Rice football makes its final visit to Ruston, LA as a member of Conference USA to play Louisiana Tech. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Anxious to move past frustrating road losses, both Rice football and Louisiana Tech meet in search of a win in Week 8. The Rice Owls fell to the Owls of FAU in Boca Raton while Louisiana Tech dropped their game against North Texas in Denton. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Louisiana Tech on this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. Look for a recap of the game on the site afterward as well as on The Roost Podcast, which should be released early next week. 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
With the bye week behind both clubs and six games remaining, both programs feel like they could be nearing a tipping point in terms of where this season is headed. Rice is 3-3. Louisiana Tech is 2-4. A bowl berth is on the table for both clubs, with more pressure on Owls’ headman Mike Bloomgren to deliver in Year 5 to deliver a trip to the postseason.
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All Time | Louisiana Tech leads, 9-5
Last Five | Louisiana Tech leads, 4-1
Last Meeting | Home 2021, Rice won 35-31
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | McMahon – 97/164 (59.2 percent), 1277 yards, 10 TD, 10 INT
Rushing | Broussard – 85 carries, 233 yards (2.7 yards per carry), 9 TD / Montgomery – 27 carries, 211 yards (7.8 yards per carry), 0 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 33 receptions, 384 yards (11.7 yds/rec), 3 TD / Rozner – 19 receptions, 447 yards (23.5 yds/rec), 4 TDs / Esdale – 19 receptions, 239 yards (12.6 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Morrison – 40 / Conti – 34 / Taylor – 25
Pass Breakups | Dunbar, Morrison – 3 / Taylor, Fresch, Narcisse – 2
Interceptions | Taylor – 2 / Morrison, Nyakwol, Chamberlain – 1
LA Tech Notables
Passing | McNeil – 78/137 (56.9 percent), 1167 yards, 12 TD, 7 INT
Rushing | Crosby – 59 carries, 342 yards (5.5 yards per carry), 3 TD / Thornton – 24 carries, 113 yards (4.7 ypc), 1 TD
Receiving | Hebert – 20 receptions, 403 yards (20.2 yards per reception), 3 TD / Harris – 25 receptions, 376 yards (15.0 yds/rec), 3 TD
Tackles | Grubbs – 48 / Williamson – 37 / Cole, Davis – 29
Pass Breakups | Roberts – 5 / Johnson – 4 / Cole – 2
Interceptions | Roberts – 2 / Four others tied with 1
LA Tech X-Factor | Cash in
Rice has had its struggles on offense this year, but the Owls’ defense has been extremely stout. Florida Atlantic barely scratched across 17 points last weekend, well below their season average. Points will be at a premium this coming weekend, necessitating the need to capitalize on every opportunity, which is something Louisiana Tech has struggled to do this season.
Louisiana Tech ranks ninth in Conference USA in red zone touchdown percentage, putting the ball in the box on just 50 percent of their red zone opportunities. That deficiency reared its head against North Texas last weekend, too. The Bulldogs settled for a field goal despite reaching the one-yard line. North Texas responded with a touchdown on the next possession and the game was never close again.
If Louisiana Tech gets close, they have to leave the redzone with touchdowns. Kicking field goals on limited chances is not a recipe for success.
Rice X-Factor | Run the ball
Louisiana Tech enters Week 8 allowing 263 rushing yards per game, the worst mark in Conference USA. The Bulldogs have been a sieve in that aspect of their defense, allowing a staggering 6.4 yards per carry.
Rice, conversely, has struggled immensely to run the football. Their limitations in that phase have heaped extra pressure on quarterback TJ McMahon and led to inconsistent drives and challenging offensive situations. If Rice can’t run the football on this defense, there are going to have to be some hard questions asked about the optics of this offense moving forward.
If Rice can run the ball, it’s hard to envision this offense not finding tremendous success. The solution to the Owls’ offensive woes isn’t solely that simple, but it would go a long way to getting back in rhythm on that side of the ball.
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One Final Thing
Through six games, two truths about Rice football seem abundantly clear. First, this team is the best team Mike Bloomgren has assembled at South Main. From the roster construction to their performances through the first half of the season, it’s hard to argue any of Bloomgren’s other squads even comes that close. Second, this team’s consistency needs to improve, drastically.
The Rice team that blew past Louisiana at home should have no trouble dispatching Louisiana Tech on the road. That said, the iteration of the Owls that was unable to score and unable to finish against Florida Atlantic isn’t going to win many additional conference games.
At this point, it seems the true version of Rice football is closer to the team that beat Louisiana than the one that lost to Florida Atlantic. How close the Owls can get to that team, or even better, will determine the fate of this upcoming matchup and the rest of the season. Needless to say, Saturday’s game against Louisiana Tech is extremely important.
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