CFN Take: Rice Rolls By UTEP
Rice Owls 2014 ...
Head Coach: David Bailiff
Nov. 21 at Rice 31, UTEP 13
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 at Notre Dame L 38-10
Sep. 6 OPEN DATE
Sep. 13 at Texas A&M L 48-17
Sep. 20 Old Dominion L 45-42
Sep. 27 at Southern Miss W 41-23
Oct. 4 Hawaii W 28-14
Oct. 11 at Army W 41-21
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 North Texas L 41-21
Nov. 1 at FIU W 31-17
Nov. 8 UTSA W 17-7
Nov. 15 at Marshall L 41-14
Nov. 21 UTEP W 31-13
Nov. 29 at Louisiana Tech
And You Care Because … It took a little while, but Rice got up 17-3 in the third quarter on a 24-yard Jordan Taylor touchdown catch, but UTEP made it a fight with Jay Mattox’s second field goal of the game on and a five-yard Jameill Showers scoring run to pull within four. It was all Rice the rest of the way with Darik Dillard running for his second scoring run and Mario Hull catching a five-yard touchdown pass for 14 unanswered points.
What Else? Rice QB Driphis Jackson completed 10-of-22 passes for 227 yards and two scores and a pick, and ran 11 times for 53 yards
- UTEP WR Ian Hamilton caught four passes for 130 yards, and Rice WR Mario Hull caught six passes for 150 yards and a score
- Total yards: Rice 392 – UTEP 262
- Penalties: Rice 12 for 95 yards – UTEP 3 for 20 yards
Game Rating: C+
Nov. 15 at Marshall 41, Rice 14
And You Care Because … Marshall kept on rolling scoring the first 17 points of the game on two Rakeem Cato touchdown passes including a 25-yarder to Hyleck Foster. Rice got on the board with a three-yard Jowan Davis touchdown run, but Marshall answered back with 24 straight points on two more Cato touchdown passes and a two-yard Devon Johnson run.
What Else? Marshall RB Devon Johnson ran 27 times for 199 yards and a score
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 11-of-23 passes for 99 yards
- Marshall QB Rakeem Cato completed 23-of-37 passes for 297 yards and four touchdowns with a pick, and ran five times for 12 yards
- Third down conversions: Marshall 12-of-16 – Rice 3-of-12
Game Rating: D
Nov. 8 at Rice 17, UTSA 7
And You Care Because … Rice got a score in each of the first three quarters as Driphus Jackson ran for a nine-yard score in the first and threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to Mario Hull in the third, and James Farrimond hit a 37-yard field goal in the second. The defense did the rest, only allowing a 24-yard Kenny Bias touchdown catch in the fourth. The Owls dominated the clock and the game throughout.
What Else? Time of possession: Rice 41:10 – UTSA 18:50
- Rice RB Jowan Davis ran 25 times for 121 yards
- UTSA QBs combined to complete 17-of-32 passes for 153 yards and a score
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 18-of-28 passes for 213 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 15 times for 48 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: C-
Nov. 1 Rice 31, at FIU 17
And You Care Because … Rice scored 17 first quarter points with Jowan Davis running for a 19-yard score and Jordan Taylor adding a 63-yard score. FIU got back in the game with a 52-yard Glenn Coleman touchdown catch and an 11-yard Napoleon Maxwell dash, but Rice answered back with a 69-yard pass play to James Mayden. The Owls finally put it away on a one-yard Luke Turner run in the fourth.
What Else? Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 11-of-24 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns, and ran nine times for a team-high 66 yards
- FIU QBs completed 10-of-23 passes for 159 yards and a score
- Rice WR Jordan Taylor caught six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown
- Total yards: Rice 299 – FIU 261
Game Rating: B-
Oct. 25 at Rice 41, North Texas 21
And You Care Because … Down 21-14 after North Texas got a second touchdown from Carlos Harris, Rice scored 27 unanswered points highlighted by a 60-yard pick six from Ryan Pollard and short touchdown runs from Darik Dillard and Jowan Davis. Rice started out the scoring with an 88-yard touchdown catch from Jordan Taylor on its first play from scrimmage, and Davis added a ten-yard scoring run in the first quarter, but UNT answered with a 100-yard kickoff return for a score from Darvin Kidsey. The Mean Green offense, though, stalled in the second half.
