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Rice-Tulane: Five Things To Watch

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On Nov. 12, 2005, the Owls took the field at Historic Rice Stadium in search of their first victory of the season. Their morale was shaken by a crushing series of road games to open the schedule, an embarrassing home loss to Navy, and an 0-5 record in a league - C-USA - that seemed perfectly suited for the Owls to find their competitive footing. Instead, the Owls were trounced at UAB and East Carolina, and easily handled at HRS by budding rival Tulsa.

On Saturday, the Owls will take the field at Historic Rice Stadium in search of their first victory of the season. Their morale has been shaken by a crushing series of road games to open the season, an embarrassing home loss to Navy, and an 0-5 record in a league where they won 16 of 24 games entering this season. They were trounced at UAB and East Carolina, and easily handled at HRS by hated rival Tulsa. If things remain the same, the Owls won't mind.

On Nov. 12, 2005, the Owls defeated Tulane to break into the win column. The Green Wave are again on the schedule at the most opportune time, but it's up to the Owls to capitalize.

While being careful to not disregard the Green Wave (3-6, 1-4 C-USA) and accomplishments that dwarf what the Owls have managed thus far this season, the fact is this: Tulane is the worst program in C-USA West. Since the Owls joined the league in 2005, they have won nine more league games (17-20 record) than the Green Wave (8-29), and while a winless season tests the patience of everyone within earshot of HRS, David Bailiff has his program in far better shape than Bob Toledo. At Rice, there is at least a hope for a better tomorrow, with solid recruiting classes building a talent base that inspires confidence. Tulane has yet to recover from the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, which played a significant role in the Owls' 42-34 win over Tulane four years ago. The Owls are at a deficit regarding wins and losses, but not talent, and after taking a huge step toward victory last week at SMU, the Owls must complete the journey.

1. Finally, A Flash. The defense Bailiff expected to field at UAB showed last weekend on the Hilltop. The Owls ran to the ball, played aggressively and, for the most part, got ball carriers down on the ground at the first opportunity. SMU managed only 330 yards of total offense, and its winning effort was greatly aided by a bizarre blocked field goal returned for a touchdown and a second-half turnover deep in Rice territory. If the Owls play with that same vigor defensively against Tulane, we could see a repeat of last season's effort at the Superdome.

2. Redemption, Thy Names Are Jammer & Ben. With the loss of Fr. CB Phillip Gaines to injury, So. CBs Chris Jammer and Jarrett Ben will get the opportunity to prove why they were named the starters in the preseason. Fr. CB Kevin Gaddis will start, but the Owls' more experienced corners will play against the Green Wave, and should they slow Tulane Sr. WR Jeremy Williams, the C-USA leader in receiving yards/game (97.7), Rice will be better for it.

3. Keep It Going. Last weekend's (relatively) exceptional defensive effort wasn't only credited to Jr. DEs Scott Solomon and Cheta Ozougwu, but to an interior that helped stifle the Ponies' repeated attempts to establish the run. Tulane will be even more committed to running the football - the Green Wave have 45 more rushes than SMU - so if the Owls hold their ground and control the trenches, they just might make the Green Wave look unbalanced on offense. 

4. Pot, Meet Kettle. The Owls' offensive line might want to impose its will, too. Coach Z committed to running the football against the Ponies, but once SMU adjusted, the Owls found the sledding far tougher in the second half. Tulane is too good on pass defense - first in C-USA at 210.9 yards/game - for the Owls to spend the afternoon flinging the ball around, so the better the job the Owls do clearing lanes up front, the better So. QB Nick Fanuzzi will play.

5. Very Special. No way the Owls allow three blocked kicks against Tulane, right? Right!!!

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

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3 Comments

MK -- No live chat from the b-ball game tonight? I thought (hoped) the live chat ban applied only to football.

Karrie: I don't believe that the live chat format works well with basketball. The action moves far to quickly and I end up missing way too many things. With a team like the Owls, I don't want to fall behind noticing rotations, personnel groupings, etc., while trying to manage the live chat. Besides, there wasn't much participation on Monday (for the Angelo State game) so I figured there wasn't that much interest anyway. - MK

why in the world would you trot out the fg team in that situation on a drive wherein your team has already converted 3 4th downs and your FG team has already proven itself to be the worst in the entire country.


HOW? WHY?

Youve got to ask bailiff his logic on that one.

Baffling.

Thanks for the tweeted updates all day, MK. With a wedding that forced me to miss the 4th Q and basketball game, there was much appreciation for still being able to follow the action.

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