Rice football has focused their efforts on themselves as they prepare for their first Conference USA game of the season against Southern Miss.
The consistency of the defense has been under fire after the team dropped back-to-back games to a pair of high-scoring offenses. One of the biggest advantages of the early bye week was time for the Owls to iron out those issues. “I wanted the bye week to be about Rice and how much we could improve,” said head coach Mike Bloomgren.
Players on both sides of the ball have taken that to heart, and few have worked harder than defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia. “There’s always room for improvement,” admitted Abercrumbia,”Anyone who can look at tape, whether they’re a first team all-pro or benchrider and not have five things to work on the next day at practice is fooling themselves.”
Three games in the Owls have enough of a sample size to work with. The secondary has come under fire, but the pass rush has rightly born the weight of the pressure too. If the Owls can get to the quarterback, there won’t be any passes thrown.
Abercrumbia said that’s the goal on Saturday against Southern Miss and going forward. “That’s the big thing about pass rush, you just can’t ever stop. you never know how quick the ball is going to come out, you never know how the o-line is going to block,” he said, “but if you never stop, eventually you’ll get there.”
Getting healthier will help the Owls improve their defensive play. Linebacker Dylan James is back in practice and is on track to play this weekend after being listed as questionable early during the week. Corner D’Angelo Ellis still has a ways to go with his recovery process.
Preparing for conference play
Although beginning with the caveat that all games matter, Bloomgren didn’t shy away from the importance of starting conference play 1-0. “When you’re talking about trying to get to championships and get to bowl games, like we’re always talking about around here, [conference games] can be big things. Everyone is kinda a mini championship.”
That’s quite the stage, but the team is ready for the challenge. “We can beat these guys,” declared Abercrumbia, “All we need to do is put what we do in practice into game day.”
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