The defense dominated from start to finish during the Rice football spring game, capping off a productive spring for the Owls on the gridiron.
Rather than feature two separate squads, the 2019 Rice football spring game was a battle between the offense and the defense. Modified scoring was put in place, but one didn’t require the scoreboard to notice the defense had the upper hand. The offense scored twice but was more or less held in check, finishing off the spring with one of their most impressive performances.
Here are a few immediate takeaways from the Owls’ spring exhibition:
Ari Broussard is going to be heavily involved in this offense
Broussard has been the story of the spring on the offensive side of the ball, and for good reason. The former walk on linebacker has been the most productive ball carrier for the Owls thus far and had another big day on Saturday. He led the team with 79 yards on the ground, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scoring the only rushing touchdown.
Rice also showed off a split backfield look with Cam Montgomery and Broussard flanking the quarterback on either side. That’s not a look Rice showed very often last season. Broussard’s power complimented with the speed of the other backs might force the staff to inject more of that into the playbook this fall.
The defensive front seven was superb
The defensive line and linebackers have been two of the brightest groups this spring and they continued their dominance on Saturday. Outside of Broussard running through some bodies, there weren’t many missed tackles. Running up the middle was a no-go, regardless of who was in the backfield.
It wasn’t just a strong presence against the run which gave reason for optimism. Antonio Montero had an interception, as did Dasharm Newsome in the secondary as the quarterbacks were forced to throw with hands in their faces all afternoon. The defense picked up four sacks on the day. Corners weren’t left on islands to fend for themselves and the results were an overwhelming one-sided showing by the defense.
The receiving corps has work to do
The receiving corps did not have a good day. Rhett Cardwell led the team with three catches, but the unit as a whole could not hold on to the football. Aaron Cephus, Brendan Harmon, Austin Conrad, Chris Boudreaux had some frustrating drops. Although the number of players targeted was probably close to a dozen, only four receivers caught a pass.
Austin Trammel was sidelined this spring and several guys were in and out with minor injuries, giving just about every pass catcher time in the offense. This spring it’s looking like Trammel, Cephus and incoming JUCO receiver Bradley Rozner are going to be the trustworthy guys. This unit has work to do.
Moving the chains is a big concern
Drops, combined with the pressure from the defensive line set up a lot of third and long situations. The offense converted a few of those, but there were still more punts than scores. Effective offenses aim to reach third and manageable situations, ones that open up the playbook and create uncertainty for the defense. That wasn’t the case for the Rice offense at the spring game and it’s been an issue all spring.
The three quarterbacks combined to complete nine of 32 passes with one breakaway touchdown and two interceptions. As effective as Broussard was on the ground, this offense is going to need to become more balanced by the fall.
Cool postgame moment
Ari Broussard was told after the game he was going to be on scholarship. His reaction here:
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