Rice Football kicks off conference play in Week 5 with a home contest against Louisiana Tech. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
Rice football saw another fourth quarter rally fall short as the Owls closed out nonconference play with a loss to Baylor last Saturday. The close loss was hard to swallow, but the shift from a string of Power 5 opponents to Conference USA play will be welcomed with open arms at South Main.
Louisiana Tech enters the game on the heels of their first conference victory. The Bulldogs dispatched a struggling FIU team, outscoring the Panthers 43-31. Here’s what you need to know about both Louisiana Tech and Rice before their Week 5 battle.
We previewed the Louisiana Tech game on Episode 9 of The Roost Podcast which was released on Wednesday. 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.)
Sizing up the contenders
An 0-4 start wasn’t what Rice was hoping for, but expectations remain high at South Main because of the competitive nature of those defeats, particularly against Army and Baylor. There weren’t many outside of Houston who expected Rice to win any of their first four contests. The mere fact that they were a touchdown away from two big upsets was telling.
Like Rice, Louisiana Tech was beaten handily by Texas. Unlike Rice, Louisiana Tech won their other three games, including their Conference USA opener in Week 4 against FIU. The difference between the Bulldogs and the Owls early starts was the quality of the competition. Louisiana Tech has only played explicitly great team — they lost.
Saturday these two divergent storylines converge at South Main. Rice is out to prove they’re better than their record says while Louisiana Tech hopes to continue to stockpile on their winning resume as they build a case toward what they hope will be a C-USA West crown.
All Time | Louisiana Tech leads 8-4
Last Five | Louisiana Tech leads 5-0
Last Meeting | Away 2018, Louisiana Tech 28-13
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Stewart – 36/61 (59.0 percent), 414 yards passing, 3 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Walter – 56 carries, 181 yards (3.2 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Rozner – 15 receptions, 250 yards (16.7 yards per reception)
Tackles | Alldredge – 29, Montero/Chamberlain – 26
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Alldredge/Smith/Thornton tied with 2 PBU
Louisiana Tech Stat Notables
Passing | Smith – 97/143 (67.8), 1108 yards passing, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | Henderson – 35 carries, 277 yards (7.9 yards per carry), 4 TD
Receiving | Hebert – 15 receptions, 218 yards (14.5 yards per reception), 2 TD
Tackles | Jackson – 30, Scott – 28
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Robertson – 7 PBU, 1 INT
Louisiana Tech X-Factor | Stopping the run
For Louisiana Tech, the formula for beating Rice starts with controlling the ground game. The Bulldogs have been solidly mediocre against the run this season. On the plus side, they were able to hold Bowling Green to 119 yards on 47 carries (2.5 yards per carry). In their other three games against Texas, Grambling State or FIU under they allowed an average of 167 yards rushing (4.7 yards per carry).
Rice has been the most successful on offense this season when the ground game is moving. Churning out a respectable rate on the ground opens everything else up. No ground game and the offense has struggled to get moving until the second half, at the earliest.
Louisiana Tech can’t afford to let Rice dictate the pace of the game in their own stadium. The Owls are frustrated with the 0-4 start and itching to impose their will on whoever shows up on their field next.
Rice X-Factor | Winning in the redzone
Beyond running the football successfully, Rice needs to finish drives. The Owls kicked their first two successful field goals in their last game against Baylor, but both game inside the redzone. Their final field goal came after the team squandered three straight attempts from the 6-yard line.
Assuming the offense is going to take more than one more week to work out the kinks, Rice needs to find a way to capitalize on their opportunities. As good as the defense has been early on, 13 points isn’t going to be enough to win many games. Turn those two field goal opportunities into touchdowns and Rice will be near the threshold it takes to grind out wins.
Louisiana Tech ranks first in Conference USA with a 50 percent touchdown rate in redzone possessions. They’ve turned their opponents away without any points on eight of 18 redzone trips. It’s going to be a tall task for the Owls.
Justin Gooseberry, Clay Servin and Reagan Williams highlighted a few somewhat surprising inactive for Rice against Baylor. We’ll be watching them closely this week. On a positive note, kicker Zach Hoban made his debut, handling kickoff duties last weekend.
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 every foe.
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.
- Which team has more rushing yards?
Rice / Louisiana Tech
- How many field goals are made by both teams?
Over 3.5 / Under 3.5
- Will both teams score in the first quarter?
Yes / No
- How many third downs will Rice convert?
Over 5.5 / Under 5.5
- Will Blaze Alldredge register at least two tackles for a loss?
Yes / No
- Who wins?
Rice / Louisiana Tech
One Final Thing
Opening conference play with a loss would be deflating for the Owls, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The Rice offense is still very much a work in progress and they might have more questions at quarterback than they thought they would at this point of the season.
And Louisiana Tech is a solid football program which has won five consecutive bowl games. Rice would pick up the pieces and move on.
But, a win on Saturday would speak volumes. It would serve as validation, of sorts, to the Owls’ meticulous dedication to process and effort. If this team is as good as they believe themselves to be, there’s no reason the Owls can’t be a factor in Conference USA this season.
One game won’t definitely prove that one way or another, but those inside the Patterson Center could use some confirmation they’re on the right track. Bloomgren himself said it best. “We got a new season on the horizon. Every goal that our players put on the covenant is intact.”
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