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CFN Take: Rice Wins Conference USA Title

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 7, 2013


Rice Owls 2013 ... Head Coach: David Bailiff


Rice Owls

2013 Record: 10-3
8/31 at Texas A&M L 52-31
9/7 OPEN DATE
9/14 Kansas W 23-14
9/21 Houston L 31-25
9/28 Florida Atlantic W 18-14
10/5 at Tulsa W 30-27 OT
10/12 at UTSA W 27-21
10/19 at NMSU W 45-19
10/26 UTEP W 45-7
11/2 at North Texas L 28-16
11/9 OPEN DATE
11/16 Louisiana Tech W 52-14
11/23 at UAB W 37-34 OT
11/30 Tulane W 17-13
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP
12/7 Marshall W 41-24
Rice 41, Marshall 24
Basically … Rice took control early with a 14-0 lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Luke Turner to Donte Moore, and then came the home run with Taylor McHargue hitting Jordan Taylor for a 75-yard score. A Charles Ross four-yard score gave the Owls a 21-3 lead, and then they blew the game open in the fourth on a 17-yard Darik Dillard run and an eight-yard pass from Turner to Connor Cella for a 34-10 lead. A 16-yard Ross scoring run put the game away in the fourth. Marshall got two touchdown passes from Rakeem Cato, and a one-yard Devon Johnson scoring run, but this was all Rice.
- Rice RB Charles Ross ran 18 times for 109 yards and two scores
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 24-of-41 passes for 265 yards and two scores with a pick, and he ran nine times for 25 yards.
- Rice QB Taylor McHargue completed 8-of-16 passes for 196 yards and a score, and he ran seven times for 34 yards.
- Rice outgained Marshall 487 yards to 371.

at Rice 17, Tulane 13
Basically … Rice won the West and is off to play Marshall for the Conference USA title as Jawon Davis ran for a 16-yard score and Turner Peterson caught a 19-yard touchdown pass. The Owls dominated the game, but it needed several late stops as the Green Wave scored ten unanswered points with Devon Breaux catching a 13-yard touchdown pass and Cairo Santos hitting his second field goal on the day.
- Tulane converted one of 14 third down tries and gained six first downs.
- Tulane rushing: 21 times for 26 yards
- Rice QB Taylor McHargue completed 14-of-28 passes for 180 yards and a score
- Rice had the ball for 39:51, and Tulane had it for just over 20 minutes.

Rice 37, at UAB 34 OT
Basically … UAB got a 43-yard Ty Long field goal in overtime, but Rice answered with a one-yard Luke Turner touchdown run for the win. Long put the game in OT with a 24-yard field goal in the final minute to complete a good fourth quarterback comeback, with Darius Powell catching a 20-yard pass for a score as part of a 10-0 run in the last few minutes. Taylor McHargue threw two touchdown passes for the Owls and Charles Ross added a 14-yard scoring run for the Owls, but the Blazers kept up with two one-yard runs from Darrin Reaves and a 14-yard dash from Jonathan Perry.
- Rice RB Jawon Davis ran 19 times for 130 yards and a score.
- UAB QB Jonathan Perry completed 13-of-26 passes for 195 yards and a score and ran 16 times for a team-leading 60 yards and a touchdown.
- Rice QB Taylor McHargue completed 10-of-19 passes for 139 yards and two scores, and he ran 20 times for 92 yards.
- Rice outgained UAB 467 yards to 333

at North Texas 28, Rice 16
Basically … North Texas became bowl eligible helped by a terrific fourth quarter goal line stand – stopping the Owls eight times on the series – for a defense that held the Owls off the board after the second quarter. Rice got up 16-7 on a Taylor McHargue 32-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Taylor, but the Mean Green scored 21 unanswered points on a 42-yard Antoinne Jimmerson touchdown run in the second and a 46-yard scoring pass in the third. Brelan Chancellor added a 65-yard punt return for a score and Zach Orr returned a fumble 55 yards for a score.
- Rice outgained North Texas 355 yards to 253, but the Mean Green was +2 in turnover margin and got the special teams score from Chancellor.
- UNT’s Antoinne Jimmerson ran eight times for 62 yards and a score and caught just the one pass for 46 yards and a touchdown.
- Rice RB Charles Ross led all rushers with 101 yards on 18 carries.
- Rice converted just 2-of-13 third down chances. North Texas converted 7-of-15 tries.

