Rice football tallied six takeaways over 12 games in 2017 which contributed to one of the worst turnover margins in school history.
The turnover battle was not kind to the Owls in 2017. In truth, it hasn’t been favorable for some time. Since winning the conference title in 2013 the Owls have regressed significantly in turnover margin. Last season the Owls hit rock bottom. Their six total turnovers forced were not only the worst mark in Conference USA, it was the fewest turnovers forced in Division I football.
Rice was one of only four programs last season that forced fewer than 10 takeaways. They finished tied for fourth-worst in giveaways with 29. All told Rice finished with a dismal turnover margin of -23. Including the Owls’ 2017 season, there have been only six instances in which a team finished with a turnover margin -20 or worse since 2000.
In 1977 Rice registered an outstanding 51 takeaways, including 31 interceptions. Spread across 11 contests, the Owls averaged 2.8 interceptions per game. That’s a world of difference when juxtaposed with the three interceptions the 2017 squad accumulated in 12 games. Here’s how the record-setting 1977 season compared to the five most recent seasons:
|Season||INT Gain||Fumbles Gain||Total Takeaways||INT Lost||Fumbles Lost||Total Turnovers||Turnover Margin|
The numbers are pretty jarring and they speak to why Mike Bloomgren was brought in as the new head coach. Although he’s cut his teeth on the offensive side of the ball he still plans to bring the Stanford brand of football, centered on power running and physical defense, to South Main. It won’t be hard to improve on last season’s results, but it’s safe to say the tip drill will be incorporated into practices more frequently moving forward.
Rice doesn’t need to climb all the way up to +31, but getting out of the negatives would go a long way toward making the Owls competitive on a weekly basis in 2018.