Rice Football hits the road in search of their first road win Saturday against UAB. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
On Saturday Rice football will square off with UAB in the Owls’ first road test in conference play. Rice is still looking for their first victory of the season after falling in overtime to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs last weekend. Despite never trailing in regulation, the Owls were unable to close things out at home.
The test won’t be any easier this week against a UAB squad coming off their first defeat of the young season. The Blazers weren’t able to must much in the way of offense, falling on the road to Western Kentucky, 20-13.
Both teams are 0-1 in Conference USA action. One will take home their first conference victory this weekend. Here’s what you need to know about both teams prior to their Week 6 game.
We’ll preview the UAB game on Episode 10 of The Roost Podcast which will be 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
Rice has fallen just short too many times to count. The Owls have discovered a formula to keep things close — physical defense and methodical offensive attacks. Finishing has been the struggle. Rice needs to find whatever switch they need to flip this week. If they can do that, the Owls could be a dangerous team in the second half of the season.
UAB has had quite a different road. Rather than face a slew of Power 5 teams like Rice, the Blazers whipped through a slate of relatively weak foes in nonconference play. The defending Conference USA champs’ toughest test came last week; they lost. Nevertheless, Bill Clark’s squad didn’t raise the trophy a year ago on accident. UAB will be out to prove last week was an aberration, not the norm.
All Time | UAB leads 4-3
Last Five | UAB leads 3-2
Last Meeting | Home 2018, UAB 42-0
Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Green – 37/64 (57.8 percent), 387 yards passing, 0 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Walter – 76 carries, 293 yards (3.9 yards per carry), 3 TD
Receiving | Rozner – 20 receptions, 314 yards (15.7 yards per reception)
Tackles | Alldredge – 42, Montero – 33, Chamberlain – 32
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Thornton – 5 PBU, no team interceptions
UAB Stat Notables
Passing | Johnston – 63/101 (62.4), 927 yards passing, 8 TD, 6 INT
Rushing | Brown – 78 carries, 262 yards (3.4 yards per carry), 5 TD
Receiving | Watkins – 15 receptions, 289 yards (19.3 yards per reception), 3 TD
Tackles | Wilder – 25, Boler – 20, Moll – 19
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Marino – 2 PBU, no team interceptions
UAB X-Factor | Winning the line of scrimmage
Spencer Brown is one of the best running backs in Conference USA, but he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry, the 21st best mark in the conference. As capable as Brown is, a relatively young offensive line hasn’t done enough up front to open up room for him to operate.
The status of senior center Lee Dufour, injured in practice last week, is up in the air. If he can’t go for the Blazers their ability to win against a stingy Rice defensive front would be made much more challenging.
Regardless of Dufour’s status, if the Owls can force UAB to be one dimensional, they’re going to be better off. Quarterback Tyler Johnston attempted a season-high 31 passes last week and threw a season-high four interceptions.
Rice X-Factor | Third down
What eventually doomed Rice against Louisiana Tech last week was of their own doing. The Owls could not stay on the field and sustain drives. They converted 4-of-16 third downs (including 2-of-11 in the second half), half the number of third down conversions they managed a week prior against Baylor.
Whether its more aggression, better run blocking or a higher level of play from quarterback Wiley Green, Rice is going to have to find a way to win on third down.
This has been a sticking point for the team since Bloomgren’s arrival. The Owls were dead last in third down conversion rate last year (28.7 percent) and enter the UAB game 12th in the conference (32.4 percent). If they can solve this problem, they’ll open up the offense significantly.
Freshman receiver Zane Knipe got off the injury list and made his collegiate debut last week against Louisiana Tech. While he should be set going forward, the status of fullback Reagan Williams remains in limbo. Bloomgren wasn’t confident he would be back this soon, but we’ll be monitoring the situation going forward. Stay tuned here for updates later in the week.
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.
- Will Rice commit more than four accepted penalties?
Yes / No
- How many third downs will UAB convert?
Over 8.5 / Under 8.5
- Which team registers the longest play from scrimmage?
Rice / UAB
- Will Wiley Green throw at least one touchdown pass?
Yes / No
- How many total yards will the Rice defense allow?
Over 365 / Under 365
- Who wins?
Rice / UAB
One Final Thing
Anything can happen in Conference USA. The talent differential between the top teams in the conference and the lower-tiered squads is slimmed than in the Power 5 conferences. At this point in the season, it’s still too early to decipher who belongs with the top dogs anyways.
Coaching and execution are where games are won and lost. Mike Bloomgren and his staff have been hard at work preparing a gameplan capable of taking down the Blazers. Members of the staff were up through the later hours of Sunday morning following last week’s loss, literally not sleeping until they found answers.
The Owls are committed to finding a breakthrough. The groundwork has been laid. All that’s left is to put the pieces together for four quarters.
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