Focus was the mantra of Rice football practice on Monday. After a disappointing performance against Southern Miss the Owls are ready to make some changes.
“The only thing you can do in a situation like this is work, so we’re just going to get to work and do everything we can do to fix it and not have that kind of result again.” That was offensive lineman Sam Pierce’s purposeful remarks on Monday following the Owls’ disheartening loss to Southern Miss. The team came out strong but didn’t punch back with the same verve that kept them in games against Houston and Hawaii well into the fourth quarter.
The same refrain was echoed by the rest of the offense, who went three-and-out for times against the Eagles. “If everything is going well, we put our head down and continue to work. If everything is going bad, we put our head down and continue to work,” said lead running back Emmanuel Esukpa, “We just have to continue to work and focus and it will turn around.”
The change in effort was noticeable. Aaron Cephus was vocal during drills, coaching up the younger receivers. Shawn Stankavage was dialoguing with his coaches, working with a concerted effort to get better. This team knows they can play better, and their performance against Southern Miss wasn’t up to their own standards.
Aaron Cephus continues to develop as a pass catcher. The raw physical tools have always been there, but now we’re starting to see them put to use. He’s grabbed hold of Intellectual Brutality and tailed his game to match that theme.
That was put on display Saturday when Cephus pulled in not one, but two goal line touchdowns. The first multi-touchdown performance of his career, he’s working to make sure it’s not his last. He’s gotten much better at attacking the football in the air and has learned how to position his body to keep defenders away from the football. With a 6-foot-4 frame, boxing out most of the corners he’ll see in Conference USA should be easy work.
Along the offensive line, the focus of the day was unity. “If we’re all five working together we’ll be fine. We just have to get on the same page, communicate and work within ourselves and do what we know what we can do,” declared Sam Pierce, who went on to remark he’s seen the progress made by the younger players.
Only a few freshmen have played key roles on the team thus far, something that could change going forward as the newcomers continue to adapt to the college game. That’s something to monitor on both sides of the ball going forward.
I delved into the good and bad of the secondary in the Southern Miss post-game recap. A bright spot for the Owls against Southern Miss and again at practice on Monday was linebacker Blaze Alldredge. Playing in place of veteran Dylan Silcox, out sick on Saturday, Aldredge stepped in front of a Jack Abraham pass, registering the Owls’ first interception of the young season.
Alldredge was at it again in practice, tipping a pass over the middle into the air and watching it fall into the open arms of one of his teammates who raced back the other way with an interception. The defense tallied a few interceptions, a positive sign that that unit is working to become more opportunistic in the coming games.
- LB Dylan Silcox – Questionable to play against Wake Forest. Bloomgren is “hopeful”, but Silcox has yet to be cleared
- TE Jordan Myers – Injured shoulder against Southern Miss. No further information at this time.
- WR Cam Montgomery – Sidelined this fall with a back injury. He remains “out for the foreseeable future”
- CB D’Angelo Ellis – Ellis returned to practice in non-contact jersey, actively participating in team drills with the defense. He’s not been cleared by doctors and still has a ways to go, but getting him back on the field was a positive first step.