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2018 UTSA game page

UTSA 20, Rice 3


HOUSTON (Oct. 8) – The inductive reasoning derivable from transitive game-score analysis misleads much more than it informs. But the scores of three football games affecting our South Main bunch, lined up side-by-side, lead to some inevitable conclusions.

Saturday, UTSA held Rice without a touchdown in a game that ended in a 20-3 loss for the Owls. Meanwhile, in Winston-Salem, NC, sixth-ranked Clemson punished a Wake Forest team 63-3. That same Wake team one week early knocked out the Rice Owls, 56-24; and this, after surging to a 42-3 halftime lead.

One may only conclude: This Rice Owl team needs a lot of shoring up in its various aspects of the game. The ranks are thin after a departing eleven-year coaching staff left the player cupboard mostly bare -- but not without some stellar athletes and highly motivated young men.

Yet, the current staff lacks sufficient depth in the roster to allow a complete product to be put on the field. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and applying  a fix to the situation can’t be done in a single season, as it requires more athletes with better skills and tools in the pipeline.

Even so, Rice head coach Mike Bloomgren is anything but deterrred. He's plumb bummed out -- but he's not deterred.

“We didn’t score a touchdown tonight,” he said glumly after the game. “It’s not about what our offensive fcoaches did. It’s me. I’ve got to work hard and get it fixed. Because I never thought we would peform that way offensively.”

“Our offense did not perform. There’s going to be a lot of reasons, when we look at the film."


"I did everything that I knew to do, to jump start an offense today that was struggling. And nothing worked.”

UTSA came out with a solid defensive game plan, the Rice head man allowed. “What they did defensively I thought was a great scheme initially,” he said. “We came up with some good answers, but we never performed.”

“To be more specific about what I did to jump start, I dd everything from changing quarterbacks, because I thought Stank was not playing up to what he was capable of, not just in this game but in the last couple,” he added. “So I tried that. I tried to get hard-headed and just run it. And we couldn’t get first downs. I tried theowing the ball around a little ibt. Tried going for it on fourth down more than I ever have in my life.”

In fact, the Rice staff did work at change at the man-under spot midway in the first half, spelling starter Shawn Stankavage with challenger Jackson Tyner. But that caused zero offense (well, actually 18 years total in the first quarter) to turn into negative offense.

That was because the switch led to two quick turnovers in succession that allowed the Roadrunners to travel a total of seven offensive yards to collect 10 points.

Right out of the cereal box, Jackson was picked off by UTSA’s Cassius Grady, who excitedly returned the pill as far as the Rice three-yard line. Next play, B.J. Daniels plunged across to extend Rice 3-0 deficit to ten.

After the ensuing kickoff, Jackson bobbled a snap and disappeared beneath a wild scrum. Out of the pile came a Roadrunner with the football, and UTSA was back in business at the Rice 15.

This time, though, the Rice defense held, forcing a chip-shot, 29-yard field goal to give the Roadrunners at 13-0 lead at the intermission.

That’s the thing....the Rice defense came up with what has to be one of its finer efforts in many a moon – as in more than a couple of seasons,

Rice held UTSA to 178 yards on night and only 101 over the final three quarters. It was the lowest total by an Owl defense since they limited the Tulane Green Wave to just 123 in 2013.

The Owl defensive effort yielded up the second-lowest total yards gained by a C-USA team this year, second only to the 134 yards limited on UTEP by Tennessee in mid-September.

Junior co-captain Zach Abercrumbia was credited with a career-best nine tackles, including a pair for loss and a pair of quarterback hurries. Justin Bickham matched his career-high with three pass breakups, among seven on the night for the Owls.

After throwing for 187 yards the week before in a 30-21 win over UTEP, the Roadrunners were held to just 43 yards through the air, the fewest yards passing allowed by the Owls since they joined C-USA in 2005.

Forty-three yards through the air, on six out of 18 pass attempts? Man, unless you’re the Army Black Knights, that’s just a crazy statistic – especially when linked with a loss, in the event.

Rice picked up some 50 yards more total offense than did UTSA, but its solitary scoring drive was a rather flukish 12-play, 65-yard drive to open the second half, stalling at the UTSA 10 yard line where the Owls settled for a 29-yard Haden Tobola field goal.

On that drive, the Owls converted on two straight fourth-down attempts through the air.

On fourth and three from the Rice 37, Jack Fox, in deep punt formation, hit Jordan Myers for 17 yards and the first down. One series later, facing fourth and six from the UTSA 42, Shawn Stankavage hit a diving Austin Walter for 25 more yards.

But that was it for night, as far as the Owls’ offensive production went.

--PTH


HOUSTON (Oct. 3) – Admit it. The Rice Owls are right about where we expected them to be going into the month of October, based on pre-season expectations and prognostications.


