Rice Football is back from an off week and will hit the road to play UTSA. How to watch, stats to know, x-factor picks for both teams and more.
The last time each of these teams took the field they fell to UAB. Rice football was forced to weather multiple lightning delays, falling to the Blazers 35-20 in Birmingham. UTSA was protected from the elements, at home in a dome, and was defeated by UAB by the final score of 33-14.
Rice used the past week off to regroup. Still winless, the Owls hope to turn things around against the Roadrunners. Here’s what you need to know about both the opponent and Rice before their Week 8 contest.
We’ll preview the UTSA game on Episode 12 of The Roost Podcast which will be released on Thursday. 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
UTSA’s Week 6 win over UTEP marked their first Conference USA victory since they beat Rice in Houston last October. The Owls also have won conference win since that game, a season-ending victory over Old Dominion. That was last season, though, and Rice football is still looking for that next elusive victory.
While the Owls have played several teams close, the Roadrunners have finished more games than their visiting opponents have thus far. UTSA also beat Incarnate Word in their season opener, giving them two wins to the Owls nil.
The pressure is cranking up on both head coaches in this matchup. Frank Wilson’s team has failed to improve since he took over in 2016 whereas Mike Bloomgren is seeking proof of his process in his second year at South Main. A win on Saturday would be big for both programs.
All Time | UTSA leads 4-3
Last Five | UTSA leads 4-1
Last Meeting | Home 2018, UTSA won 20-3
Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | Green – 52/98 (53.1 percent), 548 yards passing, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Walter – 92 carries, 395 yards (4.3 yards per carry), 4 TD
Receiving | Trammell – 28 receptions, 397 yards (14.2 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Alldredge – 53, Montero – 37, Chamberlain – 35
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Thornton – 5 PBU, Nyakwol/Chamberlain – 1 INT each
UTSA Football Stat Notables
Passing | Narcisse – 32/76 (42.1), 273 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | McCormick – 83 carries, 473 yards (5.7 yards per carry), 5 TD
Receiving | Strickland – 15 receptions, 129 yards (8.6 yards per reception), 1 TD
Tackles | Martel – 42, Austin 35, Harris – 24
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Grady/Mayfield Jr – 4 PBU each, Carter-McLin/Harris – 1 INT each
UTSA X-Factor | Quarterback play
The season-ending injury of quarterback Frank Harris put the breaks on any sort of optimism for the UTSA offense. Harris had played well against Incarnate Word and Army, holding up decently well against Baylor before being knocked out of the Roadrunners’ Week 4 game against North Texas. With Harris out, replacement Lowell Narcisse has floundered.
Starting with his relief appearance when Harris went down, Narcisse hasn’t completed 50 percent of his passes in a game this season. He’s thrown for more than 100 yards once (against North Texas) and that came with two interceptions.
Narcisse is much more dangerous on the ground, averaging 5.7 yards per carry with three touchdowns. As capable as the Rice defense has looked throughout this season, teams have been able to outscore the Owls. If Narcisse can be proficient enough through the air, he’ll keep the offense balanced and give his team its best chance to score. Otherwise, it’s going to be a tough day at the office for the UTSA offense.
Rice X-Factor | Front seven supremacy
UTSA has a one-dimensional offense. When the running game is snuffed out, the UTSA offense goes with it. The Roadrunners are averaging 6.4 yards per carry in their two wins this season and 3.6 yards per carry in their four losses.
Stopping the run plays into a strength of the Rice defense. Wake Forest was the only team to average more than five yards per carry against the Owls, but nearly half of their 201 rushing yards came on one explosive play. If the Owls had their pick, they’d prefer to match up with a run-first team like this.
UTSA ranked 129th out of 130 FBSIf th team in scoring offense last season. They’ve improved slightly through the first half of 2019 to 121st, but the Roadrunner won’t win shootouts against most teams. If Rice can curtail the running game, UTSA will struggle to score.
Anthony Ekpe and Reagan Williams will be two names to keep an eye on this week. Williams has missed the last two games for Rice while Ekpe left the Owls’ last game against UAB early with an injury. At this time both are expected to miss Saturday’s game against UTSA.
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 either team score on defense or special teams?
Yes / No
- Who has more tackles for Rice?
Chamberlain / Alldredge (or tie)
- How many first downs will Rice have?
Over 14.5 / Under 14.5
- Will UTSA score more than 16.5 points?
Yes / No
- Which Rice pass catcher has the most receiving yards?
Rozner / Trammell / Other
- Who wins?
Rice / UAB
One Final Thing
Rice was favored in twice last season — at home against Prairie View A&M and at home against Old Dominion. They won both of those games. When lines opened for this game, Rice was listed as a road favorite against UTSA. If coaches are to be graded by winning games they’re “supposed to win”, there will be an added onus on Mike Bloomgren to lead his team to victory on Saturday.
The time for moral victories has long since come and gone. Rice hasn’t been out-athleted since conference play began but the wins have still eluded them. Both sides of the ball have shown flashes and revealed concerning gaps that the team had the open week to address. From the players to the coaches, the team that takes the field in San Antonio needs to find a way to win.