Rice football hosts UConn in their final nonconference game of the season. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Rice football rallied in the fourth quarter to beat East Carolina at home last weekend. UConn thought they’d managed a similar turnaround, only to see their potential game-tying extra point extra point blocked. The Huskies enter this game 0-5. Rice is 3-2. Here’s everything you need to know about this week’s matchup between Rice and UConn.
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs UConn 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.
Sizing up the contenders
Everything has seemingly gone wrong for Jim Mora and company this year. A sixth loss wouldn’t officially eliminate them from postseason — a five-game deficit feels insurmountable already — but the mood around the program would certainly further decay. As for the Owls, Rice could move two games above .500 and enter the bye week within two games of a second consecutive bowl berth.
All Time | No previous meetings
Last Five | No previous meetings
Last Meeting | No previous meetings
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Rice Football Stat Notables
Passing | Daniels – 98/157 (62.4 percent), 1469 yards, 13 TD, 4 INT
Rushing | Connors – 34 carries, 138 yards (4.1 yards per carry), 1 TD / Alexander – 18 carries, 35 yards (1.9 yards per carry), 5 TD
Receiving | McCaffrey – 23 receptions, 414 yards (18.0 yds/rec), 4 TDs / Walker – 11 receptions, 190 yards (17.3 yds/rec), 2 TD
Tackles | Morrison – 32 / Wyatt – 31 / Conti – 29
Pass Breakups | Fresch – 5 / Taylor – 4 / Jean – 3
Interceptions | Devones, Conti – 1
UConn Stat Notables
Passing | Roberson – 70/122 (57.4 percent), 755 yards, 5 TD, 2 INT
Rushing | Rosa – 57 carries, 310 yards (5.4 yards per carry), 2 TD / Houston – 34 carries, 161 yards (4.7 ypc), 0 TD
Receiving | Buckman – 22 receptions, 261 yards (11.9 yards per reception), 1 TD / Joly – 16 receptions, 195 yards (12.2 yds/rec), 0 TD
Tackles | Mitchell – 47 / Jones – 30 / Plack – 28
Pass Breakups | Bin-Wahad – 3 / Cross, Bell – 2
Interceptions | Mitchell, Shearin – 2
UConn X-Factor | Take some risks, offensively
The Huskies have not been that productive as an offense through five games, averaging a meager 17.0 points per game, sixth worst in the country. East Carolina wasn’t exactly a juggernaut coming into its bout with Rice either, but the Pirates were able to move the ball against the Owls, albeit without finding the endzone enough.
The Rice defense has been chaotic all season long, mixing havoc plays and turnovers in with long pass plays and poor tackling at times. If previous games are any true indicator, UConn is going to have opportunities. They need to force the issue and make Rice bring their A-game on defense, which has allowed several quarterbacks to post great games against them thus far.
Road underdogs, UConn isn’t winning this game without some fortunate bounces. They’re certainly shouldn’t plan on outdueling a Rice offense that, while disjointed at times, has proven to be effective more often than not when JT Daniels is on the field.
Rice X-Factor | Pound the Rock
Head coach Mike Bloomgren has mentioned his willingness to lean into the pass this season if it helps his team win football games, but even he will admit posting back to back sub-40-yard rushing games isn’t going to get it done. Rice needs to find a way to run the football rather than waiting on JT Daniels to bail them out, even if No. 18 has managed to do so time and time again.
UConn has allowed more rushing touchdowns than more than 100 FBS teams. The Huskies have been respectable in many of their other defensive metrics against the run, but when push comes to shove, they’ve been blown over with regularity.
Rice won’t face many other defenses this season that have been proven to be this susceptible to the ground game. It’s not quite a make-or-break moment, but this facet of the Owls’ attack is one of the lone stones left unturned so far this season. Getting the ground game going would be a huge confidence boost before the team heads into the bye week.
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One Final Thing
Saturday was an ugly win for Rice football. The defense made the final plays, but got gashed along the way. The offense let a lot of points on the board and the special teams unit missed another important kick. Had the result been different, there would have been a lot of frustration with the performance, and frankly, some angst is justifiable.
That’s what makes this coming game so crucial. UConn is not a good football team, by any measure. The Huskies are winless with their closest losses coming against FIU and Utah State. Their defense has been gashed in all five games and their offense hadn’t shown much of a spark prior to putting up 33 points in a losing effort against Utah State last weekend.
This is a game Rice football is supposed to win. The Owls would like to believed they’ve graduated from playing “winnable” games to a team that takes care of business against so-called inferior opponents. Nobody from within the walls of the Brian Patterson center will verbalize it that way, but UConn is an inferior opponent. Rice should win, and win comfortably.
If the Owls can do that, they’ll be back on schedule, assuring many that the USF loss was a bump on the road to a season that can still become very special.
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