Rice Football opens conference play on Saturday against Southern Miss. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Week 4 could not have gone more different for Rice football and Southern Miss. The Owls notched their first win of the season, leading from wire to wire over Texas Southern. Meanwhile, Southern Miss was shellacked by Alabama in a game that was never as close as the score seemed to indicate. Both squads sit at 1-3 with the chance to turn their seasons around with a 1-0 start in Conference USA action.
Kickoff time | 5:30 PM CT
Venue | Rice Stadium – Houston, TX
TV | ESPN3
Radio | Sports Map 94.1 (FM) / Stretch Internet (Online)
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Southern Miss this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. You can also catch the recap of last week’s game on The Roost Podcast, which should be released shortly. 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
Southern Miss head coach Will Hall came in with lofty goals before being punched in the mouth in his first month on the job. Sitting at 1-3., all is not lost, but the trajectory of the 2021 season could hang on what happens in the next few games. A win against Rice on Saturday and another against UTEP the following weekend would right the ship and absorb some early frustrations.
Rice football head coach Mike Bloomgren finds himself in a similar spot. Also 1-3, he’s won every game he was “supposed to win”. At home against a team without an FBS win, this game could prove equally important for the Owls on their quest for the first bowl game since 2014.
All Time | Southern Miss leads Rice 6-5
Last Five | Southern Miss leads 4-1
Last Meeting | Away, Rice won 30-6
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Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Constantine – 30/38 (79.0 percent), 351 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing | Myers – 43 carries, 224 yards (5.2 yards per carry)
Receiving | Myers – 15 receptions, 119 yards (7.9 yards per reception), 1 TD / Bailey – 16 receptions, 149 yards (9.3 yds/rec) / Patterson – 7 receptions, 180 yards (24.3 yds/rec)
Tackles | Montero – 33 / Smith – 25/ Garcia – 21
Pass Breakups | Smith – 3, Nyakwol/McCord/Dunbar – 2
Interceptions | Nyakwol/Fresch/Taylor – 1
Southern Miss Stat Notables
Passing | Keyes – 31/62 (50.0 percent), 338 yards passing, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing | Gore Jr. – 64 carries, 281 yards (4.4 yards per carry), 1 TD
Receiving | Jones – 8 receptions, 88 yards (11.0 yards per reception), 1 TD / Gunter – 5 receptions, 85 yards (17.0 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Shorts – 27 / Stanley – 21 / Habas – 15
Interceptions | Shorts/Daniel -1
Pass Breakups | Shorts – 6 / four others tied with one
Southern Miss X-Factor | Control the line of scrimmage
Through four games, Southern Miss has the No. 20 ranked run defense in the nation. The Golden Eagles held South Alabama to 31 yards on 34 carries, Grambling to 58 yards on 26 carries and Troy to 49 yards on 32 carries. Alabama had their way with this unit, racking up 211 yards on the ground, but Rice won’t present that level of athletic challenge.
Take out the Alabama game and Southern Miss is allowing a staggering 1.5 yards per carry.
If Southern Miss can replicate that on Saturday and force the Rice offense to be one-dimensional, they’ll put the pressure on a quarterback who’s only started one career game at the FBS level. He had a strong debut, but having a running back go for 160 yards and four touchdowns by his side undoubtedly helped.
Rice X-Factor | Get to the quarterback
The Rice defense has seen its greatest level of success this season when it’s gotten pressure on the opposing quarterback. We saw what happens when they can’t get home soon enough last week when a true freshman, making his first start, torched what was presumed to be a stout secondary.
Rice faces another first-year player this week, and one that is still learning on the job. Ty Keyes was head coach Will Hall’s hand-picked man when he got the job. But for as much excitement as he’s generated in Hattiesburg, he’s thrown for 338 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions in three contests. While he might live up to those lofty expectations someday, he’s not there yet. And that presents an opportunity.
The front four has had its moments. They’ll need to find that extra gear this coming Saturday. Pressure and young quarterbacks don’t mix well.
Pick ‘Em Contest (Subscribers only)
Make sure you submit your entry for The Roost’s weekly pick’em challenge. There will be swag and prizes for the top finishers at the end of the season. Choose an answer to each of the six questions below and comment on this post on the Patreon page to enter. It’s that easy.
Injury Report (Subscribers only)
The Roost’s 2021 Rice Football Season Preview has FIVE pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth charts, important new arrivals and positional breakdowns for every team in Conference USA sourced from local beat writers and sources on the ground who cover these teams every day. It’s the most thorough C-USA publication on the market.
One Final Thing
Rice football answered its biggest outstanding question last Saturday in their win over Texas Southern. Through their first three games, the offense hadn’t shown up. 48 points later, it’s evident that side of the ball does have the ability to perform. Whether they can do it at a similar level against a more talented opponent remains to be seen, but now we know the offense can score.
Had the offense not turned up, Rice could be looking at a defense that’s giving up 34+ points per game AND an offense that had shown no life through four games. No thanks.
Now the onus falls on Rice to combine that offense with the defense of old and a reformed special teams unit for sixty minutes. A complete game. If Rice can do that, against a conference opponent, the outlook for the rest of the season could change overnight. If they can’t, the goals they set months ago might still be in reach, but the week-to-week grind will be very real. Either way, we should learn a lot about this team this weekend.
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