Rice football opens their 2018 season against the Panthers of Prairie View A&M. Here are a few things to know before the game.
The 2018 season is finally here and the first objective for the new-look Owls is matching last season’s win total out of the gate. Rice holds a perfect 1-0 record all-time against PVAMU, defeating the Panthers 65-44 at Rice Stadium in 2016. Here are three important things to know about the Panthers before the game.
1. Not just another FCS squad
FCS teams typically represent a step down from their FBS counterparts. While it’s true the talent gap tends to be fairly wide, Rice would be well to respect their opponent – and in more than just a coach-speak fashion.
Prairie View is second in the SWAC in wins since 2007. That includes seven winning seasons including three-straight above .500 campaigns entering 2018. Their offense has been prolific. This year four different Panthers were named to the All-SWAC first or second team: running back Dawonya Tucker, offensive lineman Roderick Smith, wide receiver Markcus Hardy and tight end Zarrian Holcombe.
Yes, Rice has the edge in talent. But too many first-game jitters will give the Panthers a chance. FCS or not, this is not a team the Owls want to let hang around.
2. Make an educated guess
Like Rice, Prairie View A&M will also field a first-year head coach. Eric Dooley brings an impressive resume to his new post, most recently serving as the offensive coordinator at Grambling State. His time with Tigers was fruitful. Grambling ranked as high as fourth in the nation in scoring during his tenure, topping out at a jaw-dropping 65 touchdowns and averaging 470 yards per game in 2015.
But that was Grambling State, not Prairie View. It’s reasonable to assume that the Panthers will incorporate much of the same principles that made Dooley’s offenses so successful at Grambling, but the Owls don’t have any live-action evidence to back up that assumption. To some extent, Rice is flying blind. Thankfully, so is Prairie View.
3. Not-so-new Jalen Morton
Morton played sparingly at quarterback last season, attempting 17 passes. He was pushed out to wide receiver (three catches, 21 yards), thanks to the emergence of Neiko Hollins, who claimed the starting quarterback role midway through last season and did not let go. With Hollins out of the picture after transferring this summer, the door is open once again for Morton to take the reigns.
It was Morton who started for Panthers in their 2016 meeting with the Owls, the only other game between these two schools. He threw for 278 yards on 18-of-29 passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also picked up 47 yards on the ground, including a 39-yard touchdown run.