It’s impossible to boil an entire Rice football season into a handful of numbers, but these 10 paint a fairly comprehensive picture of the Owls’ 2018 campaign.
2 – Wins for the Owls
Following a 1-win 2017 campaign, Rice football showed tangible improvement this season, doubling their win total. It took them all 13 games to pick up their first conference win, but the Owls didn’t leave the season empty-handed. Progress has been made.
4 – Interceptions by Prudy Calderon
Prudy Calderon became one of the Owls’ starting safeties midway through the season then proceeded to pick off four passes in a stretch of five games. His four interceptions tied him for 13th most in the nation by any player. Having him manning centerfield for an entire season should be fun.
18 – Fourth down conversions
Rice’s willingness to roll the dice on fourth down was refreshing. Their 60 percent success rate continued to climb during the season and finished third best in CUSA. This offense is going to be aggressive, something that will be fun to watch and keep opponents constantly on their toes.
19 – True freshman that appeared in at least one game this season
The youth movement is alive and well at South Main. In addition to key starters like Cole Garcia, Prudy Calderon and Antonio Montero, a host of first-year players got on the field in 2018. 10 true freshman started for Rice over the course of the year.
1,580 – All Purpose yards for running back Austin Walter
Do it-all running back, receiver and return man Austin Walter was the glue that held this offense together during long stretches of the season. He finished 14th in the nation in all-purpose yards, flirting with the national lead early in the season. Walter averaged 8.1 yards per play this season.
28.7 Percent third down conversion rate
Becoming a more consistent offense on third down will be near the top of the priority list this season. For whatever the reason, Rice struggled to convert third downs at an alarming rate in 2018. Fourth downs weren’t an issue and but the quantity can be taken down a notch with a few more third down conversions next season.
31 – Punts inside the 20 by Jack Fox
Not only was Jack Fox one of the most consistent players for the Owls, he ranks among the best players at his position in the entire nation. A Ray Guy Award Finalist, Fox led the nation in punts inside the 20, flipping the field with regularity.
44 and 78 – Long scrimmage plays made by the Owls and against the Owls
The Rice offense was not explosive this season. They had their moments but finished near the bottom of the pack with 44 plays of 20+ yards. The lack of pop combined with a defense that finished last in CUSA with 78 plays of 20+ yards allowed put them on the short ends of both sticks.
32:40 – Average time of possession for Rice
Pound the rock, control the clock and play great defense is the new mantra on South Main. Rice finished 16th in average time of possession this season, limiting the opportunities opposing offenses had to do damage. This measure should prove more powerful as the offense progresses.
224 – Rushing yards by Juma Otoviano against Old Dominion
Fresh in minds of Rice fans because of its recency, the performance true freshman Juma Otoviano put on in the Owls’ season finale was superb. He had more rushing yards on his two touchdown runs (142) than he had during his career entering the game (140). He tied Chad Richardson for fifth-most in a single game in Rice history, was named CUSA offensive player of the week and got an ESPN helmet sticker.