Rice Football wasn’t able to convert third downs last season, but the root of the problem began before the Owls ever reached a third down situation.
The Owls had some learning to do last season as they adjusted to life under the direction of head coach Mike Bloomgren. The refound dedication to process and execution were refreshing, but there was one important problem they were never able to solve: third down.
Rice converted on 28.7 percent of their third downs in 2018, the 129th best rank in the nation among 130 FBS teams. It’s not that they were unable to pick up important yardage — their 62.1 percent fourth down conversion rate was the 25th best mark nationally. The problem is they attempted 195 third down conversions and 30 fourth down conversions.
Unless the Owls intend to scrap punting altogether, as tempting as that might be without Jack Fox waiting in the wings, they’re going to have to figure out ways to stay on the field. No penalties is a great starting point, but staying ahead of the chains will be the true measuring stick.
Rice ranked was 129th in success rate, a measure defined by a team’s ability to gain “50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.” To that end, the Owls’ third down problem wasn’t as much a third down problem as it was a first and second down problem.
Building a more effective offense has been on the brains of the coaching staff lately. The defense had the better showing this spring, but there’s still plenty of time before this team takes the field in a game which counts. Reinforcements are still on their way in the form of grad transfers and talented 2019 recruits. They’ll all be tasked with creating positive plays on first down. If the Owls find success their, third downs and eventually touchdowns, will follow.