Cook’s Children’s Hospital and attend pep rally events.

The Association of Rice Alumni (ARA) will hold two events leading up to the game. On Dec. 28, ARA is hosting a pregame party from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Fox & Hound restaurant in Fort Worth. Tickets for the event are $20 and include dinner and drinks. With a wink, organizers said the party could go a little later than 10.

On the morning of game day, ARA is hosting a Rice Owls tailgate breakfast at the stadium. Sammy the Owl, Rice cheerleaders and members of the MOB will be on hand. Tickets for breakfast are $20 for Rice alumni, friends and fans, and $10 for kids under 15.

“We are delighted to host our true-blue Rice Owls fans for the Armed Forces Bowl and at the events and activities around the game,” said Carrie Brown, director of the Association of Rice Alumni. “We have been overwhelmed by the response from Rice alumni who plan to be a part of this historic and exciting event and look forward to seeing everyone on the 28th and 29th. Go Owls!”

Rice players on a plane headed back to Houston after beating Kansas

Photo courtesy: Rice President David Leebron

Bowl coverage

For those who can’t make the trek to Fort Worth and take in the Armed Forces Bowl and the events in person, the game will be televised nationally on ESPN. Kickoff is at 10:45 a.m.

Fans can also keep tabs on the team during bowl week by visiting www.riceowls.com, following @riceowlsdotcom on Twitter and checking out the Owls football Facebook page.

Rice News will also be covering the week’s events and game with stories, photos and videos at http://news-network.rice.edu/news.

And chances are pretty high that @davidleebron will be tweeting. Earlier this year on a plane ride back from Lawrence, Kan., after an impressive victory over the Jayhawks, Leebron tweeted the accompanying photo of a tired but jubilant Owls football team.

About David Ruth

David Ruth is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.