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Rice at UTEP: Q&A with Underdog Dynasty

NCAA Football: Rice at Stanford Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Miner Rush: The focus for Rice has been recovering from the devastating Hurricane that hit the Houston area, what do you think the mindset will be as the team gets back to football?

Jeremy Shapiro: “It’s not going to be easy to concentrate on Saturday’s game. Every Rice player was impacted in some way by the storm. A dozen players lost all their belongings and can’t live in their homes. A total of 26 vehicles driven by players was destroyed. The team was stranded in Fort Worth after traveling more than 17,000 miles to play in Australia. Rice made the best of it, but the emotional toll is heavy. Football could serve as a welcome distraction from the chaos, and I’m sure the coaches will make sure the players are focused to some degree, but these are 18 to 22 year-old young men who have had their world turned upside down.”

MR: Throwing out the Stanford game for a second, what strengths do you feel this team can develop during C-USA play?

JS: “Breaking in a freshman quarterback won’t be easy, but I think having an experienced offensive line is going to help a lot. I think the Owls will find success running the ball against some C-USA teams and quarterback Sam Glaesmann will show improvement as the season progresses. My take is the coaches made the right decision in making Glasemann the starter even though it may not have looked that way against Stanford.”

MR: Who should Miner fans keep an eye on when the Owls have the ball?

JS: “Rice ran for 236 yards in last year’s win over the Miners, so the running game could be featured again Saturday. Samuel Stewart and Austin Walter are both capable of breaking some long runs. We also see how Glasemann responds now that he’s gotten his first game out of his system.”

MR: UTEP runs a similar power-run system like Stanford does, what improvements do you need to see from Rice's defense this week?

JS: “Rice coach David Bailiff got asked a similar question at his news conference this week and said “We have to make sure that were bracketing things correctly and that we’re a more physical football team.” He went on to say they didn’t make tackles against Stanford. I think that’s spot on. If you can’t tackle, everything else breaks down.”

MR: Do you feel this is a hot-seat year for David Bailiff?

JS: “Yes, although the hurricane throws in interesting dynamic into the mix. If Rice goes say 4-8 and has to overcome all the distractions and upheaval that come with a hurricane, that could very well buy him another year. But the generally consensus is Rice has to show some improvement for Bailiff to be retained.”

MR: Score prediction?

JS: “UTEP 28-20. Rice shows significant improvement from Game 1 to Game 2, but the team is emotionally exhausted.”