The Rice Owls came into the 2015 football season as a trendy pick to challenge Louisiana Tech for the Conference USA West Division crown. Five weeks into the season, the Owls are 2-3 on the season, having just experienced a humiliating 49-10 home loss to Western Kentucky.
Many of the troubles for Rice come from the poor quarterback play of senior Driphus Jackson. Saturday versus Western Kentucky encapsulated the offensive woes with the inability to make even a simple pitch in the option attack.
Rice’s bread and butter as an offense under Jackson has been to run the option attack out of the spread look. There will be missed pitches and fumbles throughout the season, but in Saturday’s game, Jackson and his running backs seemed to be on completely different wavelengths. Pitches in the option attack were so bad that one was ruled a fumble and changed to an incomplete pass due to its inaccuracy.
Not only was Jackson inaccurate in the option attack, he was also erratic and inaccurate in the passing game versus Western Kentucky. During that game, he went 5-10 passing for 87 yards and missed on multiple opportunities to hit open receivers. It is no secret that WKU plays very poor defense, but his inability to do anything positive during his time in that game was a huge disappointment.
The senior was actually pulled in the second quarter by head coach David Bailiff because he was having such a bad game.
In Rice’s five games this season, Jackson has fumbled the ball in every game except for North Texas. His one fumble was lost versus WKU, giving him three lost fumbles on the season. A combination of poor pitches and sloppy play by his teammates has resulted in a total of 12 total fumbles and eight lost fumbles on the season.
So what is going on with Jackson? Has he just lost his confidence, or is there an injury that has not been disclosed for the senior quarterback? Or is there something else at work?
Jackson has taken several big shots this season from defenses, especially versus a surprisingly dangerous Baylor defense in week four. It seems that Jackson suffered more of a physical toll to his body in the Baylor game than the Rice coaching staff is willing to admit. After seeing his performance the following week versus WKU and just how off it actually was, one has to wonder if he should have even been suited up for that game.
It he is so physically and mentally beat up, it makes sense to rest him for a game or two.
Coach Bailiff has a different take on his senior quarterback’s struggles this season, as evidenced by his weekly press conference.
"I think he’s been putting too much pressure on himself to try to make sure everything is perfect. It can’t be. You win football games by working hard and having fun. Driphus has been working hard but he hasn’t had a lot of fun. He’s been putting a lot of pressure on himself."
Is that all there is to it? He just needs to take some pressure off and he will be fine? That seems like an issue that could have been taken care of before five games had taken place this season. Luckily for Bailiff and company, the pressure is off with the Owls at 2-3 and expectations significantly lowered.
Jackson is expected to start in the upcoming game versus Florida Atlantic, so we should get a better glimpse of whether Jackson can recover from a poor start to the 2015 season.