Rice football finds itself in an uncertain quarterback situation entering Week 2 of the 2021 season after Wiley Green struggled in the Owls’ opening game.
In mid-August, Rice football head coaches and players gathered (virtually) to discuss the upcoming season. How the quarterback situation would unfold was, understandably, the focal point of many of the questions they fielded on that day.
Amidst all the noise, Mike Bloomgren’s comments on that day resonated. “I think Wiley [Green]’s incredibly comfortable in our system,” he said on that Saturday morning following the first scrimmage of fall camp.
“Incredibly comfortable” might have been the antithesis of how Green looked in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s season-opening loss to Arkansas. Although Bloomgren offered an emphatic “no” post-game when asked if he considered pulling Wiley after his second of three interceptions, the damage had seemingly already been done.
Rice led Arkansas 17-7 early in the second half. The Razorbacks would rally, scoring 31 unanswered points thanks in large part to three turnovers from the arm of Wiley Green. A tipped ball on his first pick might have gone overlooked, but subsequent miscues when the pressure started to mount and the drives became more and more important proved to be unavoidable.
And that’s what makes the situation Rice football coaches will walk into on Monday morning all the more strenuous.
Green has looked comfortable throughout fall camp. His teammates look up to him. He was named a captain this past week. He knows the system, perhaps more than some of the coaches — and that’s not hyperbole. But when the lights shined brightest. He wasn’t able to deliver. And it wasn’t the first time.
Evaluating how much of those shortcomings can be attributed to the caliber of opponent Rice faced on Saturday, the influx of injuries suffered by the Owls throughout the game and some good old-fashioned bad luck rests on Bloomgren and his staff.
Can Green bounce back against a perhaps less-intimidating opponent next week? Has his body of work on the practice field earned him another chance? Should it?
The reality is, questions were always going to come. Opinions were going to be given, from those inside and outside the program.
And if Luke McCaffrey, a former blue-chip recruit and one of the most highly-rated prospects to ever arrive at South Main, had not been waiting on the bench behind him, the pressure of these questions might not have reached this level of intensity.
But because McCaffrey is on campus and because he’s fared well enough in his limited action thus far, the comparisons are going to keep coming.
For the umpteenth time, Green has had the deck stacked against him. He’s always found a way to battle back before. At the very least, doubting his resolve has been a fool’s errand to this point.
But even he was starkly honest following the defeat. “The guys expect more from me,” he said. “And I expect more from myself.” He didn’t she away from his mistakes, but he didn’t throw in the towel either.
Green is going to put together another strong week of practice. McCaffrey will continue to do his best to absorb as much of the offense as he can. But come next Saturday, it’s possible no one knows how Rice will deploy their top two passing options.
That’s more or less where Bloomgren left the conversation on Saturday, with the impact of the loss still fresh in his mind. “We’re going to watch this film. We’ll talk about it as a staff,” Bloomgren said, responding to a question regarding who would be the starting quarterback next week. “We’ll get back to you on that.”