by Chuck Pool (firstname.lastname@example.org) -
Strong Start Paves Way for Fifth-Straight Win
Rice University football jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and held off FIU to claim a 31-17 win in the first meeting with the new Conference USA foe at FIU Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Rice opens its 2017 home schedule on Saturday night when the Owls welcome FIU for the Panthers first-ever appearance at Rice Stadium. The meeting will be the second in history, with Rice winning 31-17 in 2014, and for one Owl, his view of the game will be from the opposite side of the ball.
Senior center Trey Martin has been a stalwart on the Rice offensive line for the last three years, but as a redshirt freshmen the future Rimington Award Watch List member was pressed into duty on the defensive side of the ball after injuries thinned the Rice defensive wall.
Martin excelled in his opportunity, picking up 19 tackles including one for a loss of two yards. Two of those stops came in spot duty against the Panthers. Despite that productive debut, there was no doubt on which side of the ball Martin’s true passions resided.
“I could see were people would assume that the defensive side of the ball would be more fun,” Martin said. “You get your jersey number and named called out when you make tackles. It’s definitely more noticed from the crowd when you make plays. The offensive line is a unit and you have to work together to be successful. It’s kind of a brotherhood and you can’t do it without your left guard , without your left tackle, your right guard and your right tackle. It’s just a unit that is tightly knit and you have to depend on others to get the thing done.
“The unity and camaraderie of the unit is why I like it so much,” he added.
Even though he was a short-timer on the defensive line, Martin knew from his experiences there in high school that he had to maximize the opportunity to get on the field.
“Whenever I was on defense the competitor in me took over and my focus was all defense. I wanted to go out there and make as many plays as I could for the team. You get a little more tired chasing the ball around, but it was a good experience. Just go out and play with great energy and reck havoc on the offensive line,” he noted.
His time spent in defensive meetings and working on the finer points of the position gave him valuable insight that pays dividends now that he must counter those strategies each week.
“I learned a lot about the little things that defensive linemen do to attack the offensive line and I notice those things now. When they suddenly start communicating at the line when they normally have been pretty quiet, you know it’s ‘heads up’ because something is coming. Or when you see a lineman suddenly switch hands in their stance, I know those are things I did to be faster to the ball. It also helps a lot when I am watching film. I pick up a lot because I have played on that side of the ball.’
While Martin picked up two of his 19 tackles in his action against FIU in 2014, his lasting memories of that day of action are of a teammates’ school–record performance. Zac Patt was credited with five sacks on the day and went on to earn both the Nagurski Award National Defensive Player of the Week and C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“Zac was making play after play and we were all excited on the sideline, yelling for him to go make another one,” Martin recalled. “He got a helmet sticker from ESPN for all those sacks. Getting the win there, being happy in the locker room and on the flight home, that’s what I remember the most.”
On Saturday, he’ll be happy to not hear his number called and the Owls can share a successful start to the 2017 home season.