What Else? Total yards: Rice 421 – North Texas 216
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 13-of-26 passes for 233 yards and a score, and ran nine times for 26 yards
- North Texas ran 33 times for 26 yards and a score
- Rice came up with four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss
Game Rating: C
Oct. 11 Rice 41, at Army 21
And You Care Because … Rice got up early and made Army try to come from behind. Mario Hull caught a five-yard touchdown pass and Driphus Jackson threw two scoring passes on the way to a 31-14 lead, and the Owls put it away in the third on Darik Dillard’s second touchdown of the game. Army tried to hang around on touchdown runs from Larry Dixon and Angel Santiago, and a seven-yard Xavier Moss scoring grab, but the Owls kept pulling away when they had to.
What Else? Rushing yards: Army 250 – Rice 182
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 15-of-21 passes for 209 yards and three touchdowns, and ran seven times for 29 yards
- Army QB Angel Santiago completed 5-of-11 passes for 37 yards and a score, and ran 23 times for 106 yards and a touchdown
- Rice RB Jowan Davis ran 21 times for 77 yards
Game Rating: C+
Oct. 4 at Rice 28, Hawaii 14
And You Care Because … Darik Dillard ran for two short scores and Driphus Jackson hit James Mayden for an 81-yard touchdown pass and put the game away with a 31-yarder to Jordan Taylor as Rice scored 21 unanswered points in the second half for the win. Hawaii had a 14-7 lead in the third quarter on Scott Harding’s second touchdown catch – scoring from 20 and 24 yards out – but the offense kept turning it over in key spots.
What Else? Rice RB Darik Dillard ran 23 times for 141 yards and two scores
- Hawaii WR Scott Harding caught four passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns
- Turnovers: Rice 3 – Hawaii 2
- Total yards: Rice 391 – Hawaii 261
Game Rating: C
Sept. 27 Rice 41, at Southern Miss 23
And You Care Because … Rice got its first win of the season with Jowan Davis running for two six-yard scores and Mario Hull catching a 40-yard touchdown pass, but Southern Miss wouldn’t go away with Michael Thomas catching a 30-yard touchdown pass and George Payne running for a one-yard score to stay alive. Luke Turner’s one-yard scoring run in the third helped all but put it away for the Owls, even with USM’s Nick Mullens making it interesting with a long drive and a ten-yard scoring pass to James Cox.
What Else? Rushing yards: Rice 217 – Southern Miss 40
- Rice RB Jowan Davis ran 29 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns
- Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens completed 24-of-45 passes for 283 yards and two scores with an interception
- Turnovers: Southern Miss 3 – Rice 1
Game Rating: B-
Sept. 20 Old Dominion 45, at Rice 42
And You Care Because … Old Dominion’s historic first win as a Conference USA member was a thriller. In a game that went back and forth from start to finish, the Monarchs finally sealed the deal on a Rickey Segers 25-yard field goal as time expired. Rice had rallied valiantly in the waning moments, tying the game on a pair of Darik Dillard touchdown runs in the final seven minutes. However, ODU QB Taylor Heinecke drove the Monarchs downfield in just over a minute to set up Segers’ game-winning kick.
What Else? Heinecke was predictably brilliant as the triggerman of the Old Dominion offense. Playing on the road against the defending league champs, he threw for 430 yards, five touchdowns and no picks.
- The ground game was the reason Rice was able to rally from behind. Dillard scored three times, while Jowan Davis led the team with 150 yards on 24 carries.
- Heinicke continues to get more comfortable with his revamped corps of receivers. David Washington helped complement veterans Zach Pascal and Antonio Vaughan by catching five passes for 99 yards.
