Rice: A Preview

After driving across a good portion of this country including West Virginia (drive faster! I hear banjos!) it is good to be home after a few days in DC. Sunday was sweltering on the Mall. Monday night was damp at the game. Tuesday was chilly and damp driving through the Appalachians. This also included an unexpected detour through Morgantown, WV, where I saw evidence of Jim Burr's drinking binge from before this January's game against us in basketball.

So I am back just in time to see our Boilers go on the road to complete the home-and-home where our end was satisfied in 1998. To make me feel ancient, the Rice game at home was the first start in Ross-Ade for Drew Brees and my first home game as a freshman. The Owls will now host us in a game that doesn't look as easy as it once was, especially given the struggles of last week. The optimist in me is encouraged by the way we came from behind last week twice in the fourth quarter. The pessimist reminds me it was against a Sun Belt team at home.

The Rice game is still a must-win at any cost in order to reach a bowl, and winning on the road would be a very good next step.

2010 Record: 4-8

Bowl Result: None

Blog Representation: Ricefootball.net,

Series with Purdue: Purdue Leads 2-1

Last Purdue Win: 21-19 on 9/12/1998 at Purdue

Last Rice Win: 14-0 on 10/6/1934 at Purdue

Quarterbacks:

Caleb TerBush did okay in his first career start. I think we saw some jitters, especially when he nearly overthrew Jared Crank on a very easy touchdown pass in the second quarter, but he lead a game-winning 85 yard TD drive with under four minutes to play. that's not to be underrated regardless of opponent. His final pass was beautiful as he stood patiently in the pocket, scanned the field, waited for Antavian Edison to get open, and put the pass right on the money. His mobility was also very nice, as he picked the right times to run. Even the sacks weren't bad, as he tucked the ball instead of forcing a potential interception. Robert Marve allegedly may play this week, and I hope that means we can save Sean Robinson and give him a much needed redshirt at #3 QB (he still can redshirt as long as he doesn't play anymore).

On the other side is Taylor McHargue, who was 14 of 29 last week against Texas for only 79 yards. He had six TD's against just one pick last year, but had neither a touchdown on a score last week. He has a slight edge in experience, but TerBush had the better first week. Edge: Even

Running backs:

When we gave him the ball, Ralph Bolden was awesome last week. Now he gets to go up against a defense that gave up over 200 yards rushing last week. Akeem Shavers had the one big run, but was limited in his others. Rice features former Michigan back Sam McGuffie, who had one carry for four yards and actually passed for more yards than he ran last week. Rice's leading rusher in week one was Tyler Smith with 67 yards on 10 carries. Turner Peterson also had 43 yards rushing. Offensively the Owls had barely over 200 yards last week, but this was against Texas. I don't think our defense is as good as them, but it would be nice to hold them to similar totals. Edge: Purdue

Wide receivers:

Gabe Holmes is now doubtful for Saturday, but Crosby Wright was a very pleasant surprise in week one. Justin Siller was solid for us, while Edison and Ross could do a bit more in the passing game. I'd like to see us utilize Bolden on a wheel route a bit more, as it was devastating in the past. The Rice passing game generated only 94 yards with Vance McDonald catching five passes for 36 yards. Randy Kitchens was next with four catches for 31 yards, but they have to face a secondary that was good on the sidelines, but the usual awful over the middle (especially on third down). If we decide to cover the middle we'll be fine, but as we know, that is a gigantic if. Edge: Purdue

Offensive line:

Rice did not give up a sack last week to a team loaded with some of the top talent in the country. The line didn't help the offense greatly, but it wasn't a huge detriment either. Davon Allen and Eric Ball are two good-sized guards and the rest of the line is full of seniors. Our own line gave up a few sacks and had TerBush rolling out at other times. Still, it got the running game going and should we choose to pound the ball (which should be an easy choice) holes will be there. The glaring problem with our line was about five too many false start and formation penalties. That's just stupid, stupid stuff that needs to stop. We generated little pass rush as it was last week, which is a major concern. Slight Edge: Rice

