Rice football has a tough task against them in Week 9. Can they travel to North Texas and win? Here’s how the Owls get it done.
1. Don’t give Mason Fine time
North Texas is has surrendered 10 sacks (2.5 sacks per game) in conference play, tied for the eighth worst rate in CUSA. On further examination, nine of those 10 sacks came in their two losses. North Texas was sacked five times by Louisiana Tech and four times by UAB.
Getting pressure on Mason Fine and limiting his chances to look downfield is a must on Saturday. That’s been an area Rice has struggled in. So far the Owls have three sacks spread across four conference games. They’re the only CUSA team averaging less than one sack per contest, and their susceptibility through the air has had a lot to do with the pass rush.
Both Louisiana Tech and UAB handed Rice a blueprint on how to beat North Texas. Getting the offense off schedule and behind the chains has to be the top priority.
2. Control the clock
Rice is no stranger to teams that can score fast, particularly through the air. Houston, Hawaii and Wake Forest all put together lightening fast scoring drives against the Owls’ secondary and North Texas is another team capable of taking a mile if given an inch.
12 different pass catchers have caught at least one pass of 20 yards or more for the Mean Green this season. Seven have a 30+ yard grab and two have touchdown receptions of 50+ yards this season. North Texas doesn’t need eight minutes and 12 plays to march down the field and score, they can do it in a play or two. That makes limiting those opportunities critical.
If Rice can hold onto the football and shorten the game they can take the ball out of the hands of Mason Fine. Stealing possessions and limiting the potency of the Mean Green offense is a must. To do that will require a lot more work proficiency from the running game and a strong performance on third down.
3. Be gutsy
Rice went eight quarters without scoring an offensive touchdown. That made the opening drive against FIU all the more important. Coming away with points, specifically with seven points, sent a message to this team. The offense was getting back on track and the Owls were going to have a shot to win.
That touchdown drive and confidence booster doesn’t occur without perhaps the best play call of the Mike Bloomgren era. After putting plenty of short plunges on film, Rice opted for a bootleg play-action pass, leaving quarterback Evan Marshman with plenty of real estate to scamper for the score.
Winning a college football game isn’t easy, and winning a conference game on the road is even harder. It’s going to take more gutsy calls like that to beat North Texas. Bloomgren hasn’t been afraid to roll the dice yet, which means fans could see some fireworks if this game is close in the fourth quarter.