Big plays were few and far between for Rice football in 2018, but when the offense was rolling they came frequently enough.
The 2018 Rice football offense wasn’t explosive. The lack of big plays not only put the Owls behind the eight ball on third down, but made scoring opportunities much harder to reach, let alone convert.
Rice had 29 pass plays of 20 yards or more last season, the 11th best in Conference USA. They ranked 13th in pass plays of 40 yards or more (five), ahead of only UTSA who finished dead last in the nation in total offense.
The ground was slightly more favorable. Rice had the seventh most carries of 20 yards or more (15) and the second most carries of 40 yards or more (six). The Owls were one of two CUSA teams with a run of at least 80 yards — courtesy of Juma Otoviano’s breakout performance against Old Dominion.
Altogether Rice finished in the bottom third of the conference in explosive plays. The Owls faired much better (57th in the nation and in the middle of the pack in CUSA) in IsoPPP+, a measure of explosiveness on a per play basis for a given team’s successful plays. In short, when the offense is moving the ball, how good are they at turning successful plays into bigger chunk plays.
Essentially that means that Rice, while not a frequent chain-moving offense, was able to create a decent portion of explosive plays when the plays worked. Blocking, scheme and better athletes with the ball in their hands are all things which should take another step forward for the Owls in 2019. Those numbers seem to point toward both the room for improvement and a foundation able to execute when things break the right way.
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