Rice-UH: Five Things To Watch

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It's the Bayou Bucket! Drink ye all of it.

It really is too bad that the season will end here for the Owls. Following a first half where every conceivable problem arose, the Owls have righted the ship since their off week and are playing like a team of intrigue. The offense still needs work and there will be questions aplenty going into the offseason, but at times glimpses of what might be peek through the plays. Charles Ross and Tyler Smith plus Sam McGuffie? Nick Fanuzzi competing with The Taylors - Cook and McHargue? Corbin Smiter, Derek Clark and Denzel Wells revamping the receiving corps? VMcD and Luke Willson splitting reps at tight end? The entire O-line returning, plus Bobby Janish? Interesting scenarios all, and the thought of waiting until spring is torturous.

And all the waiting and hoping and wishing for the defense to arrive paid off on the Hilltop. Solid performances against Tulane and UTEP followed, with toughness and resiliency suddenly becoming hallmarks of this unit. Too late? Absolutely, but at least it finally happened.

And now, this. Another Bayou Bucket Game against the mighty Cougars, who are four-touchdown favorites and in pursuit of the Conference USA West Division crown. Might it get out of hand? It just might. Could it be closer than anticipated? Recent history suggests so.

Either way, enjoy. Oh, and the live chat will be back on in order to review the 2009 season.

1. Is Jarve Dean This Year's Chris Thompson? Owls Jr. DE Scott Solomon hopes so. Last year Solomon dominated Thomson and harassed Coogs QB Case Keenum to no end, racking up six tackles (two for losses) and a sack. Solomon has been a disruptive force of late, and if the Owls hope to knock UH out of rhythm, Solomon must spearhead an aggressive pass rush.

2. Ball And Man. For all the pregame chatter focusing on the Owls' ability to tackle in space, it would behoove the Owls to avoid allowing completed passes to begin with. Accomplishing that chore will call for the Owls' safeties to win 1-on-1 battles with UH receivers, and that is a tall task. Travis Bradshaw, Chris Jones, Willie Garley and Max Anyiam are stronger in run support than pass coverage, and this will be the contest in which their ball skills are put to the test.

3. Charles Ross/Tyler Smith = Donald Buckram/Brynn Harvey. At times is appears as though David Bailiff/Ed Zaunbrecher are going with their gut at tailback, but whatever the case the Ross/Smith tandem is working. However the duo is utilized against the Coogs it should be liberally because UH isn't anything special on run defense. The more the Owls run with purpose the more likely the Coogs will crater, and if the Owls can possess the ball, maybe they keep Keenum on the sideline and keep the score down in the 30s. That's the lone hope.

4. Every Point Matters. The one phase where the Owls haven't improved out of the break is the kicking game, which has been an adventure of late. The Owls haven't demonstrated the offensive potential to outscore a team as potent as UH, thus they can't afford to squander any scoring opportunities that may arise. That means Bailiff can't bypass field goals for fear of errors, especially if the odds of converting fourth downs are slim. Special teams must step up.

5. Senior Rush. Which Rice senior makes the most of his final game in uniform? Toren Dixon? Taylor Wardlow? Jeramy Goodson? Clark Fangmeier? Terrance Garmon? Destiny awaits ...

Thoughts? Questions? Concerns?

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Run, run and run some more. I know it's not the preferred option for this team in the long run, but they've got capable backs. Plus, if the Owls are burning clock, the Coogs can't put points on the board.

MK, what's the deal with Derek Clark? He didn't get much action this season despite his strong pre-season. Was he hurt? We really need some players to step up at WR next season. What makes you think he will contribute next year and why didn't it happen this season? Thanks.

Buho00: Blind hope on my part. I was told that maturity issues played a role in DC watching more than he played, and perhaps with the depth chart cleared a bit ahead of him he will return this spring ready to act the part of a contributor. - MK

In families where there has been a hanging, you don't talk about the price of rope.

MK -- What happened to the post of the live chat?

Owl-1983: Long story, but I did what I believed was best. - MK

Were their complaints about the live chat? since I was active during the chat I don't see what was so wrong with what was said...perhaps you can give us a hint so that we don't offend again.

Tiki: Yes. And, in all honesty, I don't envision there ever being another live chat for football. - MK

I followed the live chat closely, too. I really didn't see anything incendiary about it. Can you tell us what the objections were?

owl-1983: I have no desire to censor the fans, but since I did such a poor job of avoiding the potshots at the staff or calls for particular heads on platters, objection followed. It was my sincere goal to discuss the season at large and the upcoming offseason, but the tone of the chat turned sour once the game got out of hand. - MK

Ugh, hopefully that's reconsidered. The live chat is a great way for us to follow the action from afar, and get details that are not apparent on owlvision or through radio broadcasts.

I'm not really sure what's presumed is the difference between some of our fans venting their frustrations here or on some other highly visible forums.

At Ease: You validated the point of the administration. There are other places to go if you want comments on why certain assistants should be fired, but such opinion should not be readily available on a site promoting the university. I understand that. I love discussing the game with fans, even touching on strategy on occasion, but I can't provide a forum that trashes the coaches on the school site. I just can't. - MK

I was in the chat as well, and I want to say that you did a great job of trying to keep it positive and when it wasn't going to well, changing the topic towards the future and what, us as fans, saw happening.

I understand the athletic department's thinking, but it wasn't as if we were spitting tons of venom like in past chats.

mikeb!: In this climate effort isn't enough. As I wrote during the live chat, fuses are short during a 2-10 season, and the last thing I intended to do was add fuel to the fire by providing another forum to trash the performance of the coaches and players. At this point no venom spitting is the prevailing standard. - MK

I get that, MK. I think you'll find most of us would gladly accept some moderation on what posts get through to keep the live chat intact, but if you don't want to deal with that hassle, that's easily understood.

When is DB's season-ending presser?

At Ease: I have received no notification of a year-end presser by Bailiff. I will be there if one is scheduled. - MK

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