- WR Zach Wright continues to pick up the slack for injured Rice WR Jordan Taylor. Wright, a sophomore, caught an Owl-high six passes for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: A
Sept. 13 at Texas A&M 38, Rice 10
And You Care Because … It wasn’t an explosion, but Texas A&M went through the motions and won easily. Kenny Hill threw four touchdown passes with Josh Reynolds catching two of them from 48 and 20 yards out, and Tra Carson added a one-yard score. Rice stayed in the game in the first half on a 35-yard Mario Hull touchdown catch, but the Aggie D allowed just a field goal over the final 42 minutes.
What Else? Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill completed 20-of-31 passes for 300 yards and four scores, and he ran five times for 38 yards.
- Rice held on to the ball for 43:14, Texas A&M 16:46
- Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 21-of-32 passes for 212 yards and a scores and ran 13 times for 84 yards.
- Rice ran for 240 yards and threw for 240.
Game Rating: D+
Aug. 30 at Notre Dame 48, Rice 17
And You Care Because … Everett Golson played like a quarterback who spent a year waiting to show what he could do, running for three touchdowns and coming up with two big plays in the blowout. Golson connected with William Fuller for a 75-yard score and hooked up with C.J. Prosise from 53 yards away to help the Irish pull away after Zach Wright tied the game for Rice at seven late in the first quarter. Down 41-10, the Owls didn’t get back on the board until the final five minutes.
What Else? Obviously, Notre Dame was able to compartmentalize. Everett Golson was outstanding, making plays all over the field completing 14-of-22 passes for 295 yards and two scores and running 12 times for 41 yards and three scores. It took about a quarter, but the Irish did just about everything right.
- Who’s going to step up at receiver for the Irish? William Fuller caught four passes for 85 yards and a score, but Golson spread around the wealth with seven different players catching passes.
- Rice ran into a buzzsaw defensively, but QB Driphus Jackson did what he could with a team-leading 61 yards on 11 carries while completing 13-of-24 passes for 163 yards and a score with a pick. He didn’t get much help.
- The Irish defensive interior held up well, but can it handle a suddenly-improved Michigan ground game? It didn’t allow the Rice backs to get loose in any way – the longest run by a back was seven yards.
Game Rating: C-
After capturing their first outright league title since 1957, the Owls aren’t about to become content or lazy.
Everything came together for Rice last season, with a veteran squad spearheading a 10-win season and the conference crown. But how far will David Bailiff’s team slip now that seven of its ten best players have graduated?
The last time the Owls won ten games with a veteran-laden squad, in 2008, they returned the following year with a 2-10 disappointment. In a West Division with no clear alpha dog, Rice is hoping to prevent another precipitous drop that reeks of a rebuilding year.
Bailiff has turned out to be a great fit for the university, leading the Owls to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in more than half a century. In February, Rice rewarded the coach with a contract extension through the 2018 season. These are heady times for the program and its backers, though staying on top won’t happen without a lot of heavy lifting in the offseason.
The challenges on offense begin in the backfield. Long-time starting QB Taylor McHargue is gone, as is leading rusher Charles Ross. The Owls will retool a ground game that sets the tone for the entire team. Rice led Conference USA in rushing in 2013, a year after finishing second in the league. The new cast of producers includes QB Driphus Jackson and backs Luke Turner and Jawon Davis. Jackson has been waiting for this chance to run the offense. Turner and Davis form an intriguing thunder and lightning duo, respectively.
On defense, Rice likes its foundation, which comes in the form of DT Christian Covington, LB James Radcliffe and a veteran secondary led by all-star CB Bryce Callahan. Now the Owls must develop suitable accessories to maintain last season’s success. Pro-caliber CB Phillip Gaines has exhausted his eligibility, as have top tacklers Michael Kutzler and Paul Porras and leading sacker Cody Bauer. For Chris Thurmond’s D to keep attacking with a quick trigger, it’s incumbent upon a few career backups to perform like every-down players in the fall.
Having tasted success in 2013, Rice is hungry for another championship. Now, this is not the same team it was a year ago, but then again neither is an increasingly diluted Conference USA. Even with the turnover on the depth chart, Bailiff has crafted a program that expects to win each year, especially in a league devoid of heavyweights.
