Rice football returns home this week seeking revenge against Charlotte after last year’s overtime loss. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Rice football rallied in overtime last weekend, beating Louisiana Tech 42-41 to earn their fourth win of the season. Charlotte was not as fortunate, getting blasted at home by FIU by a final score of 34-15 in a game that did not seem nearly as close. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s game.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Charlotte 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
Rice provided themselves more breathing room in their quest to return to the postseason last weekend with its overtime win. The Owls aren’t quite in a must-win scenario at home this weekend, but there’s no denying this is one of the more favorable matchups the team will face down the stretch, at least one paper.
On the other hand, Charlotte finds itself in the midst of uncertainty. Once thought of as a rising star in the coaching world, Will Healy and the program slid backward this season. He was dismissed on Sunday, the first Conference USA coaching change in this hiring cycle.
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All Time | Rice leads, 2-1
Last Five | Rice leads, 2-1
Last Meeting | Road 2021, Rice lost 31-24 (OT)
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | McMahon – 113/191 (59.2 percent), 1485 yards, 13 TD, 10 INT
Rushing | Montgomery – 41 carries, 298 yards (7.3 yards per carry), 0 TD / Broussard – 91 carries, 251 yards (2.8 yards per carry), 9 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 43 receptions, 555 yards (12.9 yds/rec), 5 TD / Rozner – 22 receptions, 474 yards (21.6 yds/rec), 5 TDs / Esdale – 19 receptions, 239 yards (12.6 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Conti – 44 / Morrison – 40 / Taylor – 30
Pass Breakups | Dunbar – 5 / Morrison, Fresch – 3 / Taylor, Narcisse – 2
Interceptions | Taylor – 2 / Morrison, Nyakwol, Chamberlain, Fresch – 1
Passing | Reynolds – 120/191 (62.8 percent), 1545 yards, 14 TD, 9 INT
Rushing | Byrd – 87 carries, 354 yards (4.1 yards per carry), 3 TD / McEachern – 56 carries, 256 yards (4.6 ypc), 1 TD
Receiving | Spencer – 38 receptions, 718 yards (18.9 yards per reception), 4 TD / DuBose – 42 receptions, 501 yards (11.9 yds/rec), 7 TD / Tucker – 35 receptions. 321 yards (9.2 yds/rec), 5 TDs
Tackles | Jones – 56 / Bemah – 43 / Rogers – 37
Pass Breakups | Jones – 2 / Five others tied with 1
Interceptions | Jones – 2 / Three others tied with 1
Charlotte X-Factor | Be efficient
Charlotte does not have a great pass defense. They’re dreadful against the run and they don’t run the ball well themselves either, what they do excel at is throwing the football. Quarterback Chris Reynolds is the heart and soul of this team. If he’s on, the 49ers will have a chance. If he’s not — like he wasn’t against FIU where he threw three interceptions and no touchdowns — this team won’t have a chance.
In their lone victory this season, Reynolds threw for 401 yards and five touchdowns, completing 72.1 percent of his passes. He averaged 9.3 yards per attempt. In their closest defeat, on October 1 against UTEP, he threw for four scores, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt. Charlotte had one final possession to potentially win that game but Reyolds was intercepted.
Reynolds won’t be perfect — it would be hard to be pristine given the heavy load he’ll be asked to carry — but he can be good. If Reynolds picks his spots and can be efficient, Charlotte will have a shot.
Rice X-Factor | Stop turning it over
Rice football leads Conference USA in turnovers per game. None of the programs in the top four (Louisiana Tech, UTEP and Charlotte) have better than .500 records on the season. Rice has largely won in spite of their turnover issues, which continued last weekend against Louisiana Tech where TJ McMahon did not throw an interception, but the team lost three fumbles.
The Owls will be heavy favorites against the 1-7 49ers this coming weekend. Games against teams that don’t seem that evenly matched can swing in an instant with turnovers. Rice football has yet to put a complete game together this season despite owning a winning record.
If they can hold onto the football, not only should they win this game, but they’ll be able to demonstrate a proof-of-concept for the program moving forward. If the offense can find a rhythm, the entire team will find more success.
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One Final Thing
Every win counts the same in the final tally, but Rice has won two very different kinds of game so far this year. Against McNeese and Louisiana, Rice won fairly handily. The UL game wasn’t perfect, but both sides of the ball played well and the game ended with a comfortable margin down the stretch.
In the Owls’ other pair of wins (vs UAB and at Louisiana Tech) heart attack moments were plentiful as the offense struggled to produce consistently and the defense gave up big plays that kep the game close from wire to wire.
Some of that is opponent based — UAB is much better than McNeese State — but much of it was Rice-oriented. The Owls have been erratic when it comes to their starts to their games this season, sometimes coming out strong while otherwise taking a quarter or more to get things into gear. Rice should have some wiggle room against Charlotte on Saturday, but to some degree, they still are in need of a prove-it game for themselves.
Rice football believes they can be a better team than the one they’ve put on the field over the last month. They’re probably right. If they can take that next step and produce that high-caliber level play, the rest of the seams starts looking much rosier with two wins between them and a return to a bowl game.
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