Rice football started 1-0 and is looking forward to getting back on the field against the Houston Cougars in the battle for the Bayou Bucket.
Rice has won two straight at home against their crosstown rivals. They’ll be sizable underdogs in 2018, but have the advantage of having one game under their belts whereas Houston will be seeing their first action of the season. At quarterback, the Owls will start Shawn Stankavage, but Jackson Tyner is still expected to play. Bloomgren has yet to name a definitive starter for the rest of the season.
Looking back at Prairie View
“Gritty” was the word Mike Bloomgren used to describe the team’s victory over Prairie View last weekend, saying he was “pleased with how we finished.” From the press conference following the Prairie View game to his comments today, Bloomgren stressed the importance of taking a significant jump forward on the field. He’s repeatedly said the best teams he’s been a part of make the biggest jump from game one to game to, and he knows his squad needs to show improvement prior to their game against Houston on Saturday.”
Before moving on to talk about Houston, Bloomgren recognized several players for their performance last week. Emmanuel Esupka, Roe Wilkins and Jack Fox were recognized as players of the game. Scout team players of the week were Kebreyun Page, Wiley Green, JaQuez Battley.
Planning for Houston
Bloomgren stated the obvious when he summed up Houston’s All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver as “a very talented football player”. He and his staff are going to have their hands full devising a gameplan to limit Oliver’s ability to impact the game. “He has our attention,” Bloomgren said, “We’re going to know where he is and we’re going to try and put the best plan together to attack him.”
If the Owls are going to spring the upset they’re going to need to make big plays. Turnovers, both of which came at key moments in the second half, allowed Rice to get back in the game and ultimately defeat Prairie View. More big moments like that are going to be required this weekend.
“The turnover margin is the single most important stat that we can point to in wins and losses,” cited Bloomgren, who went on to extoll the importance of a turnover-free game by the offense and opportunistic play from his defense against Prairie View.
Importance of the Bayou Bucket and beating Houston
The Rice players aren’t backing down from the challenge the Cougars will pose this Saturday. “It’s always big to play tough competition,” declared running back Emmanuel Esupka, “It’s really exciting to see that type of talent on the other side of the ball.” More than just a jump in talent, the Houston game is a major rivalry game in the city of Houston.
#HTownTakeover, Houston’s marketing campaign, hasn’t gone unnoticed by Rice players. They know this weekend is important. “It’s huge. You might go to the gas station and see these guys,” said Esupka, “It’s a cross-town rivalry… we’re just trying to defend our home” Defensive lineman Roe Wilkins echoed him, “It’s something that we really want,” he acknowledged, “We got to defend our home.”