Defensive line:

Rice got a pair of sacks from Phillip Gaines and Brian Stacey as part of three tackles for loss. We only had three tackles for loss and gave up eight. Yikes! We simply have to get into the backfield more this week and create some pressure. If we have a lead it becomes even more important, as we generated nothing after taking the lead and let MTSU drive down the field in 40 seconds with no timeouts. Their offensive line is possibly good enough to slow down Kawann Short, but at least we were effective against the run. Edge: Rice (against the pass), Purdue (against the run)

Linebackers:

Joe Holland was all over the field with 14 tackles. People seem to be divided on his performance. Some point out some coverage errors, while other see his tackle numbers and see strength. Put me in the latter category. I'd rather have a linebacker lead us in tackles than a safety. Will Lucas had a good game and Dwayne Beckford had the only pick for us with a very nice read. Rice will likely stay in a 4-2-5 scheme with Cameron Nwosu and Justin Allen as the two linebackers. They combined for 20 tackles last week, so they are pretty good. Still, The Owls gave up over 500 yards of offense. Edge: Purdue

Secondary:

What was supposed to be the strength of the team gave up 330 yards and two TD's against a Sun Belt team. Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson were okay, but the safeties in the middle of the field were non-existent in pass coverage. Part of this comes from a lack of a pass rush, but another part comes from our continual refusal to cover the middle of the field, especially in 10+ yards to go situations. Paul Porras, Xavier Webb, and Corey Frazier are list as the three starting safeties for Rice, so I assume they can do that. Rice gave up 277 yards and a lot of completions, but they didn't get torched like we did. Landon Feichter was a surprise contributor at safety last week, but it makes me wonder where on earth Logan Link was, or why scholarship guys like Chris Quinn and Ishmael Aristide were non-factors. If the walk-on can play better though, send him out by all means. Edge: Rice

Special Teams:

Waynelle Gravesande, in addition to a nice first down catch, was pretty good returning punt after the Allen experiment was an unmitigated disaster. Carson Wiggs and Cody Webster were excellent as always, with blogger extraordinaire, mustache aficionado, and future Danny Hope doppelganger Kevin Ballinger did well in his debut as long-snapper. Return coverage was lacking, but I still want to see speed demon Raheem Mostert back on kicks. I want to know if this is the week that Gibboney's dumb punt protection gives up its block or not.

For Rice, Chris Boswell scored all of their points on field goals with three kicks and a long of 49. Kyle Martins averaged and astounding 48.9 yards on five punts and downed two inside the 20, so he had a huge leg. Charles Ross averaged 25 yards on five kick returns and had a long of 43, which scares me of Wiggs can't get it to the end zone. Given that we gave up over 28 yards per kick return our best bet is to have Carson boom it through the end zone. Edge: Even

Coaching:

I was very concerned that Danny hope wasn't calling timeouts on our final drive, but it ended up being a savvy move because it worked time off the clock. Conversely, we gifted them right back to MTSU on their last drive. I understand the logic somewhat being that they followed incompletions and they rested our defense on a hot day. Rice's David Bailiff is 40-46 overall and 19-31 at Rice, so he might be about even with Hope. Sadly, I bet he can recognize the need to cover the slant over the middle and doesn't have Gibboney's coverage schemes. Edge: Rice

Final Prediction:

I am still hoping we don't try to rotate quarterbacks like Hope wants. I think Robinson played that series last week mostly because of a cramping issue with TerBush, especially when Marve was warming up and it really looked like he was going to head out for the previous series. I think TerBush grew up a lot as the game went on and can be fine in the future. If Marve is healthy and the better player, however, send him out and leave him out. I just want to pick a guy and leave him there, but I am old school.

Offensively I think we have a pretty big edge, especially in the running game. I just hope we're smart enough to use it. If their mediocre passing game racks up 330 yards against us we should be very, very concerned. That's my biggest worry going into this week. I think we're fine against the run, but we need to show we can pressure the quarterback and hold a bad passing attack at bay. As long as we do that, we win. Purdue 27, Rice 20.

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