The Rice football defense took significant steps in the secondary last season and the numbers bear out the noticeable improvement on the back end.
The defense was the brightest spot for Rice football last season. That side of the ball has faced some attrition through injuries and transfers, but many of the same faces remaining.
Typically deeper analysis pieces like this are reserved for subscribers, but this piece has been unlocked for a limited time. Get access to more insight like this as well as practice notes and recruiting updates on our Patreon page.
I’ve broken down the numbers for each of the C-USA quarterbacks the Owls faced last season. In doing so, I’ve separated yardage and touchdown averages in opponents’ other games (excluding Rice) and then comparing that to the production they had against the Owls.
Each opposing quarterback’s PFF ranking from last season (among all 130 FBS teams) is included for reference. Games in which Rice faired better than the average school each quarterback faced are highlighted in green.
Rice saw every kind of quarterback and every kind of offense in 2019. For the most part, the defensive staff was prepared for what their opponents were going to throw at them through the air. They allowed four C-USA quarterbacks to throw for 300 yards on them in 2018, including a 428-yard performance by Southern Miss’ passer Jack Abraham.
Only one C-USA quarterback reached 300 yards passing against Rice this year (Asher O’Hara) and that came in a furious comeback attempt. Even still, O’Hara barely eclipsed that mark while in come-back mode and needed a busted coverage 90-yard touchdown throw to the speedy Ty Lee to get there. Those yards count too, but when taken into context, it’s hard to be encouraged at the secondaries clear 180.
The UAB game was arguably their only truly “bad” outing against a Top 50 quarterback. Allowing Tyler Johnston to toss up three long-ball touchdowns was inexcusable, even if the game was against the defending champs on the road.
Seeing the Rice football secondary flex against the best C-USA can throw at them is good news. It’s much easier to look past low points (like the UTSA game) when there’s tangible proof this secondary with these players can be good enough to get the job done. Another year of experience with a mostly intact front-seven in front of them is a further reason for hope.
- Rice Football 2020: Owls in the NFL Week 7 Update
- Rice Football 2020 Game Preview: Southern Miss
- Rice Football: Bad bounces, poor results and rough goings
- Conference USA Football 2020: Week 8 C-USA Roundup