RICE SCOUTING REPORT
OFFENSE: Spread-Power Run
INSIDE THE MATCH-UPS
RICE PASS OFFENSE VS. NORTH TEXAS PASS DEFENSE
Rice has a prime time player at the QB position in Driphus Jackson. Jackson is not an accurate QB, but he is mobile and he makes plays. This season Jackson has been disappointing. He has thrown 3 ints to his 2 tds and only hitting on 54% of his passes. Perhaps Jackson is simply missing his 2 best WR’s from last year: Jordan Taylor and Mario Hull. Jackson is leaning on Dennis Parks and Lance Wright. Parks was battling a hamstring injury in week 1, but turned in a strong effort last week against Texas. Parks had 8 catches for 77 yards
Jackson is inconsistent, so maybe North Texas can take advantage of that and force him into some mistakes.
SMU didn’t have a vaunted pass attack but North Texas played pretty well. I wasnt sure that Zac Whitfield would be able to come in and play that effective. Whitfield played really well along with Chad Davis. Safeties James Gray and Kishawn McClain also played well. if I’m Chris Cosh, there is no one in the Rice WR corps that scares me. Also beside the double-move on Whitfield our defense did a great job at not getting beat over the top, something that we discussed as a concern on the podcast and the preview. I feel pretty good that North Texas will be able to keep the Rice passing attack in check
EDGE: North Texas
RICE RUN OFFENSE VS. NORTH TEXAS RUN DEFENSE
With Jowan Davis down with injury the Owls have turned to RS FR RB Sam Stewart. Stewart churned out 130 yards and 2 TDs against a weak Texas run defense last week. Rice also has 2 other guys who bring different running styles to the good Owl rushing attack. Darik Dillard is a downhill runner with good power. Austin Walter is Rice’s version of the scatback. Walter is a home run hitter with dynamic speed, and he is very elusive. Finally you cant forget about Jackson at QB. He is a big time running threat much like Matt Davis was from SMU. He’s probably not as dynamic, but still a threat. Jackson didn’t run much against Texas because Coach Baliff didn’t want him to take a beating and Jackson didn’t need to run against Texas. His presence alone makes defenses account for him.
For North Texas is was a tale of two halves against SMU. In the first half the Mean Green only allowed 63 yards rushing. In the second half North Texas was gashed for 210. North Texas did a great job with play recognition. There were a few missed tackles, but those are to be expected in a team’s first game. Basically North Texas just got worn down in the second half. Matt Davis broke off a big run and the SMU offensive line started winning more battles. This week North Texas has to step up its run defense game even more. They have the guys to do it, but can they get off of blocks and get penetration?
RICE OFFENSIVE LINE VS. NORTH TEXAS DEFENSIVE LINE
The Rice OL dominated a weak and bad Texas DL last week. Yes it was Texas, but their defensive line is not top-25 caliber. It would probably rank close to North Texas. They have talent, but don’t produce. Rice has a few O-Linemen making just their 3rd start. Rice does have an All CUSA G in Andrew Reue, and a guy Caleb Williams who is making his 40+ start. The strength of this OL is in the middle and run blocking. They did a great job of getting big on big against Texas. Rice engaged and stayed engaged against the weak Texas DL. Rice struggled in blitz pick up and dealing with the pass rush. Also it should be noted that Texas ran a lot 3 man fronts against the Owls, although they didn’t do the greatest job of eating up space.
Keep the following in mind when evaluating the Rice Oline:
- The DL evidenced bad technique and tactical play. Question: Do they understand their roles in a 3 man front against a run option team? Answer: No they do not. Playside DTs stood high on double teams and surrendered ground instead of submarining to create a pile up or split the double team. They consistently lost or stalemated at the point of attack inside and allowed blockers to seep to the linebackers.
The North Texas DL was above average against SMU. Nothing really jumps out at with this unit. NT does play a lot of guys, and will need to play a lot of those guys vs a physical Rice team. Roderick Young, and Sir Calvin Wallace did a good job of holding up the middle. I thought Combs and Tillman Johnson both played well. I believe the stunts that North Texas ran against SMU should work against this Rice unit. What this matchup really comes down to is the guys in the middle. Can NT get off blocks, can they be disruptive. If North Texas can do that then they stand a chance at winning this game. In the SMU preview we mentioned the inside run being the beginning of all things. North Texas did a solid job bottling that up early and forcing Matt Davis to make things happen on the fly. The defensive line has the same challenge on Saturday.
NORTH TEXAS PASS OFFENSE VS. RICE PASS DEFENSE
Rice is pretty young in the secondary. They lost 125 starts from last year’s unit. That might be more important than any other returning unit to success. It has showed against Wagner and Texas so far. Rice has given up 6 pass plays of over 15 yards, an avg QB rating of 168, and 11 passes for first downs so far. Its really been the big play that has hurt Rice. The Owls have been decent when it comes to opponents pass completion percentage of 47%. Seniors CB Ryan Pollard and S Zach Espoinsa headline the secondary.