Sure, we’d harbored more than a faint hope that the Owls could steal a win against Southern Miss or Hawaii – both on the road – but otherwise, we’d pretty much penciled in the games against UH and Wake in the “L” column.

We’ve been buoyed by better-than-expected performances in Hawaii and at home against the two UHs, but then let down by a team which showed up flat on the road against Southern Miss and Wake Forest.

Bottom line: every game on the schedule, here on out, save one – the one in Baton Rouge – is winnable – or losable – by the personnel and the coaching staff now in employ.

Sure would be nice to grab wins in about half ub’m. And that starts at home against UTSA Saturday, a 6 p.m. kickoff at Rice Stadium.

This game is particularly winnable, if....

UTSA enters this game with a 2-3 record overall. The Roadrunners were roundly defeated by Power Five entrants Arizona State (49-7), Baylor (37-20) and Kansas State (41-17) in their first three contests. Then the Roadrunners then bounced back to take wins in their next two bouts, the first with Southwest Texas State Teachers College, er, scu’me, Texas State, (25-21), followed by a 30-21 victory over winless UTEP in the Alamodome last week.

The San Antonians graduated, or perhaps de-matriculated, quite a number of solid players from last year’s squad which bested the Owls, 20-7, in the Alamodome. This year’s squad is composed of more than 60 per cent freshmen, 16 of them who’ve seen action thus far this season.

In the season opener against Arizona State, 24 newcomes in all got into the game, eight of whom were starters.

There are a few stout holdovers from last year’s team, which finished with a 6-5 record.

Those include senior DL Kevin Strong, Jr., and junior linebacker Joseph Tauaefa, both of whom were named to the pre-season All-Conference USA team by league coaches.

Tauaefa is the bell cow for the UTSA defense. Named a freshman All-American, the C-USA frosh of the year and an all-conference choice his first year on the field. As a sophomore, he was hampered my injury, missing four games, but still finished with 29 tackles, four PBUs, two TFLs and a scoop-n-score. He’s picked up where he’s left off, this season so far, starting with ten tackles out of the block against ASU and leading all UTSA tacklers in ensuing games.

Per Coach Bloom, Tauaefa and Strong are two of the top three Correcaminos defenders to watch on Saturday. “It really starts and ends with (Josiah Tauaefa),” he remarked. “He's easy to find because of his hair. Josiah was a Freshmen All-American two years ago. He's a guy that has a lot of accolades in this conference and you can see why. He makes plays. He's a big linebacker that is going to run the ball down and he gets there with bad intentions. Up front, you have Nate Newton's son (King Newton) as one of the defensive tackles and you have (Kevin Strong, Jr.) who has started 54 games for them. That's a lot of football.”

Although it’s not considered a strong point on the UTSA defense, the Roadrunners feature a couple of senior Dbs D. J. Levine and Darryl Godfrey. The OL, meanwhile, is anchored by Strong, Jr., who registered a safety tackle against Texas State.

The USA offense is led by quarterback Cordale Grundy threw for a pair of touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Roadrunners to a 30-21 victory over UTEP in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Saturday night at the Alamodome.

Grundy completed 20-of-35 passes for 187 yards and two scores and the junior quarterback rushed for 44 yards and a score to help the Roadrunners improve to 2-3 on the year and 1-0 in league play.

Greg Campbell Jr. hauled in four passes for a game-high 61 yards, while Kirk Johnson Jr. and Jalen Rhodes also had four receptions each.

"(Greg Campbell, Jr.) is a receiver who has made plays,” Coach Bloom opined. . They have two running backs, one that has run for 2,000 yards in his career (Rhodes) and one that has rushed for 200 yards this year (B. J. Daniels). Seemingly, he's the guy that they seem to be trusting but they are both going to be back there.”

Meanwhile, linebackers Josiah Tauaefa and Les Maruo posted eight tackles apiece to lead a UTSA defense that limited the Miners (0-5) to 278 yards of offense, the second straight opponent that failed to gain 300. DeQuarius Henry added six stops, including two for loss, a sack and a forced fumble, while Clayton Johnson had two tackles, one TFL, an interception and a pass breakup.

The Roadrunners built a 24-7 halftime lead, only to see UTEP climb back to within three points in the fourth quarter.

So they’re not world-beaters. They got pounded by the three P5s they opened with, one of whom was Baylor, who’s rumored to be playing with mostly real college students these days. The 25-21 win over Texas State came over a team whose sole victory thus far on the season came from another TSU – 36-20, over the Houston east side entrant. And the narrow win over UTEP speaks for itself.

So, to pick up where we left off – this game is winnable if the same team who showed up against Hawaii and the U of H shows up again Saturday night. It’s likely to fall in the loss category if the Southern Miss or Wake Forest efforts are duplicated.

Crunch time, gentlemen....


--
PTH