Discipline and structure were a hallmark of Rice football under Mike Bloomgren’s instruction in 2018. Few played penalty-free football like the Owls.
Throughout the offseason we’re going to take a closer look at some numbers. These stats and scores will help tell the story of Rice football, give context, and help us understand the trajectory of the program.
There were growing pains on both sides of the ball in 2018 as the entire team adjusted to new schemes and structures. Even though the players were being inundated with information, their mental lapses seldom drew penalty flags.
On that front, Rice was one of the cleanest teams in the nation. The Owls committed 4.2 penalties per game in 2018, the fewest in Conference USA and the eighth least in the nation. To put that number in further context, the average FBS team committed six penalties per game. The worst, Florida State, was flagged 9.3 times per contest.
On their worst day, a road loss to North Texas, Rice was flagged eight times for 99 yards. At their best, Rice was flagged zero times against FIU. Not only was Rice seldom in the vicinity of being a frequently penalized team, as the season progressed, their efficiency increased. Rice committed seven infractions in their final three games.
When they did get flagged, it was rarely for large chunks of yardage. Rice averaged 0.9 first downs allowed by penalty last season, one of three teams nationally below one per game. Free plays and hidden yards weren’t made available to the Owls’ opponents. Their 38.2 penalty yards per game was nothing short of pristine.
Playing sound, fundamental football isn’t enough to win games by itself, but it’s something. When they can do that, and take advantage of their opponent’s miscues, good things are bound to follow.