Of all the bowl games, Tuesday nights Texas Bowl (8 p.m. EST, NFL Network) between Western Michigan and Rice may be the most explosive offensively.
WMU QB Tim Hiller tied a school record with 34 TDs
December 30, 2008 Texas Bowl
Western Michigan (9-3, 6-2 MAC) vs. Rice (9-3, 7-1 Conference USA), 8:15 pm ET
Site: Reliant Stadium (Houston, TX)
Series: First meeting.
Television: NFL Network
So many footballs will be flying into the air that this game will not be for the faint of heart.
Indeed, says Rice co-defensive coordinator Chuck Driesbach, a former assistant coach at Western Michigan, This is not a good time to be a defensive coordinator.
The teams combine for more than 600 passing yardage each game.
Both quarterbacks, WMUs Tim Hiller and Rices Chase Clement, rank among the nations top nine in terms of passing. Three of the nations top 10 receivers will line up in this game: WMUs Jarmarko Simmons (98 catches, 1,184 yards), and Rices Jarrett Dillard (a nation-best 19 TD catches) and James Casey (Conference-USA record 104 pass receptions).
Rice (9-3), co-champion in the C-USA West after finishing just 3-9 last year, won its last six games, including 56-42 over rival Houston in front of the largest Rice home crowd in eight years. Head coach David Bailiff was named C-USA Coach of the Year.
|Its a great opportunity for our kids to play in such a great bowl. This one here, its the right game, the right location. This is as good as it gets here. - Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit
There is little question that Owl fans will pack Reliant Stadium in Houston as the Owls attempt to win a bowl game for the first time since their 1954 Cotton Bowl win over Alabama.
This is the bowl Rice wanted and we are so thrilled to be here and have an opponent like Western Michigan thats 9-3, Bailiff said. I mean, our team is excited.
The Broncos (9-3), seeking the first 10-win season in school history, are looking forward to what may be an offensive shootout.
I love the challenge, said Simmons, who will break a school record with his next catch. They have a great offense. Also, I think we have a great offense.
Clement, ranked No. 9 nationally, has thrown for 3,812 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Rices offense is really good, WMU head coach Bill Cubit said. Weve got to score. And if they score, weve got to answer that.
| Broncos' WR Jamarko Simmons (above) needs one catch to set a new school record.
|Rice QB Chase Clement (above) has tossed 41 TDs this season
Hiller has answered just fine for the Broncos in a season that has included a 51-point game and two 41-point games. He has set school single-season records for pass completions (320) and attempts (480), and tied the mark for touchdown passes (34).
Hiller completed a school-record 42 passes in a 34-28 overtime victory over Buffalo, the MAC champion, and threw for a career-high 471 yards in a loss to Central Michigan. Hiller is, Simmons said, the person who runs the offense.
Theres no question that he is just a great leader for us, Simmons said. Without him, we wouldnt be in this spot. We all know that.
Hiller is expecting a big game from Simmons.
Hes a physical player, HIller said.
Among WMUs victories this year was a 23-17 win over Illinois at Ford Field, which is acknowledged as a big victory around Kalamazoo because it marked the third consecutive year the Broncos had knocked off a BCS team. For Hiller, that was a memorable day because his grandfather, an All-America football player at Illinois, was watching from the stands. Hiller completed 28-of-40 passes for 301 yards.
A special day for me was the Illinois game at Ford Field, Hiller said. It was one of those days when everything clicked. I just came out and played hard.
The Broncos, which tied Central Michigan for second place in the MAC West with a 6-2 conference record, accepted an at-large berth into the Texas Bowl after winning three of their last four games. Their only losses were to Central Michigan, which lost to Florida Atlantic in the Motor City Bowl, and Ball State, which was unbeaten until its MAC championship game loss to Buffalo.
The Broncos Texas perks included a Texas-style barbeque on Saturday, and tickets to Sundays Bears-Texans game at Reliant Stadium. More than 2,000 Bronco alumni have b ought tickets and the game has produced so much interest around Kalamazoo that the men's basketball game against Wisconsin-Green Bay was moved up to 6 p.m. Tuesday, so as not to interfere with the time of the football game.
Its a great opportunity for our kids, to play in such a great bowl, Cubit said. This one here, its the right game, the right location. This is as good as it gets here.
Its a great venue, to go to where you wouldnt normally get to go, Hiller said.
Prediction: Rice 45, Western Michigan 42.
Information from The Associated Press was used in the compilation of this report.