Both Rice Football and Texas will be hungry for a win after suffering tough home losses in Week 2. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
Uncertainty at quarterback lingers for Rice following Wiley Green’s early departure from the Owls’ Week 2 loss to Wake Forest. Green was released from the hospital late Friday night after all post-injury tests came back negative. In his absence, Rice fell at home 41-21.
Things didn’t work out much better for Texas. Starting quarterback Sam Ehlinger is still healthy, but the Longhorns lost a one-score slugfest with LSU in one of the more prominent games of last weekend. The defeat hasn’t killed the lofty aspirations in Austin, but it did eliminate any margin of error this team had with conference play looming.
Here’s an outlook on both sides prior to their Week 3 clash:
Episode 7 of The Roost Podcast is live now. 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.) This week Carter and I broke down the good and the bad from the Wake Forest game, talked with someone who covered a recent upset of a highly ranked Big 12 team and moved on to Week 3, discussing how Rice matches up with Texas.
Sizing up the contenders
Despite the early results, Rice looks to be ahead of schedule in their continued rebuild. Texas will be their biggest challenge yet, a battle that coach Mike Bloomgren isn’t willing to cede despite the sizable odds in the Longhorns’ favor.
“I almost hate hearing how much better we are than last year right now,” Bloomgren declared following the Wake Forest game. “I want to find a way to win a game. I want these guys to feel what that’s like in the locker room. I want to beat somebody we ‘should’.”
Texas is in a completely different place. Their missed opportunity for a statement win put a damper on and College Football Playoff aspirations. The Longhorns can’t afford another loss, especially with a date against Oklahoma looming in conference play.
This game is shaping up to be a battle of David vs Goliath. Louisiana Tech fought (and lost) that battle in the season opener in Week 1. Rice has the added advantage of playing the game in Houston. Look for more on the formula to slay a college football giant later in the week.
All Time | Texas leads 72-21
Last Five | Texas leads 5-0
Last Meeting | Away 2015, Texas won 56-24
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Stewart – 19/30 (63.3 percent), 185 yards passing, 1 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Ellerbe – 14 carries, 106 yards (7.6 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Trammell – 10 receptions, 107 yards (10.7 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Ekpe – 17, Montero – 15
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Alldredge – 2 PBU, Ellis – 1 PBU
Texas Stat Notables
Passing | Ehlinger – 59/85 (69.4 percent), 677 yards passing, 8 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Ingram – 21 carries, 107 yards (5.1 yards per carry)
Receiving | Duvernay – 21 receptions, 209 yards (10.0 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Sterns – 17, Foster – 15
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Green – 2 PBU, Ossai – 2 INT, Overshown – 1 INT
Texas X-Factor | The front seven
The Longhorn secondary was abused by Joe Burrow and the newly prolific LSU passing attack. The Tigers moved the ball at will through the air, something which should encourage the Owls’ own fledgling passing attack. Still, how Texas responds against the Owls running backs will dictate how this game is played.
Texas was stout against the run in their first two games, allowing 2.8 yards per carry to Louisiana Tech and 3.5 yards per carry to LSU. It remains to be seen if that ground success was a product, at least in part, to their leaky secondary. Both prior opponents threw for more than 300 yards and at least two touchdowns.
We’ve seen teams struggle against teams devoted to running the football. Army went into the Big House and came dangerously close to knocking off Michigan in Week 2. If Texas wants to avoid a scare, they must quell the Owls’ rushing attack.
Rice X-Factor | The ground game
The uncertainty at quarterback will push the Owls to learn on their rushing attack against the Longhorns. Rice is confident in backup quarterback Tom Stewart, but he doesn’t yet have the same mastery of the offense that Wiley Green does. Whoever starts, Rice has to get back to their identity.
“I don’t know that you’ve seen exactly what our offense should look like,” Bloomgren said. The Owls’ first two games couldn’t have been more different on the ground. Rice rushed for 6.0 yards per carry against Army, but 1.8 per carry against Wake Forest. Bloomgren called the offensive blueprint against Army “really close” to what he expected the offense to look like, with the caveat the Owls needed to be more efficient the air.
With so much uncertainty around the Rice offense, running the ball well against Texas is paramount. The backfield is deep; five different Owls registered four or more carries against Wake Forest. All of the rushers would benefit from better blocking in the run game from the offensive line.
The latest update on the status of Wiley Green, receivers Zane Knipe and Jake Bailey and others is available here.
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 Texas.
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.
- How many different Owls register a reception?
Over 4.5 / Under 4.5
- Who scores first?
Rice / Texas
- How many yards will the Owls’ longest scoring drive be?
Over 59.5 / Under 59.5
- Will the Rice defense intercept Sam Ehlinger?
Yes / No
- Will Texas rush for a touchdown?
Yes / No
- Who wins?
Rice / Texas
One Final Thing
The non-conference portion of the Rice football schedule was always going to be a learning time for this team. Big picture questions like how hard this team will fight and what the capabilities of the offense and defense in Year 2 were what the Owls needed to understand before conference play arrived. The results on the field, although important, were not and should not be the end-all-be-all in this case. That holds true for the game against Texas.
What Rice does need to do against Texas is fight. Unlike against Army, the Owls seemed to go quiet on both sides of the ball in the third quarter against Wake Forest. Defensive errors and three consecutive three and outs were not a sign of progress, rather of a team that looked emotionally and physically worn down.
The challenges only get tougher against a ranked opponent in Week 3. But, given the circumstances, Rice has largely played well in their first two games. This will be one more chance for Rice to make a statement, both to the college football world and to themselves.
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