Rice 27, at UTSA 21
Basically … Rice held on late after getting up 27-7 on touchdown runs from Darik Dillard and Taylor McHargue, a McHargue 37-yard touchdown pass to Dennis Parks, and two Chris Boswell field goals, but UTSA wouldn’t quit. Eric Soza ran for two one-yard touchdowns in the fourth quarter with the second one coming with just over a minute to go, but Rice recovered the onside kick. UTSA outgained Rice 434 yards to 340.
- It’s not like Rice stopped trying, but the offense didn’t click after a strong 24 minutes. Taylor McHargue ran for 41 yards and a score, but he only completed 9-of-21 passes for 183 yards and a score as he came up with too many misfires. The defense couldn’t get off the field late because the offense couldn’t keep the chains moving, but the Owls held on and now they’ve won three straight with apparent layups against New Mexico State and UTEP up next.
- The Roadrunners kept fighting with Eric Soza rallying the team back late. It was a tough loss, and now it’s been five losses in the last six games with little margin for error the rest of the way if there’s any hope for a good season. Soza only hit 17-of-31 passes for 170 yards, but he scrambled for a team-leading 85 rushing yards and two scores. Unfortunately, Rice isn’t Alabama; the offense should’ve been a lot sharper before the four quarter surge.

Rice 30, at Tulsa 27 OT
Basically … Tulsa got a 36-yard Carl Salazar field goal in overtime, but Rice answered with a 25-yard touchdown catch from Darik Dillard to come up with the win and avoid a collapse. The Owls took a 24-10 lead into halftime with four-yard touchdown runs from Jeremy Eddington and Darrion Pollard, along with a nine-yard Turner Peterson scoring catch, but it was all Tulsa in the second half with two of Salazar’s four field goals – hitting a 36-yarder for force overtime with just over a minute to play – and Trey Watts’ second touchdown run.
- Rice sprinted to the bus after getting out alive. It had the game well in hand, but 11 penalties, two turnovers, and breakdowns on defense allowed Tulsa to get back into the game. However, the D stiffened up enough to force four field goal attempts, even if it couldn’t contain the Golden Hurricane ground game. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.
- Tulsa should be able to rebound in a hurry after a rocky start – the consistency has to be there. The offense found a groove in the second half, and Trey Watts ran for 165 yards and two scores, but the four field goals came because of way too many stalls, and the team was put behind the eight ball with three turnovers.

at Rice 18, Florida Atlantic 14
Basically … Down 14-6 after Florida Atlantic came up with a 58-yard William Dukes touchdown run and a 15-yard Nexon Dorvilus scoring grab, Rice was helped by four takeaways scoring 12 unanswered points in the final 4:17 starting with a Cody Bauer seven-yard fumble return for a score. A Darik Dillard 20-yard scoring dash gave the Owls the lead for good, and the D held on in the final few minutes.
- It’s a process for Florida Atlantic. Under Carl Pelini, the offense is playing better and it’s finding a little bit of pop, but the four turnovers were a disaster. The defense shut down the Rice passing game cold, holding it to just 69 yards.
- Rice skated by, but the lack of a potent offense will be a bit problem over the next several weeks with four road games in the next five. There’s no passing game, but Taylor McHargue finished with a team-leading 71 yards. There’s no chance against Tulsa next week if the O can only produce two first half field goals again.
- Close soon won’t count for much at FAU. The team is playing far better than in past years, but beating UAB on the road is a must with Marshall and Auburn to follow.
- The Owl defense made up for a few errors with big plays in the second half. It took too long to pull the game out, needing the shine in the final few minutes, but the D kept it close so the O could pull it out.

