Rice (3-2) at Texas-San Antonio (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 12, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Alamodome (72,000) -- San Antonio, Texas. Television: TWC Sports. Home Record: Rice 2-0, UTSA 0-2. Away Record: Rice 1-1, UTSA 2-2. Neutral Record: Rice 0-1, UTSA 0-0. Conference Record: Rice 2-0, UTSA 1-1. Series Record: Rice leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Rice Owls will try to remain perfect in league play when they take on the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners in a matchup of Conference USA squads in the Lone Star State at the Alamodome.
The Owls are flying high after a 30-27 win in overtime at Tulsa last weekend. The win was the second straight for the Owls and has them at a perfect 2-0 in C-USA action, while at 3-2 overall. Dating back to last season Rice has won nine of its last 11 games, including six straight against teams from the conference.
As for UTSA, its second season as a FBS program has not been going as smoothly as its first. The Roadrunners have already matched their loss total from a year ago and currently sit at 2-4 following a 34-10 loss on the road to Marshall. It was the second straight loss for UTSA, which has split its first two games against C-USA opponents.
Last year Rice, quite literally, ran all over UTSA en route to a 34-14 win in the first ever meeting between the programs. Charles Ross rushed for 117 of the Owls' 301 yards in the win.
Ross was tearing it up from the backfield again earlier in the season but has missed the last two games with a leg injury. He is listed as questionable for Saturday's contest. With Ross down the running game has relied on a variety of backfield options, including Darik Dillard (182 yards, TD), Turner Petersen (139 yards) and Driphus Jackson (101 yards).
A less effective ground game means the Owls need quarterback Taylor McHargue to keep playing like he did against Tulsa. Though he threw for only 177 yards, McHargue completed 61.9 percent of his pass attempts and tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the win. It was the first time since week one he not only threw for a touchdown but also completed better than 60 percent of his passes. Overall, McHargue has been less than stellar with a 51.8 completion percentage for 826 yards and six interceptions.
McHargue has largely settled into a rhythm with just a pair of pass catchers. Jordan Taylor (25 receptions, 286 yards, TD) has more than twice as many receptions as any player on the team. Meanwhile, Petersen has been a dangerous threat out of the backfield with 12 catches for 196 yards and two scores.
In all Rice is scoring 25.6 points and compiling just under 400 yards of total offense per game. Those numbers are just below what the Owls have been letting up on defense. Rice is surrendering 27.6 points a game to opponents, while ranking seventh in the conference in total defense (406.2 ypg). The Owls' biggest defensive strength has been on third down where teams are converting on just 32.5 percent of their attempts, the second best mark in the league.
Michael Kutzler has been a big reason for any of the Owls' defensive success. He has a team-high 41 tackles including 4.5 for loss, while tied for the team lead with a pair of sacks.
For a team with a 2-4 record, UTSA has actually been playing well on offense. The Roadrunners rank fourth in the conference in total offense (401.5 ypg). The yards haven't always led to big point totals (23.2 ppg), but the Roadrunners are tied for third in the league in red zone touchdowns (14).
Due to scheme and playing behind often, the Roadrunners rely on their passing game much more than the run. Eric Soza has started all six games for UTSA and has completed 62.6 percent of his pass attempts for 1,472 yards and eight scores. However, Soza has thrown nine interceptions, including six in the last two weeks. In the loss to Marshall, Soza completed just 10-of-26 pass attempts for a season-low 130 yards.
There have been 10 different receivers who have at least nine receptions for the Roadrunners this season. Leading the way is Kam Jones who has a team-high 19 catches for 222 yards and a touchdown. Jones was out against Marshall but is expected to play on Saturday. Brandon Freeman (17 receptions, 200 yards) is another sturdy target, while Kenny Bias (11 receptions, 227 yards, two TDs) has been the big play threat.
When the Roadrunners do run the ball it is David Glasco who gets the majority of the work. Glasco has 220 yards and four touchdowns on 48 carries, while Evans Okotcha (150 yards) has been used as a backup.
Even though UTSA is barely allowing more yards per game (402.8) than it picks up, the team is saddled with a substantial scoring differential (-12.3). The issues stem from a lack of success in ending drives and creating turnovers. The Roadrunners have a minus-11 turnover margin and are letting teams convert on 46.3 percent of their third down chances.
In this matchup the Owls are simply the better team, especially if McHargue can take another step forward. Last week they proved they could win on the road. The Owls will do again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 27, Texas-San Antonio 20
10/09 10:39:37 ET