Five things you need to know about Rice

The Jayhawks will battle the Rice Owls this week. But before the game begins, there are a few things that every Kansas fan should know. Rice will be an intriguing matchup for the Jayhawks, as they have playmakers all over the field that will likely create some problems for Kansas. It will be interesting to see how the ‘Hawks defend Rice, especially considering that…

1. Rice does EVERYTHING by committee

From passing to returning, Rice is a team that will make you prepare for numerous weapons. Last week, three different Rice players attempted a pass, five different players recorded a rush and six different players recorded a catch (five of which had multiple catches for over 20 yards).

As far as the quarterback position goes, Rice will primarily use Driphus Jackson, a sophomore from Cedar Hill, as their wildcat quarterback. Taylor McHargue will play the traditional role of quarterback. McHargue was certainly impressive against Texas A&M in their first game of the season. The senior threw for 180 yards and two touchdowns, while completing 18-of-29 passes. McHargue did throw two interceptions but still managed to put together a few nice drives for his team. However when Jackson came in, Rice changed their style of play dramatically. Jackson threw only seven passes and did most of his damage on the ground, rushing ten times for 55 yards.  This doesn’t mean McHargue isn’t mobile, though, as he scampered off nine times for 78 yards (although that number is heavily skewed due in part to a 57-yard run. Without it he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry).

As far as the running back position goes, Rice spreads the ball around really well. Four different players attempted nine or more runs for the Owls and all of them averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry.  Charles Ross was the primary ball carrier for Rice, leading all runners with 19 carries and 109 yards.

2. Charles Ross is the driving force for Rice

Charles Ross was dynamic against A&M, rushing for 109 yards and racking up 24 receiving yards. He also showed off his nose for the end zone, scoring three total touchdowns. Ross is a redshirt senior who is looking to improve upon his solid performance from last year, when he rushed for a team high 800 yards (5.4 yards per carry). Fans of Kansas should remember Ross well, as last year he managed to slice through the Jayhawks’ defense for 94 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Also a name to keep in mind is Turner Peterson, who is a junior running back out of Oklahoma City. While Peterson was limited in week one, he is used to carrying the load for the Owls. He has attempted over 100 rushes for the Owls each of the last two years and has found the end zone a total of 11 times in that span. Peterson was also a factor against Kansas last year, albeit not as much of as Ross. Against the ‘Hawks, Peterson was limited to just 41 yards, all though he did manage to score a touchdown.

3. Rice has special ‘special teams’ 

Rice has a few fine players in the area of special teams, starting with kicker Chris Boswell, who is entering his senior season as an Owl. Boswell did go 1-of-2 last game, but he is a lock within 40-yards. Over his four years, he has missed only 4-of-30 kicks from that range and has missed only two kicks from that range in the last two years. Boswell has a cannon, as each of his first three seasons he managed to make a fifty-yard field goal, including a career high 57-yarder last year.  Boswell also had the game winning score against the Jayhawks last year.

Rice also has two very interesting return men. Darrion Pollard was the primary return man for the Owls against Texas A&M, returning three kicks for 51 yards but Mario Hull was the real story of the return game. The junior kick returner had a 38-yard kick return, adding to his solid career average of 28-yards per return. Pollard was also a threat as a receiver, recording three catches for 23 yards. It will be interesting to look at who earns the role as the primary kick returner for Rice but one thing is for sure: the position is up for grabs, so both men will be looking to impress.

Lastly, it should be noted that the Owls have a very solid punter in James Farrimond.  Last week, he had four punts for an average of 42.5 yards, including a 51-yarder.

4. Rice doesn’t back down from a challenge

Rice showed off some impressive intensity in week one while facing off against last year’s Heisman winner, even if it was for just a half. The Owls saw a 14-7 lead disappear as A&M scored three straight touchdowns before the half. Knowing that they were in trouble and Johnny Football hadn’t even played didn’t deter the Owls, as they marched down the field and scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half, pulling them within a touchdown of A&M.

Even after A&M scored two more times in the second half, Rice did not go away. The Owls scored a touchdown of their own four seconds in to the fourth quarter and added a late field goal to total 31 points against a quality SEC opponent.

Much of the fire Rice plays with is due to their head coach, David Bailiff, who is in his seventh year coaching the Owls. Last season Rice ended the year 7-6, winning the Armed Forces Bowl over Air Force, 33-13. Bailiff is looking to put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in his coaching career and will have his players up for the game against the Jayhawks.

5. Rice has very little, but very interesting history with Kansas

The history between Rice and Kansas dates all the way back to the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl, when the Jayhawks downed Rice easily, 33-7.  Rice jumped out to an early 7-0 lead but Kansas scored 33 unanswered points and upset the favored Owls.

More recently, the Owls stunned Kansas on a game winning 45-yard field goal. Kansas looked to be rolling, up 24-13 shortly after half time following a Taylor Cox eight-yard touchdown run, but the Owls scored 12 unanswered points (two field goals and a touchdown with a failed two point conversion). It is interesting to note that these two games each went opposite ways, with one team taking an early lead and then the other coming back. Either way, the ‘Hawks will certainly be out for revenge.

This game will be huge for both teams, as Kansas is looking to start off the season 2-0 while Rice is looking to rebound coming off a tough loss. If Kansas is going to get to four or five wins on the year, this is a game they absolutely must take. It will be interesting to see how the ‘Hawks play, coming off a shaky, albeit victorious, performance against South Dakota.