Rice Football looks to rebound from its first C-USA loss, but they’ll have their work cut out for them against UAB. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Rice football and UAB, the Owls’ upcoming opponent, could not have had more diametrically opposing weekends. The Blazers blanked a Southern Miss team Rice had just edged out at home, winning by a final score of 34-0. Meanwhile, Rice was in the middle of a shutout of their own, but the Owls were on the wrong side of the margin, falling 45-0 to UTSA.
UAB will look to keep rolling at home this weekend while Rice needs a bounce back in the worst way. Here’s what you need to know:
Kickoff time | 2:30 PM CT
Venue | Protective Stadium – Birmingham, AL
TV | ESPN+
Radio | Sports Map 94.1 (FM) / Stretch Internet (Online)
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs UAB 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
UAB currently sits tied atop the Conference USA West standings with UTSA and UTEP, all three of which boast sterling 3-0 records. If the start of conference play is any indication, the battle for this division might be close, making every game all the more important for each team still in the hunt.
Rice (1-1 C-USA) isn’t technically eliminated from that race, but the Owls have some issues of their own to work through before they can seriously start to consider themselves bonafide contenders. Sitting at 2-4 on the season, the Owls need to finish 4-2 down the stretch to reach bowl eligibility. That task gets decidedly harder if they don’t walk away from Birmingham this weekend with the upset.
All Time | UAB leads Rice 6-3
Last Five | UTSA leads 4-1
Last Meeting | Home 2020, UAB won 21-16
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Rice Stat Notables
Passing | Constantine – 49/66 (74.2 percent), 564 yards, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | Myers – 60 carries, 264 yards (4.4 yards per carry), 5 TD
Receiving | Bailey – 23 receptions, 245 yards (10.7 yds/rec), 1 TD / Patterson – 14 receptions, 226 yards (16.1 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Montero – 45 / Smith – 37 / Garcia – 33
Pass Breakups | Smith/Dunbar – 4, Nyakwol – 3
Interceptions | Nyakwol – 2, Five others tied with one
UAB Stat Notables
Passing | Hopkins – 62/102 (60.8 percent), 973 yards passing, 10 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | McBride – 80 carries, 421 yards (5.3 yards per carry), 2 TD / Brown Jr. – 59 carries, 343 yards (5.8 yds/car), 2 TD
Receiving | Prince – 17 receptions, 357 yards (21.0 yards per reception), 6 TD / Shropshire – 12 receptions, 265 yards (22.1 yds/rec), 3 TD
Tackles | Wilder – 42 / Boler – 32 / Wright – 26
Interceptions | Swoopes – 2, Six tied with one apiece
Pass Breakups | McWilliams – 4, Five tied with two apiece
UAB X-Factor | Make Rice earn it
UAB enters this game tied for second in the conference in 20+ yard plays allowed. They’ve given up 26 such plays across seven games, an average of 3.7 per contest. That number almost disappears when considering their conference games. In three games against North Texas, Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss the Blazers have allowed just four gains of 20+ yards, 1.3 such plays per game.
The Rice offense has struggled on third down. Poor protection put them in long downs and distances frequently last weekend against UTSA. If UAB can keep Rice behind schedule, forcing them to need long gains to stay on the field, it’s game over for the Owls who enter the weekend dead last in Conference USA with 16 plays of 20+ yards across six games.
Rice X-Factor | Start fast
For all the growing pains that have beset Rice football over the past several seasons, starting strong was never a problem for this team until now. Rice entered the UTSA game riding a 16 games streak in which they’d prevented a conference opponent from scoring on their opening drive, dating back to their meeting with UTEP in 2018.
Rice scored first in every game last season and did not allow a single first quarter point in five games. Perhaps that high of a standard was unsustainable — and it probably was — but regressing as far as they have has been much too excessive of a slide, especially considering the talent they have returning.
So, until proven otherwise, Rice absolutely must start strong if they’re going to find the motivation and confidence to play a four quarter football game. Two bad possessions on top of each other has doomed Rice in several games already this year, and the season is only six games old. For Rice, they need to do everything they can control to lead 7-0 after the first couplet of drives, even if that means pulling out every trick in the book.
Pick ‘Em Contest (Subscribers only)
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Injury Report (Subscribers only)
One Final Thing
Dwelling in the past never does too much to benefit the present, but there are a few glaring similarities between where Rice stands entering the UAB game and where Rice stood a year ago prior to their now lauded road tilt with No. 15 Masrhall.
Rice football had just been dealt a discouraging loss, on the road to a conference opponent they were expected to (at the very least) contender with. The Owls saw their starting quarterback get injured in that game and were already without multiple starting players on the defensive side of the ball and had been without Bradley Rozner for the season.
With not much going for them other than what the team coined “unwavering belief”, they pulled up one of the most significant upsets in the history of the program. Rice needs to get out of the business of being multi-touchdown underdogs, but if nothing else, they’ve always found a way to bounce back from their bottoming-out moments.
Rice started 0-9 in 2019 before winning three straight to close the year. They recovered from the quadruple-doink in 2020 to squash Southern Miss 30-6 on the road. And then were was the aforementioned rebound against Marshall. This team hasn’t discovered consistency whatsoever, but they have been resilient when they’ve needed it most. They need that resiliency now more than ever.