Rice football was a relatively penalty-free team in 2017, coming close to a school record in fewest infractions. Can they continue that disciplined play in 2018?
There are a handful of teams in college football that can play sloppy games and still win. Talent can outweigh discipline, and it often does. Rice football isn’t quite at that level, yet. If the Owls have a messy game, they’ll lose more often than not. Case in point: Rice’s lone win in 2017 came against UTEP, a game in which they committed just four penalties for 31 yards.
Rice committed 53 penalties in 2018, coming close to their fewest penalties ever committed in a single season. That mark, 43 penalties, was achieved three times – 1961, 1966 and 1968.
The Owls were more discipline in 2017 than year’s prior, but it wasn’t enough to pad turn close games into wins. A relatively clean 1-win season won’t turn into a 6-win season unless the Owls can keep the penalties down once again.
Rice football ranked 14th in the nation in penalties per game in 2017. Their 4.4 transgressions per contest was the second-best rate in Conference USA and the Owls cleanest season in a decade. However, that season might have been the outlier. And if it takes an outlier-type season to win one game it might take perfection on the penalty front to get the Owls where they want to go this season. It’s a good thing that’s not a linear relationship.
Head coach Mike Bloomgren saw similar results in his five seasons as the offensive coordinator at Stanford. While there the Cardinal hung near six infractions per game, more or less the same rate the Owls produced over the same time period.
Bloomgren was only responsible for the offensive side of the ball at Stanford. Now he’s the captain of the whole ship at Rice. He’s got plenty of things to juggle as he enters a new season. It’s going to include a learning curve, but maintaining discipline on both sides of the ball should remain a priority for the Owls in 2018.