North Texas has a chance to really take advantage of Rice in this match-up — I know all of you are laughing right now, but it is true. McNulty is a bad/average QB, but even he can take advantage of the Owl secondary. There are big plays to be had. For North Texas they need to set up some more shots down the field. The Mean Green also need to scrap the deep routes to Carlos Harris. I’m looking for Smiley to have another good game and hoping Goree has a much better game. Also want to see Canales use Rutherford in those red zone chances. After a week where the playcalling was under scrutiny, we will see what Canales and company break out for the first home game and first league game.
EDGE: Slight North Texas
NORTH TEXAS RUN OFFENSE VS. RICE RUN DEFENSE
Rice is pretty solid against the run and held Wagner to 86 yards last week and Texas to 166 yards. The strength is up the middle of the defense, where they have been able to get penetration and get off blocks. The Rice DL did a good job of beating a young inexperienced Texas OL. As I mentioned earlier the Owls use a 4-2-5 just like SMU. They are going to rely heavily on their DB’s/Safeties in run support. In fact I believe those DB’s/Safeties are a little too aggressive in run support sometimes. The Owls best run stopper and probably best defensive player is Alex Lyons look for him to be very active against the Mean Green.
The North Texas run offense wasn’t near what I thought it could be against SMU. The OL struggled mightily to open up holes. North Texas started its 3rd string RB, J. Wilson was injured and Jimmerson was suspended for a quarter. The play calling was not the greatest. This is supposed to be the strength and identity of this Mean Green team. North Texas may not have Wilson this week again, so Jimmerson will be shouldering the load. Hopefully Willy Ivery will get some touches this week too. North Texas really needs this run game to get going. The offensive line will need to create more lanes for the runners and not simply rely on playmaking from Jimmerson et al.
NORTH TEXAS OFFENSIVE LINE VS. RICE DEFENSIVE LINE
The strengths of the Rice defensive line are in the middle, at defensive tackle. Stuart Mouchantaf is back from injury and has been very solid. Ross Winship at NT has also been solid and disruptive. If there are issues on the Rice DL its at the DE’s and depth. DE Graysen Schantz was expected to have a breakout year, but he is out with a torn ACL. Brian Womac and Derek Brown had good games against Texas at the DE position. Each guy ended up with at least 2 TFL. Rice isnt very deep behind that front unit. If North Texas can get its tempo to work, the Mean Green will have a chance to wear the Owls down.
The Mean Green OL struggled against SMU. NT struggled with blitz pick up and assignments. That is correctable and needs to happen if North has any chance at beating Rice. Jordan Murray gets the start at LT this week. He will be going up against a pretty good DE. Kaydon Kirby has struggled throughout his career when facing a NT. Sam Rice was a non factor against SMU. Chris Miles struggled in pass protection. This unit needs to find the right pieces and gel in a hurry.
RICE SPECIAL TEAMS VS. NORTH TEXAS SPECIAL TEAMS
This week North Texas will have a big advantage again in the Special Teams. Rice struggled mightily in the return game against Texas. You have to feel that if North Texas can just give Kidsy some space he could make a big play. Kicking wise Eric Keena could provide a huge advantage in flipping field position. He did it last week and will need to do it this week if North Texas has a chance.
EDGE: North Texas
5 KEY PERSONNEL MATCH-UPS
- NT DT’s Austin Orr/Sir Calvin Wallace vs Rice G Peter Godber/ C Spencer Stanley/ G Andrew Reue
- NT LT Jordan Murray vs Rice RDE Brian Womac
- NT CB Chad Davis/ CB Zac Whitfield vs Rice WR Denis Parks
- NT LB Fred Scott/Blake Bean vs Rice RB’s Sam Stewart & Darik Dillard
- NT QB Andrew McNulty vs Rice QB Driphus Jackson
GAME PLAN FOR VICTORY
How Rice will Win
Rice will win this game if they care of the ball and establish their physical running game. Its pretty simple for Rice in my book. Keep it simple stupid. They probably will have to throw the ball more, but with NT being inept on offense Rice should be able to wear down the NT defense and put the Mean Green away.
How North Texas will Win
There are a number of things that have to happen if North Texas is going to win this game. First is NT has to get better play at the QB & OL positions. Second NT has to find some way of establishing a rhythm on offense. I’m not sure this team has established its identity yet. Third NT has to get big plays from the special teams and defense. I don’t believe the offense is capable of winning this game by themselves. North Texas will need a big punt return or blocked kick and probably a defensive TD or multiple turnovers.