Start Time: 2:30 p.m. CST
Location: Rice Stadium, Houston
Radio: Rice IMG Sports Network, KPVU 91.3 FM
Series: First meeting
Following a win by Miami of Ohio last weekend, Rice is the only winless team in FBS.
Once again, the Owls (0-6) were close to tasting victory, but could not get over the hump on Saturday. Haden Tobola missed a 42-yard field-goal attempt with 1:27 left that would have given Rice the lead. At the end of the game, Rice advanced to the UTSA 27, but the Owls did not have time for one last field-goal attempt.
That quote actually came from Philip Rivers before the San Diego Chargers defeated Denver last week. But it seems to apply to Rice 2016. In addition to the latest way to lose, Rice has gotten blown out, fell in double overtime, had good offense when the defense struggled, and vice versa.
“They’re hurt,” Rice coach David Bailiff said about his players during Monday’s news conference. “When you invest what these young men invest from week to week, they’re investment started last December. You’ve got to count on (the seniors) to pick them up and keep them going.”
Saturday arguably presents Rice’s best chance to record a victory. The Owls don’t often play FCS opponents, but Prairie View A&M will make the 49 mile trip to Rice Stadium. Despite the geographically proximity, it’s the first meeting between the two teams.
Prairie View is 4-2 on the season, 4-1 in the SWAC. The Panthers only game against an FBS opponent was a 67-0 loss at Texas A&M.
The Panthers have rallied twice for wins this season, erasing an 11-point halftime deficit against Texas Southern and coming back from 10 down to defeat Alabama State. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jalen Morton was called upon in the Alabama State game Oct. 8 after Trey Green was hurt. Morton completed 10-of-25 passes for 140 yards and rushed 11 times for 53 yards in one touchdown.
“We’re expecting to see both quarterbacks,” Bailiff said. “They’re a solid football team. They’ve got nice skill players. They run extremely well defensively. They led FCS last year averaging 44 points per game. So they’ve been a very explosive offense.”
The Panthers are averaging 28 points a game this season, while Rice is giving up an average of 36 a game. That number was higher before the defense rose to the challenge Saturday, allowing UTSA to only score 14.
Bailiff said Rice safety Tabari McGaskey played his best game as an Owl at safety. He had 10 tackles and a forced fumble. Linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee record a dozen tackles and a sack. UTSA had one Red Zone trip all game, and the Roadrunners did not score on it.
"We were very efficient on third downs,” Bailiff said. “We limited (UTSA) to four explosive plays. The fourth down stop in the fourth quarter to give us a chance to win it at the end was an incredible effort, not just on fourth down but also on third down when (the ball) is sitting on the two-yard line.”
As for the mental challenge of being the last winless team, it’s a no-moping zone, Bailiff said.
“We’ve got to get a win,” he said. “I know this; we’re hungry for a win. Nobody around here is moping. Everybody around here is ready to get that. Everybody is willing to do whatever it takes to get that. There’s no mope here.”
Prairie View A&M is a formidable opponent. The Panthers have compiled decent stats, including leading the SWAC in the least sacks allows. They’ve also shown an ability to rally for wins. That being said, it doesn’t appear they have as much talent as Rice.
The question is whether Rice is going to beat Rice. This time, I don’t think it does. It won’t be perfect. There will probably still be a few mistakes on both sides of the ball, but I think Rice establishes its run game, jumps ahead early and finally tastes the sweet nectar of victory. Rice wins 31-16.