It’s Friday afternoon and that can only mean one thing, it’s time for our weekly Q&A with a writer who covers North Texas’ opponent. We are fortunate this week to welcome Adam Coleman to the blog.
Here is what Adam had to say about tomorrow’s game:
1. Rice had a brutal schedule the first few weeks of the season. Do the Owls view this game as a chance to turn it around?
Absolutely they do. They lost to, in my opinion, one of the best G5 teams out there in Western Kentucky, a much improved Army and a ranked Baylor. Oddly enough, the Baylor game is where Rice made the most strides. The defense held Baylor to zero points in the first quarter – hard for anyone to do – and got their first interception in nearly a year. The offense is still worrisome. Rice has not scored more than 14 points in a game this year. But they feel like Saturday is the chance to finally put a complete game together and get a win.
2. The Owls have some talented running backs. Is that the strength of Rice’s offense?
It was thought to be heading into the season. And what made it a strength was depth. Rice believes they have about four or five backs they can throw back there and get results. The results hadn’t come until the Baylor game, though. Darik Dillard rushed for 124 yards – the first 100-yard performance of the year from a Rice tailback. They believe that has a lot to do with a young offensive line coming together better than expected. Expect Rice to rely on running the ball to set up quarterback Tyler Stehling again.
3. Talk about Tyler Stehling. How is he coming along at quarterback?
It’s been mixed results with Stehling. Keep in my he’s a fifth-year starter getting his first chance. And the team around him hasn’t truly put it together. He’s shown some flashes with some big time throws. But against Baylor, he was just 8-of-25 for 33 yards. Rice will use Nate German in their Owl Package at quarterback, too. Nate is a quarterback turned receiver turned back to quarterback if need be. He’ll give the Owls a spark in the offensive backfield. But as far as Stehling is concerned, I’m not sure he’s played his best game yet. We’ll see if he can do it this week. The fans want to see more from him.
4. Rice’s defense has struggled early on. Talk about that unit’s strengths and weaknesses.
This team’s weakness the last two years has been inexperience. Last year, they played so many freshmen (31) out of necessity because of injuries. This year those now-sophomores are still in the lineup. So with youth comes ups and downs. They took a step forward against Baylor if only for one quarter but at Western Kentucky and at Army, there wasn’t much of a pass rush and they constantly got beat on big plays. So the strength? There is talent capable of taking over a game like defensive end Blain Padgett, linebackers Emmanuel Ellerbee and Ale Lyons and defensive back JT Blasingame. Call it potential, but it’s definitely there with this team.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
North Texas has new leadership and a new look and while Rice is 0-3, the Owls believe they’ve turned a corner. I think this game is really close, but Rice wins in the end. If not, their bowl hopes could vanish.