Fresh off a shocking result at Army, the Owls look to build again, this time vs. ACC foe Wake Forest. It’s another uphill climb for Mike Bloomgren’s crew, but as they proved against the Black Knights, they won’t be a pushover. Here are three keys for the Owls on Friday night.
Find A Path Through the Air
Army limits your offensive snaps by taking the air out of the ball. Rice’s offense tends to do the same, but last week the Owls ran just 44 offensive plays, well off 2018’s pace. Only fourteen of those snaps went to the air with quarterback Wiley Green completing just seven for 62 yards. Rice can try to win games by ground and pound, but some of their best playmakers are at receiver, including Austin Trammell and Bradley Rozner. Rozner caught one pass last week in his Rice debut.
Rice’s offense should have more opportunities Friday night, at least more snaps. Whether they can create some areal assault will go a long way to whether they can score enough points to keep up with the Deamon Deacons.
Meet Jamie Newman
The Wake offense is night and day different than Army’s, a real challenge for the Rice defense. The Deacons ran a school-record 105 plays last week against Utah State Jamie Newman is a 6-4, 230-pound pocket passer who lit up a decent Aggie defense for 401 yards on 47 attempts.
Last year Newman played backup to freshman Sam Hartman through nine games. He started the final four, finishing with a 3-1 record and helping guide the Deacons to a bowl win over Memphis. Last week against Utah State the unflappable junior kept a steady hand on the steering wheel as Wake came back for a last-minute victory. He led the Deacons 89 yards on two plays to the one yard-line then converted a fourth and one for the win.
Wake’s going to put the ball in the air with Newman looking to connect with Sage Surratt and Kendall Hinton. The young Owl secondary faces a big test on Friday night.
Pressure, Pressure, Pressure
To ease the strain on the secondary, the Rice front must move Newman off his spots and make him uncomfortable. Rice’s secondary is short on experienced rotation players, so plenty of young athletes should see the field.
Where Rice can make up for their youth is at linebacker, where the Owls can play eight or nine experienced head hunters and use Brian Smith’s aggressive scheme to get after the quarterback. Smith had the Owls playing at a high level at West Point last week, with a style that disrupted the Army flexbone. Now comes a different challenge with a pace and space approach from the visitors from Winston Salem.
Rush players like Anthony Ekpe, Treshawn Chamberlain, and Trey Schuman must be as disruptive against the pass as they were last week against Army’s rushing attack. If Wake can sustain drives and wear down the Rice depth, they’ll go up and down the field in the second half. If Rice and get the Deacons off schedule through negative plays and pressure, they can shorten the game and preserve their defense.