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Know Your Enemy: The Rice Owls Football Team

The Basics:  The UTEP Miners (4-1, 1-1 C-USA) host the Rice Owls (1-4, 0-1 C-USA)

All-Time Record:  Rice Leads 8-5

Last Meeting:  Rice 30, UTEP 29 (Nov. 1, 2009)

Head Coach:  David Bailiff (35-41 overall, 16-26 at Rice)

Best Rice News Site:  Rice Athletics with Joseph Duarte

Quick Thoughts

Chase Dillard and Jarrett Dillard were a long time ago.  The Owls come to El Paso after losing four of their first five games and head coach David Bailiff is on the verge of a second straight highly disappointing season.  Just two years ago, Rice had that incredible 10-3 (7-1) season and a win in the Texas Bowl.  

Then, last season, the wheels came tumbling off.  Rice limped to a 2-10 season.  In 2010, the Owls are breaking in a first time offensive coordinator, David Beatty, who served as Mark Mangino's wide receivers coach at Kansas last season.  In 2005, the last time UTEP beat Rice, Beatty was coaching high school at Irving MacArthur.  It's safe to say that Rice's offense is seeing some growing pains in 2010.

Rice's biggest question mark coming into the season was "Who's the QB?"  Over spring, the Owls had three guys, incumbent starter Nick Fanuzzi, Miami transfer Taylor Cook, and freshman Taylor McHargue, batting it our.  McHargue won the job but has battled injuries all season.  So, the up and down Fanuzzi has been the QB.   Fanuzzi and the Owls have struggled to have any success passing the ball in Beatty's spread offense.  

The Owls had some high hopes for this squad that returned 9 starters on offense and 8 on defense.  When I previewed Rice this summer, I focused on the two players who were getting the most pre-season buzz:  RB Sam McGuffie and tight end Vance McDonald.  McDonald looked so good last spring that Rice's athletic site described McDonald's role in the offense like this:

"With a newly minted and enthusiastically creative offensive coordinator - David Beaty - in place, McDonald will get a shot to showcase his dazzling combination of power and grace," writes Bower.

Five games in, McDonald has one catch for four yards.

Have the Owls had more success with McGuffie, the former Texas high school legend?  Kinda.  McGuffie is Rice's leading rusher and reciever, but his numbers in the running game haven't been what most expected.  He's rushed 68 times for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns. Altogether that's not terrible, but his 3.8 yards per carry average is exactly that:  average.   But, check out the banner picture.  McGuffie is a stellar athlete who is in fact coming off his best game as an Owl.  

Beatty has had success using McGuffie in the screen game.  McGuffie is Rice's leading receiver by a mile with 24 receptions (next closest has 15) for 210 yards and a touchdown.

By the Numbers

It hasn't been pretty and the number don't lie but don't forget that the Owls have played 3 BCS schools (Texas, Baylor, and Northwestern) who will likely all spend at least some time in the Top 25 this season.  For comparisons sake, UTEP's numbers are included in the chart.

Category Rice NCAA Rank C-USA Rank UTEP NCAA Rank C-USA Rank
Total Offense 327.8 80 9 424.4 36 4
Rush Offense 98.4 105 11 173.5 47 6
Pass Offense 229.4 53 7 250.4 33 5
Scoring Offense 21.2 90 9 30.2 53 5
Total Defense 433.6 102 11 351 60 4
Rush Defense 150.8 64 8 144.4 57 7
Pass Defense 282.8 114 11 206.6 62 3
Scoring Defense 33.4 104 9 21.4 45 3


Players to Watch

  • Nick Fanuzzi (QB);  89/141, 903 yards, 1 TD, 6 INT's
  • Sam McGuffie (RB);  68 carries, 255 yards, 2 TD; 24 receptions, 210 yards, 1 TD
  • Corey Frazier (DB):  The sophomore defensive back leads the Owls with 37 tackles (24 solo, 13 assisted).  Rice runs the 4-2-5 defense, which is kind of like a hybrid 4-4 scheme.  They have a NT, a DT, two ends, two traditional linebackers, a strong and free safety.  The wrinkle is that the scheme calls for a "rover" and "free" position; which are essentially linebacker that line up 8-10 yards to the ball.  They are hybrid players (DB/LB) that use their speed to help in pass support and come up against the run.  Frazier plays the Rover spot in the 4-2-5.  The 4-2-5 is kind of a compromise between the gimmicky 3-3-5 and a more traditional set.  TCU, Oregon, and other powers run the scheme.
  • Chris Boswell (K) and Kyle Martens (P):  Through 5 games, Boswell and Martens have been Rice's best player.  That isn't meant to be a slight towards Rice, really it's a compliment to the special teamers.  Martens is ranked 4th nationally in punting average (47.48 yards per punt).  Boswell is ranked 4th nationally as well in total field goals (2.0 per game).  He's 10/15 overall on his attempts.  
The Bottom Line
I want to caution Miner fans from taking Rice too lightly.  Yes, we are 4-1 and Rice is 1-4.  But, we haven't played 3 schools from BCS conferences.   Nor has Rice had the luxury of playing an FCS school and two D-1 programs who would struggle to beat most FCS teams.  

Rice isn't a powerhouse.  But, the Owls aren't the Lobos either.  Their offense is really struggling to move the ball and their defense, like UTEP, lost their best player (DT Scott Solomon) for the season.  Yes, they are 3-14 over the last few games, but don't discount the fact that Rice played SMU tough last week (42-31) and that the Ponies scored on a Pick Six and a blocked field goal.  Rice hasn't hit their stride yet this season, but if last week was an indicator, the Owls might be a bit better than their record indicates.