Texas San Antonio (5-0) at Rice (1-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Rice Stadium (73,208) -- Houston, Texas. Television: CSS. Home Record: UTSA 2-0, Rice 0-2 Away Record: UTSA 3-0, Rice 1-2. Neutral Record: UTSA 0-0, Rice 0-1. Conference Record: UTSA 1-0, Rice 0-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A Lone Star State battle is on tap Saturday at Rice Stadium as the undefeated Texas San Antonio Roadrunners visit the Rice Owls.
Few would have predicted that UTSA would begin its first season at the FBS Level with a 5-0 record. The Roadrunners' record is a bit misleading however as three games have come against FCS opponents and the only two FBS schools they faced (South Alabama and New Mexico State) are a combined 2-9 this season. Dating back to last season UTSA has won six straight games and has already eclipsed its win total from last season (4-6).
Rice is in the midst of a four-game losing streak that began in mid-September. The Owls have only one win this year, a 25-24 defeat of Kansas. The team is 1-5 overall, including a 0-2 mark at home. In its most recent defeat, the Owls failed to get going on offense in a 14-10 loss on the road to Memphis.
Although both of these programs call Texas home, this will be the first-ever meeting between the Road Runners and the Owls.
During its early success, UTSA has enjoyed a strong offensive output averaging 37.8 points and 402.8 yards per game. The Roadrunners are the second best team in the Western Athletic Conference in scoring this season behind only Louisiana Tech. The Roadrunners have been extremely efficient in the red zone, accounting for the high scoring average, converting on 91 percent of their attempts in the red zone.
During the relatively easy early season schedule Eric Soza has been solid at quarterback. Soza has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 964 yards, for an average just under 200 (192.8) per game. More important has been Soza's ability to limit turnovers, with 10 touchdowns passes against just a single interception.
No receiver has really stuck out as Soza's primary target with five different receivers collecting at least eight catches this season and with none more than 10. Kam Jones has 10 receptions and a team-high 183 yards, while Cole Hicks (8 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TDs) has been the most productive in terms of scoring. Overall nine different players have caught touchdown passes.
David Glasco and Evans Okotcha have carried the burden on the ground. Glasco is the team's leading rusher with 288 yards this season and an impressive 7.0 yards per carry average. Okotcha is used in more short yardage situations especially near the goal line where he has scored a team-high six touchdowns. Soza also contributes in the running game with 163 yards on 30 carries.
UTSA has done a good job on defense this season, although perspective needs to be taken with the quality of its opponents. The Roadrunners are allowing only 15.6 points and 268.2 yards per game which is the top mark in the WAC thus far. The Roadrunners have been especially effective against the run with nearly twice as many rushing yards (944) as they have given up (306). UTSA has also allowed only nine total red zone trips.
Brandon Reeves is the team's leading tackler with 39 stops through five games. Steven Kurfehs and Jarron Harris each have three sacks. Erik Brown (three) and Triston Wade (two) each have multiple interceptions.
Rice has been outscored by a large margin this season putting up 26.8 points per game, while allowing a sizable 38.7 ppg. The Owls rank fourth in Conference USA in total offense (408.2 ypg). The Owls are a very strong running team ranking second in the conference (1,087 yards).
A trio of ball carriers have powered the Owls' rushing attack. Charles Ross has been the best in breaking off big runs, averaging 5.9 yards per carry while accumulating 335 yards total. Turner Petersen (249 yards) has also been an effective runner while splitting time with Ross.
The third member of that rushing trio was quarterback Taylor McHargue, who had shown to be a very dangerous threat both in the passing and running games before suffering an injury that limited his playing time in a 54-51 overtime loss to Marshall. McHargue leads the team with 365 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns this season. This all while completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 1,044 yards, seven touchdowns and only two interceptions. In his place has been Driphus Jackson, who has rushed for only 10 yards and thrown for 304 in two starts.
Although not a part of the running game, Taylor Jordan (27 receptions, 330 yards) and Sam McGuffie (27, 316, 5 TDs) have been integral parts of the offense, especially McGuffie, who is second in C-USA in receiving touchdowns.
While it is being outscored by nearly 12 points per game, Rice has also been out-gained by opposing offenses by nearly 100 yards a contest, as the defense allows 506.7 as compared to the 408.2 they produce. That is the worst mark in C-USA as is the team's current standing in total defense.
Paul Porras has the team-lead in tackles with 56 thus far, while Cody Bauer has a team-high in tackles for loss while tying Hosam Shahin for the most sacks (2.5).
On paper a 5-0 team versus a 1-5 team would have blowout written all over it. However UTSA's perfect mark belies the weak competition the Roadrunners have faced. Although Rice is no national power, the Owls are the best team UTSA will have faced up to this point and if McHargue can return, the Owls should earn the win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rice 24, Texas San Antonio 21
10/10 10:37:03 ET