Rice Football kicks off their 2019 season on the road against Army. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
The triple-option requires discipline and focus for a full sixty minutes. The resiliency of Rice football against a team that is committed to grinding away at the clock and pounding the rock will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game.
Rice won their season opener last year, besting Prairie View A&M on a last-second field goal from Jack Fox. Prairie View went 5-6 in the SWAC last season. Army went 11-2, narrowly missing an upset of Oklahoma in Norman and blowing the doors off cross-town rival Houston 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl.
Both teams faced some notable personnel turnover in the offseason, but for the most part, it’s a similar cast of key characters returning for both squads. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
The Roost Podcast for Week 1 will be dropping later this week. Find us on the podcast page or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (And consider leaving us a 5-star review while you’re at it.) Carter and I broke down both sides of the ball and delved into the matchups you’ll want to watch on Friday.
Sizing up the contenders
Army isn’t flashy, but their offense is effective. The complexities of the option attack are predicated on making three-yard runs consistently. If the Black Knights can do that, they’ll keep their offense on schedule, opening up options for their passing game with play-action and their stable of running backs to make plays. Army wants to lul the Rice defense to sleep. The Owls had better be ready.
On the other side, Rice wants to employ a similar clock-controlling scheme. If things go how the Owls would hope, they’re trading blows with Army in a close game well into the second half. To do that, Rice is going to rely on making plays on third down on both sides of the ball. The quarterback has to move the sticks and the defense has to get off the field — two sticking points from the 2018 campaign. Friday will be the first real test on both fronts.
All Time | Rice leads 4-3
Last Five | Rice leads 3-2
Last Meeting | Army won at Rice 49-12 in 2017
Rice 2018 Stat Notables
Passing | Green – 45/88 (51.1 percent), 621 yards passing, 3 TD, 4 INT
Rushing | Otoviano – 65 carries, 364 yards (5.6 yards per carry), 3 TD
Receiving | Trammell – 62 receptions, 632 yards (10.2 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Nyakwol – 41
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Calderon – 7/4
Army 2018 Stat Notables
Passing | Hopkins – 51/93 (54.8 percent), 1,026 yards passing, 6 TD, 4 INT
Rushing | Hopkins – 208 carries, 1,017 yards (4.9 yards per carry), 17 TD
Receiving | Walker – 11 receptions, 170 yards, (15.5 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Christiansen – 42
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Riley – 10/0
Army X-Factor | Kelvin Hopkins Jr
Hopkins isn’t going to throw the ball often on Friday night. He averaged 4.3 completions per game last season, a number dwarfed by Army’s 68.7 carriers per game. But it’s less about Hopkins arm that’s worth monitoring than it is about his decision making with the football.
The quarterback in a triple-option offense is the trigger man. He decides who is getting the football and thus is absolutely essential in the offensive scheme. As his decision making goes, so does the offense. A bad outing from him, of which there weren’t many last season, could put Army in an early hole or prevent the unit from establishing the kind of rhythm it needs to succeed.
Rice X-Factor | Wiley Green
Green was officially named the starting quarterback during the Owls’ midweek press conference. He’ll be tasked with setting the tone for the offensive attack right out of the gate. Green’s command of the offense and ability to convert third downs are essential if Rice is going to stay on the field.
Losing the time of possession battle against Army isn’t the end of the world, but continually opening up the defense to being gashed by the triple option will have detrimental effects in the second half. The quarterback play doesn’t have to be Tom Brady-esque, but it has to be as close to mistake-free and efficient as possible.
Kicker Zack Hoban was held out of the Owls’ final scrimmage of fall camp and had a brace on his non-kicking foot through the week. He appears to be the only notable player who won’t be available for Rice in their season opener. For the most part, the Owls are as healthy now as they could hope to be.
Update: Three players have been officially ruled out and will not make the trip: WR Rhett Cardwell, LB Myron Morrison, OL Nick Wagman. None were expected to significant contributors.
The Roost’s 2019 Rice Football Season Preview has four pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth chart, important new arrivals and depth chart breakdowns for each foe. Better yet, it’s not just speculation, each profile was created with insight from local experts who cover those teams day in and day out. Pick up your copy today and get four pages and more than 1,000 words on Army.
Pick ‘Em Contest
If you haven’t yet, make sure you submit your entry for The Roost’s weekly pick’em challenge. Choose an answer to each of the six questions below and submit them on the forum thread to enter.
- Who takes the first snap at quarterback for Rice?
(Green / Stewart / Other)
- Which player has more tackles?
(Alldredge / Montero)
- How many touchdowns will Rice score?
(Over 2.5 / Under 2.5)
- How many combined turnovers will occur? (Both teams)
(Over 3.5 / Under 3.5)
- Who has more time of possession
(Rice / Army)
- Who wins?
(Rice / Army)
Odds and ends
Update: When asked about the backup quarterbacks during Tuesday’s press conference, Bloomgren mentioned there was a good chance another quarterback would see action against Army. Rather than Tom Stewart, who Green beat out for the starting job, Bloomgren singled out Evan Marshman. Filling in as a spot starter before an injury last season, Marshman will be trusted with some packages against Army, stemming primarily from his ability as a runner.
One Final Thing
Much of the 2019 offseason has centered around this question: how far have the Owls come since Year 0? Army won 11 games last year, will probably be ranked in the coming weeks and is a favorite to beat Rice at West Point. A loss against the Black Knights wouldn’t be damning, but the optics of this game could prove to be significant beyond the final result.
Rice needs to prove to onlookers and to themselves that what they’re building is, not only on schedule but capable of delivering results. On Friday Rice will set the stage for the 2019 season. Hopefully the lasting image the Owls leave at Michie Stadium will be one of effort, competitiveness and optimism for the year ahead.
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