What to watch for on offense: The next generation at quarterback. While Taylor McHargue won’t be easily replaced, the Owls are quietly confident Driphus Jackson will take the baton and run with it. When the junior has played over the past two seasons, he’s played well, advertising quick feet, a strong arm and the poise of a veteran. Jackson has practiced and studied in the film room this offseason as if he fully plans to pick up where his predecessor left off. And actually build upon it in 2014.
What to watch for on defense: More big plays. Coordinator Chris Thurmond will continue to be aggressive in his approach, bringing pressure from whichever angle has an opening. The Owls’ plan of attack is to, well, attack with their speed at linebacker and safety. How often Thurmond can turn his kids loose will depend on how well star CB Phillip Gaines is replaced. Blitzing when Gaines and Bryce Callahan were in the secondary was a low-risk maneuver in 2013. But whoever succeeds Gaines, such as sophomore Anthony Canady or junior Ryan Pollard, will get targeted relentlessly.
This team will be far better if … the O-line improves, despite losing two starters. Rice must insert two new regulars into the lineup to replace LT Jon Hodde and all-league C Nate Richards. And yet, the staff still wants to see improvement. The Owls excel in run blocking, a staple for the offense. But in pass protection, they allowed 37 sacks in 2013, despite attempting the third fewest passes in Conference USA. Rice will be unveiling an unproven starting quarterback this fall. It’s up to the line to make sure the newcomer to the lineup isn’t demoralized by the end of September.
The Schedule: The defending Conference USA champions start out with a big chance to make a national statement going to Notre Dame, an then after a week off, there’s a date at Texas A&M in a rematch of last year’s opener. With games at Southern Miss and Army, and with an open date thrown in, the Owls play just two home games between the start of the year and October 25th. Throw in the road game at Marshall from the East and the regular season-ender at Louisiana Tech, and it’s going to be an interesting year.
Best Offensive Player: Senior WR Jordan Taylor. Rice wants to run the ball to set up the pass. And when it does go up top, Taylor is the likely target. As the Owls prepare to break in a new backfield, the senior all-star is taking center stage as the team’s most reliable offensive weapon. At 6-5, Taylor is difficult to miss in the open field. Plus, his knack for turning bad balls into big plays is really going to help with the development of first-year starting QB Driphus Jackson.
Best Defensive Player: Junior DT Christian Covington. In No. 56, the Owls have their own version of former Pitt All-American. Covington is relentless in pursuit of the ball, quickly disengaging to create chaos in the backfield. He’s not very big, generously listed at 6-3 and 295 pounds. But he’s quick enough off the snap to be an effective run defender and pass rusher. When Covington requires double-teams, it frees up the rest of his teammates in the front seven to make plays.
Key players to a successful season: The backs, specifically Jowan Davis, Luke Turner and Darik Dillard. As the running game goes, so go the Owls. That’s life in David Bailiff’s system. Charles Ross rushed for 1,280 yards a season ago, but he’s since graduated. In his place is the possibility of a ground game by committee. Davis is the 5-7, 195-pound quick-hitter, who finished second on the team with 476 yards on 95 carries. Turner is the 230-pound thumper, best known for his work out of the Wild Owl formation. The staff needs to combine the options in such a fashion that Ross’ production is completely offset.
The season will be a success if ... the Owls win the West Division for a second straight year. Why not? Even at a time when the program has holes to fill, it still has as much momentum and talent as any of its peers. The only other divisional foe that bowled in 2013 was North Texas, which has even more rebuilding to do than Rice. At a minimum, the Owls ought to cop a bowl berth out of a league searching for an identity and a couple of bellwether programs.
Key game: Nov. 15 at Marshall. This trip to Huntington will be the litmus test for the Owls in 2014. Not only is it a rematch of last December’s Conference USA championship game, won by Rice, but it could be a preview of this year’s title match as well. The Thundering Herd is the league favorite in the preseason, a role the Owls are hoping to play once the season kicks gets rolling.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Rushing yards per game: Rice 227.4 – Opponents 161.4
- Time of possession: Rice 32:47 – Opponents 27:13
- Sacks: Rice 20 - Opponents 37
- 2014 Rice Preview -
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