Houston 31, Rice 26
Basically … Houston got three touchdown passes from John O’Korn, including a 32-yarder in the fourth quarter for a 31-13 lead, but Rice came roaring back and the Cougars had to hold on for dear life. Taylor McHargue ran for a one-yard touchdown, and Alex Lyons returned a blocked field goal 62 yards for a score to pull the Owls within five, after a missed two point try, with just over two minutes to play. Rice recovered the onside kick, but couldn’t do anything with it on the final drive.
- Rice didn’t wake up until it was too late. The first score came on a trick play with a 57-yard touchdown pass from RB Luke Turner to Turner Peterson, but the offense could only managed a one-yard Charles Ross scoring run in the first quarter before Houston kicked it in. The Owls aren’t built for big comebacks.
- The Cougars needed a little while to get started, but then John O’Korn got hot. He only completed 15-of-33 passes, and he wasn’t always sharp, but when he found his groove, the offense got moving with some nice deep plays for scores.
- Rice came up with a pass rush, just not enough of one. Zach Patt came up with a sack, and there were a few decent plays against the run, but for the most part, the D didn’t bother O’Korn enough.
- Tyus Bowser was a menace for the Cougar defensive line. Making seven tackles with 1.5 sacks and a pick. He was in the backfield pressuring Taylor McHargue all game long.

at Rice 23, Kansas 14, Sept. 14
Basically … Down 14-13, Rice pulled away in the fourth quarter with a 56-yard bomb of a field goal from Chris Boswell, his third of the day, and an eight-yard Charles Ross scoring run. Kansas got a one-yard Jake Heaps touchdown run and a 77-yard scoring pass to Tony Pierson, but he also threw a pick six in the first quarter to Michael Kutzler.
- That wasn’t the Jake Heaps Kansas fans were hoping for. After a nice first game, he struggled with his accuracy, completing just 13-of-28 passes for 157 yards with a score and two picks. Worse yet, 77 of his passing yards came on the one play to Pierson. James Sims did his part for the ground game with 109 yards on 19 carries, but the passing game was too anemic, especially in late.
- Rice didn’t do much better with its passing attack. Taylor McHargue, with a great game against Texas A&M a few weeks ago, was way, way off, completing just 14-of-31 passes for 168 yards with two interceptions. Fortunately for the Owls, Charles Ross carried the offense and the ground game with a tough 157 yards and a score on 27 carries.
- Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney did his best to try to stop the Rice running game by himself. He came up with 15 tackles with a sack, and he was decent against the pass breaking up two passes.
- One of the big keys to Jake Heaps’ bad day was the Rice pass rush, getting to him three times and forcing him to hurry. The Owl defensive front got the best of the KU offensive line, for the most part.

at Texas A&M 52, Rice 31, Aug. 31
Basically … After a little bit of a rough start, Texas A&M overcame a 14-7 deficit to take control with 21 straight points helped by a 71-yard touchdown catch from Ricky Seals-Jones. Rice pulled within seven late in the first half on Taylor McHargue’s second touchdown pass of the first half, hitting Jordan Taylor from five yards, out, and then came Johnny Manziel. After serving his one half suspension, Manziel came out hot hitting 6-of-8 passes for 94 yards and three scores, and running six times for 19 yards.
- The offense ramped up the energy level in a big way once No. 2 got on the field. Manziel might have been hyped up early on, and he might have needed a little bit to settle down, but he was fantastic with no rust.
- Matt Joeckel wasn’t all that bad, completing 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and a score. Once he settled in, he was fine, but he wasn’t Manziel.
- Rice QB Taylor McHargue was the hot social media guy early on, and he had a nice day as Manziel lite, but the two picks were a problem and A&M clamped down when it had to.
- Charles Ross is a terrific back. The Owl tore of 107 yards and two touchdowns as Rice rumbled over A&M for 306 rushing yards and two scores. Rice is good, but the A&M defensive front has to be far, far stronger.

Spring Analysis

Why To Get Excited … not only will the Owls begin the season with one of the country’s longest winning streaks, five games, but it surged without the help of many seniors. Rice was one of college football’s youngest teams in 2012, yet still capped a wicked stretch run with a blowout of Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. As long as he remains healthy, Taylor McHargue is an underrated quarterback who’ll frustrate defenses with his arm and feet.

