Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Kick Off: 6:00 pm CT, Saturday October 21st
TV: KMYS-CW 35
Stream: Exclusively on Facebook
Live Stats: Side Arm Sports
Audio: The Bull 92.5
Betting Odds: UTSA -20, O/U 53
Series History: Rice leads the series 3-2. UTSA won their 2016 meeting 14-13.
Team Records: Rice (1-5), UTSA (3-2)
This week’s game comes as a huge relief for the Rice Owls as they have been beaten and battered over the first half of their season. Fresh off a bye week, the Owls will be rejoined by starting quarterback Sam Glaesmann, starting running back Samuel Stewart, starting guard Ken Thompson, wide receiver Cam Montgomery, kicker Will Harrison, and cornerback D’Angelo Ellis. The return of these players should grant some much needed energy for a team that is in desperate need of it.
Glaesmann returning under center should bring a sense of normalcy back to the position after a tumultuous past month. With Glaesmann injured both Jackson Tyner and true freshman Miklo Smalls have started games this season, none of which went well. The Owls have passed for just a combined three touchdowns this year while also throwing 11 interceptions to the defense. Glaesmann is still growing and learning but he does show the highest upside as a passer out of the trio and has received the most practice snaps as QB1.
While Stewart has only rushed for 191 yards on the year he’s shown explosive potential in previous seasons, rushing for 867 yards on a 4.7 yards per carry average through his freshman and sophomore seasons. Head Coach David Bailiff must have his fingers crossed for a resurgence from Stewart as Stewart has remained the Owls’ leading rusher despite missing two of the Owls’ games. Furthermore, not a single player on the roster has rushed for more than one touchdown on the ground so far this year.
For as miserable as the Owls have been on offense their defense is only slightly better. The Owls are giving up 36.3 points per game through the fall, spotting Stanford 62 points and Army 49. With the Owls terribly struggling against both the pass and the run, one clear bright spot does emerge out of the Owls’ stat profile.
Rice is ranked 5th in the nation in adjusted sack rate, no doubt thanks to the under-the-radar play of senior defensive end Brian Womac. The 6’2”, 250 pound end has totaled 20.5 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and five sacks through six games.
While Womac has been the team’s havoc leader, middle linebacker and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Emmanual Ellerbee has been the steady hand of the defense. Fueled by his senior leadership and football IQ, Ellerbee has already racked up 44 tackles and seven run stuffs this season.
This week’s game may somewhat resemble a walk of shame for the Roadrunners. After surfing a wave of hype to a 3-0 record, the Roadrunners came out flat against Southern Miss and North Texas as they essentially eliminated themselves from a conference championship just two weeks into conference play. UTSA must now return home to face a disappointed fan base on Homecoming.
The sense of frustration is certainly shared in the locker room and coaches office as UTSA did not make any players available to reporters in post-practice media sessions this week. It’s certainly not out of the question to expect some lineup changes from the Roadrunners who need to reassert their confidence and hunger on the gridiron.
While the Roadrunners are heavy favorites against Rice, they can’t afford to take the Owls lightly following the letdowns in the past two weeks. UTSA will need to come out on fire and place a boot on the Owls’ neck in their first couple of drives like the Roadrunners did against Southern in Week Three.
Judging off of last week’s performance, UTSA may opt to shuffle the lineup on the offensive line and secondary to bring a fresh start to two units that struggled against the Mean Green.
Ultimately, the adjustments the Roadrunners show on the field and in the coaches’ booth will be much more telling than the final score. After the losses of the last two weeks it’s clear that changes must be made now for the Roadrunners to salvage what was expected to be a highly promising season for UTSA. There’s still a lot of football left to play and all is not lost but the first step towards a return to dominance should start this Saturday with a commanding performance on both sides of the ball.
UTSA needs to be very wary of matching Rice’s energy and intensity out of the gate. The Roadrunners have revealed their weaknesses over the past two weeks and Rice must surely smell blood in the water. That sense of opportunity is compounded by the return of several previously-injured Rice starters.
If the Roadrunners have faced themselves in the mirror and corrected their approach following what I imagine must have been their toughest week of practice yet, then UTSA should be ready to embrace the challenge and make the most of their superior talent over the Owls.
UTSA 41 Rice 18