The Rice Owls are still seeking their first win of the season as they prepare to host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Rice Stadium on Saturday evening.
Turning back the clock
Louisiana Tech turned back the clock with its offense performance during a 43-31 victory over Florida International in its Conference-USA opener. The Bulldogs scored on eight of their last nine possessions and finished with 565 total yards. They possessed the ball for more than 36 minutes and recorded a total of 31 first downs. That helped Louisiana Tech survive a thriller that featured eight lead changes. Thus memories were invoked of the 2016 season, when the Bulldogs consistently got into the 50s and even the 60s in terms of point production--something that had not been the case over the past couple of years.
Junior running back Justin Henderson rushed for 141 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. He scored from 29, six, and six yards out while leading his team to a total of 275 yards on the ground. Senior RB Jaqwis Dancy's return to health also helped out in a major way. He got his first start of the year and carried the rock a team-high 17 times for 73 yards. Dancy also added four catches for 23 yards.
"It all started in practice," Henderson said. "We prepared for this day. All the running backs, we competed, the O-line blocked and I just did my job. (Dancy) had a good game. It's a team effort. It's not only about me; it's about the team. FIU worked their tail off, too; we just outplayed them today. The o-line opened up the holes for the backs. If they keep doing that, it's going to be great the whole season."
Better than their recordRice may be 0-4, but don't jump headlong off the bandwagon quite yet. Two of their four losses have come against undefeated Wake Forest and one-loss Texas--whose only setback has come via a 45-38 decision against LSU. Rice also fell to Army (14-7) and to Baylor (21-13) in performances that were hardly disappointing.
"Everyone wants to look at Rice and judge the book by its cover," Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz noted. "People look at them and see they're 0-4 and assume they aren't very good, but this is a team that's played one of the toughest schedules to this point of the season out of anyone in the country. They held Baylor scoreless in the second half last week. I've really been impressed with this team on the field. I think Mike Bloomgren has done a great job with this team. They are playing hard and physical and doing some good things. They lost a couple one-score games to Army and Baylor. I think they're on the cusp of breaking into something as a staff over there with what they're putting together. I told our guys that it would be a huge mistake to underestimate this team. I think Rice plays with a great passion, huge motor and a lot of energy as a football team."
The Owls do, however, need to improve on the offensive side of the ball. They rushed for only 64 yards against Baylor despite keeping it on the ground 35 times (1.8 ypc average). For the season, they are averaging a mere 3.0 yards per rush. Leading rusher Aston Walter has gained 181 yards on 56 attempts (3.2 average) while scoring once.
The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are:
- 1-4 ATS in their last five games following an ATS win
- 2-6 ATS in their last eight games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game
The Rice Owls are:
- 5-1-1 ATS in their last five overall
- 4-1 ATS in their last five conference games
- 5-0-1 ATS in their last six games against teams with winning records