Why To Be Grouchy … even after taking a big step forward on defense, the Owls still wound up being ranked 81st in the country. The more physical opponents on the schedule are prone to showing around Rice, which gave up almost five yards a carry last season. This team will scrap and claw and play to the whistle, but in the state of Texas, it’s never going to win any battles for the region’s most coveted high school defenders.

The Number One Thing To Work On Is … protecting the pocket. No Owl this season is more important than McHargue, who’s had a history of injuries attributable to his frenetic style of play. If the program is going to keep him off the DL, the offensive line will have to do a much better job of protecting the pocket than it did in 2012. Rice was No. 94 in the nation in sacks, which if repeated will routinely force backup Driphus Jackson off the sidelines.

Non-Conference Games: at Texas A&M, Kansas, Houston, at New Mexico State
Games Against the East: Florida Atlantic, at UAB
Realistic Best Case Record: 9-3
Worst Case Record: 4-8
Likely Finish: 7-5

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: Florida Atlantic, at UTSA, at New Mexico State, UTEP, at North Texas, Louisiana Tech, Tulane

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: at Texas A&M, Kansas, Houston, at Tulsa, at UAB

Schedule Analysis: The Owls have the potential to come up with a great year helped by getting Florida Atlantic and UAB as the interdivisional games and with a relatively light travel schedule. Going to Texas A&M isn’t a good way to kickoff the season, the dates at Tulsa, New Mexico and UAB are the only ones outside of the state of Texas. Getting Kansas at home should be interesting and playing Houston in Reliant Stadium should be fun. However, the Tulsa, UTSA and NMSU games are back-to-back-to-back road battles after going a month without leaving the Houston area. Louisiana Tech is the key game late, but the season could come down to the road trip to UAB and the finale against Tulane.

Team Concerns For 2013: The Owls are loaded with veterans - welcoming back 20 starters - but they need be better on the lines. The offense didn't have too many problems moving the ball despite issues in pass protection. All five starters are back up front after going through a few growing pains, and now the payoff has to come. The punting and punt return games need improvement. Punter Taylor Cook has to be replaced, and Dennis Parks has to be more productive after helping the Owls average just 4.32 yards per try.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Tight ends. Rice has cranked out some nice pass catching tight ends over the years, and it's bringing in two very tall protoypes going around 6-6 and 230 pounds. Colt Hunt has the most upside, but Robby Wells isn't too far behing. Corner Anthony Canady is the most talented player brought in, and running back Jowan Davis will be a factor, but Hunt and Wells appear to be the surest things.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 82. That Class Was Heavy On ... The Owls have worked on defense over the last few recruiting classes, but the efforts haven’t exactly paid off so far. However, there’s a decent base of underclassmen ready to show what they can do. Now the program needs to find more firepower with several key skill players going and more playmakers a must. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 85. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. Rice HAS to start generating more of a pass rush. The defense was 105th in the nation in sacks and was dead last in tackles for loss, and while it’s asking way too much to get a new recruiting class to make a difference in one years, the Owls have to hope that one of the several new defensive ends can provide a boost to the depth. Michael Sam is the best of the lot, while outside linebacker Nick Elder could be the playmaker the D is looking for. Offensively, receivers Driphus Jackson and Lovett Gibson should be the stars of the haul.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 101. That Class Was Heavy On ... 2009. Last year's class was the one that's going to make the difference over the next few seasons, and there weren't many spots to fill this year. However, it's about quality over quantity with this class needing DE Dylan Klare, CB Bryce Callahan, and linebackers James Radcliffe and Cameron Nwoso likely to be key Conference USA players sooner than later. But if the stars bust out, there's no a lot from this class to fall back on.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 76. That Class Was Heavy On ... defensive backs. When you give up 34 touchdown passes and finish 110th nationally in pass D, you better focus on signing more athletes for the secondary. David Bailiff did exactly that, adding eight two-star defensive backs from as far away as Minnesota and Canada. Out of that group, the Owls are hopeful that, in time, two or three will develop into starters and productive members of a needy defense.


 
  

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