Rice Football came excruciatingly close to a program-defining win over Army, only to come up short. Even in defeat, a new identity was formed.
Pound the rock, control the clock and play great defense. Rice Football’s battle cry, per se.
That statement echoes through the halls at South Main, but it carries a different ring following Rice football’s lastest outing. The Owls dropped a one-score game on the road against Army. A game in which the Rice defense contained the run-heavy Black Knights. On the other side of the ball, the Rice offense finally began to resemble the mantra the Owls have repeated since Mike Bloomgren arrived on campus.
Against Army, Rice ran the ball 30 times on 44 offensive snaps (68.1 percent of plays), averaging 6.03 yards per carry. That marked the third time under Bloomgren the rushing offense had been that effective and amassed that large of a portion of offensive plays. But that’s about to be the new normal.
When asked about the shift in philosophy for the Owls from the Army game to the Wake Forest game in Week 2, Bloomgren was resolute.
“The 14 opportunities is really on pace with who we are. We had 49 snaps, I guess 44 official. So if you take that to a 70 play game, now we’re throwing it 25 times, and that’s about who we are,” Bloomgren said, “if we can pound the rock, we’re going to keep pounding the freakin rock and take our calculated shots. And then we’ll throw it on third down when necessary. And so I don’t think we’ll play much different”
If that style of play is going to be truly effective, Rice is going to have to improve. Better quarterback play and more effective third downs are a must. Wiley Green had great moments against Army, but never quite seemed to settle in. He got the offense into the right calls and, for the most part, managed the game well.
As Green sees it, he says he needs to be “preparing myself to be ready to throw the ball at any point at any time.” That’s true whether its 14 times a game or 44 times. The total number of throws didn’t phase him. Despite the low point total, Green was adamant “I feel more comfortable now than I could have ever [felt before].”
There will be some differences in the Rice offensive attack on Friday against Wake Forest on Friday. The coaching staff and the players on offense know what things need to be ironed out. On the whole, though, the look isn’t expected to change much, if at all. The Owls have found their identity. And at several points against Army, it seemed to be working.
“No congrats yet, it’s a win business,” Bloomgren mused after practice. But he knows how close the Owls had come to a defining upset.
Perhaps for the first time, it feels like Rice has become the kind of physical team on both sides of the ball they’ve been working to become since Bloomgren arrived on campus. There is ample room to grow in effectiveness, particularly on offense, but the core components aren’t changing. Finally, this is Rice football.
Get more insight on “The Process” in an exclusive interview with Mike Bloomgren, available in our 2019 Rice Football Season Preview.
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