Records: UTSA (2-4), Rice (0-6)
Game Time: 5:00 p.m. CT, Saturday, October 19
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Radio: THE BULL 92.5/93.3 FM
Live Stats: Side Arm Stats
Series Record: UTSA leads 4-3 and won the last meeting 20-3.
Betting Line: Rice -4.5, O/U 42
Rice Outlook - Steve Helwick
Not all 0-6 records are created equally. There are three winless teams in college football, but in Mike Bloomgren’s second year at the helm, Rice has proven to be miles above what the number in the win column may suggest. The Owls pushed a currently-ranked, undefeated Baylor team to a 21-13 final, shutting out the Bears’ potent offense in the second half. Rice nearly defeated a 5-1 Louisiana Tech team, leading the entire game until J’Mar Smith’s overtime touchdown run completed the Bulldogs’ comeback.
Rice enjoyed a much-needed bye week after six losses (three by one-score) to start the season. As road favorites in San Antonio, it’s time for the Owls to finally collect themselves and prove their progress. Much of Rice’s improvement is based on the defensive side of the ball, where the Owls exhibit one of the best-tackling front sevens in the conference. Outside linebacker Blaze Alldredge has been a force all over the field this season, producing a team-best 53 tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss — third best in the FBS. With linebackers Antonio Montero (37 tackles) and Anthony Ekpe (1.5 sacks, 4 tackles for loss) contributing to Rice’s powerful run defense, UTSA will likely have to turn to the air to shake up the unit.
Offensively, Rice’s season has been more of a struggle. The Owls have yet to eclipse the 21-point mark this season and their 15.7 points per game are fifth-to-last in the country. Quarterback Wiley Green is improving week-to-week though, and his passing yards output has increased each week of the season, peaking at 161 against UAB. He threw his first two touchdown passes of 2019 in the game. Green is equipped with one of C-USA’s best receivers in Austin Trammell, who ranks fifth in receptions and yards in the conference. Trammell is frequently utilized on screen passes, while his partner-in-crime, Brad Rozner, is Rice’s downfield threat.
The offensive identity lies heavily within the run game. In a pro-style offense modeled after the system Bloomgren ran at Stanford, running back Aston Walter is the feature of the offense. He gets a boost from an offensive line laden with JUCO and grad transfers, including former Stanford center Brian Chaffin. Behind this wall, Walter — a fifth-year senior — has accumulated 214 rushing yards and two touchdowns through a pair of C-USA games this year.
UTSA Outlook - Jared Kalmus
After two years of speculation about his job status, Frank Wilson faces what could be his last stand at UTSA. Despite coming off a win last week, the Roadrunners saw a program low crowd file into the Alamodome against UAB. All signs point to the homecoming crowd this week being even worse. The UTSA fan base has clearly given up hope in Frank Wilson’s program, and a homecoming loss to an 0-6 program could be the final nail in his proverbial coffin.
Since they lost starting quarterback Frank Harris to injury UTSA has failed to muster any type of a passing threat. Lowell Narcisse has made some plays with his feet in replacement of Harris, but he’s failed to create a real connection with his wideouts. Rice shouldn’t be afraid to bring their safeties up into the box until Narcisse proves he can make defenses pay for not respecting the deep threat.
If this game is to be as close as Vegas predicts then penalties and special teams could make a big impact. The Roadrunners have been terribly undisciplined this year, drawing over 7 penalties for 71 yards per game. UTSA’s kicking game has also been unreliable this year, though placekicker Hunter Duplessis has shown improvement as the season has progressed.
Defensively the Roadrunners will need their strong defensive line to play a solid game if UTSA is to pull off the home win. Rice will look to pound the ball early to set a physical tone and tough run fits from UTSA’s front seven will give the Roadrunners some confidence in the early going.
One player to watch this week will be UTSA outside linebacker Trevor Harmanson. The JUCO transfer was injected into the starting lineup just two weeks ago and has already become the team leader in tackles for loss (5). If Harmanson is able to get off of blocks and play in the backfield then UTSA could force Rice into third and long situations where the Owls are converting on just 31% of their attempts.
Steve - This is it. Rice can only come close so many times before the Owls attain their first win, and UTSA is the perfect opponent for a hungry Rice team to play after the bye week. The Roadrunners are without the centerpiece of their offense in Frank Harris, and Rice’s defense should have no issue limiting the Roadrunners to under 20 points. Walter is poised for another strong outing on the ground, but this one should feel better if it contributes to the first win of the season and the third win of the Bloomgren era. Rice 24, UTSA 10
Jared - Rice is going to come into this game salivating. The Owls know that this is their best shot at ending their six game losing streak, and the Roadrunners are a huge step down in competition from what Rice has seen through their first six games. I think Mike Bloomgren will have his guys ready to play and the Roadrunners will fail to match Rice’s intensity. Rice 24 UTSA 17