Sunday, September 28, 2003

Warrior Report

Battle helps Rice
stay in the game

Rice didn't have much fight early in last night's 41-21 loss to Hawaii.

But the Owls finally entered the battle late in the second quarter, and it was sophomore split end Marcus Battle who gave them the initial spark.

The visitors trailed Hawaii 24-0 when Battle caught a sideline pass from Greg Henderson and ran around a defender for a 69-yard gain before Leonard Peters finally dragged him down at the Warriors' 5.

Two plays later, Battle was in the end zone and Rice was on its way back. He took a pitch from Henderson on a reverse, sped around right end and was able to jut the ball out enough to break the plane of the goal line while being gang-tackled.

"All you can do on (the end of) that play is stick your head into the end zone," Battle said. "That's a play we work on and do it all the time in practice."

Battle finished with five receptions for 156 yards. In four games this season, he has nine catches for 199 yards. And that's not bad for a receiver in a run-oriented offense.

The Owls, however, didn't benefit as much from Battle's kick-return skills. He returned only one of Justin Ayat's seven kickoffs for 18 yards to boost his team-leading totals to 193 on eight attempts.

"Coming in, we read the scouting report, so it was a team decision to not return his kicks if they went deep into the end zone," Battle said. "He's an awesome kicker and he was booting them 5 yards and more deep. But I did think about bringing it out a few more times."

Battle is making a habit of coming up big against Hawaii. Last year, he scored twice and caught a career-high five passes for 133 yards in the Warriors' 33-28 win at Rice Stadium.

It appeared this year's game would be close again. After Battle scored the Owls' first touchdown, the good fortune continued for Rice in a quirky second quarter. The Owls managed to turn two fumble recoveries into a pair of touchdowns to cut the deficit to 24-21 at the half.

But Rice would get no closer. Hawaii's defense played a strong second half, keeping Battle and the Rice offense in check.

"I like going against man-to-man defenses and Hawaii and a couple of other teams like to play man," Battle said. "But Hawaii did a good job of mixing up coverages in the second half."

Battle's 42-yard post-pattern catch from quarterback Kyle Herm in a crowd pushed Rice into Hawaii territory in the third quarter, but Brandon Skeen missed a chance to tie it at 24 when his 37-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Abraham Elimimian.

"Marcus Battle had a great game," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said. "He made some of the biggest catches you'll ever see."

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound receiver from Ocean Springs, Miss., is a first cousin of the Memphis Grizzlies' Shane Battier. He is also a first cousin of Howard Battle, who is in the Atlanta Braves' organization.


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