Rice football travels to Hawaii in Week 2 to take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. What’s the recipe for success in the Owls first road contest of the year?
Don’t get beat deep
Rice has had some issues with its secondary early on in the year. No team in the nation has allowed more pass plays of 30+ yards than the Owls who have allowed seven such plays. Granted, Rice has played two games thus far while most squads have played just one, but it doesn’t advanced analytics to see something needs to get corrected on the back end.
How that looks schematically could vary. But if something doesn’t get tweaked the Hawaii offense could have a field day. Quarterback Cole McDonald is going to be looking deep — Rice needs to at least have a plan in place to minimize those chunk plays to give their defense a chance.
Emmanuel Esupka enters the Owls’ Week 2 contest as the No. 2 rusher in the nation. After piling up 173 yards in the opener he was limited to 81 yards against Houston, but he did rip off a 52-yard scamper — the longest run of his career.
Rice leaned on Austin Walters, a more reliable pass-catching back, late in their comeback attempt against Houston. In a perfect world, Rice would never be in a position where they have to play catch-up. Instead, the Owls want to control the pace of the game, and they’ll look to do that by trusting Esupka with a heavy workload.
The Hawaii defense won’t pose much of a threat against Espuka. If the offensive line was able to open up holes against Ed Oliver, getting Esupka to the second level this weekend shouldn’t be too much of a chore.
Make two clutch plays
Either by way of special teams, a turnover or a redzone conversion, making the important plays count will be important for the Owls on Saturday. It’s impossible to play a perfect game, but Coach Mike Bloomgren’s message of consistency and focus have put this team in position to take advantage of those few game-changing moments.
Against Prairie View it was the fumble that led to the game-tying score. The Owls picked up another big fumble against Houston, but were unable to capitalize. Making those moments count, twice, should be enough for Rice to steal any momentum Hawaii has and turn it to a positive play for the Owls.