Rice - Tulsa Preview

Rice travels to Tulsa this weekend with a lot riding on the line – the conference lead in the C-USA Western Division, and more importantly the opportunity to place another large stone in the football program's foundation. The Rice Offense racked up a pile of points last weekend, they'll need to click again offensively this weekend to come home of Tulsa with a win…

Traveling to Tulsa Saturday to play the Golden Hurricane the Rice Owls have everything to gain with a win:

- They can put themselves in great position to contend for the Western Division title of C-USA. Rice is 2-0 in conference play; Tulsa is 1-0.

- A win over a strong Tulsa program could be a "statement" type victory for Rice. Tulsa is one of the premier teams in C-USA and is hovering just outside the Top 25 in both the Harris and Coaches Polls.

- A win in Oklahoma helps the Owls with recruiting in the state. Each year a handful of recruits from across the Red River land on the Owls target list. This year is no different - the Owls have their eyes on Guthrie's two sport phenom Donte Foster and also on Oklahoma City Heritage Hall S/LB Turner Petersen.

Beating one of the most powerful teams in C-USA won't be easy. Tulsa is on the verge of becoming a legitimate Top 25 program under second year Head Coach Todd Graham. The Golden Hurricane are 4-0 in 2008 and currently lead the country in total offense behind the exceptional play of senior QB David Johnson. They've averaged 55 points a game in their 4 wins and can both pass and run the ball.

Their defense hasn't been nearly as effective however, which gives the Owls own high powered arsenal a chance to be the winning factor in Saturday's game.

When Rice lines up on Offense…

With Todd Graham's first hand knowledge of Rice Offensive personnel, a popular question in preview of the game is will his one-year stay at Rice give he and his staff an advantage when they face the Owls' Offense? Both Chase Clement and the Tulsa coach himself have both already answered that question. The consensus: not likely. The Rice Offense has changed a lot since Tom Herman took over as Offensive Coordinator. Variations of the "Spread" can vary widely from one program to the next. Though Graham runs a "Spread" offense at Tulsa, the version he used at Rice and the one Rice uses now are completely different. So, even though Tulsa and Paul Randolph know what Chase and Co. can do – they still have to stop it.

We've talked all season long about running the football, and being able to do so effectively this week may be the key to the game. Like he did at Rice, Graham utilizes a 3-3-5 Stack defense at Tulsa; and though he made a name for himself in coaching as a Defensive Coordinator at West Virginia, Graham hasn't had near the success with this scheme since his days in Morgantown. In fact, many teams have abandoned the formation because if its deficiencies, particularly against the run. The problem is that with only 3 down linemen the defense has huge gaps in between them. If the Owls could crank up their rushing attack to the tune of 150 yards or more this week they could potentially slow down the rate of scoring somewhat, and also keeps its own defense off the field. Tulsa has improved since giving up 245 rushing yards to UAB, and 203 to North Texas – their defense could still be exploited in areas.

When Tulsa lines up on Defense…

Case in point - though Tulsa shut down the running game of Central Arkansas, they still gave up 342 yards of passing to the D-IAA school. Statistically, the Golden Hurricane are ranked 94th overall in total defense this week – 91st against the pass. Rice is ranked 31st in Total Offense, with Chase Clement slotted at #6 individually. But TU will no doubt be focused on shutting down the other half of Rice's record setting combination in Jarett Dillard. Cornerback Kenny D. Sims will likely draw the tough assignment. He and Free Safety Charles Davis are probably the best cover defenders in the Golden Hurricane Secondary. Sims played Safety last year but was a high school Cornerback. The challenge for Tulsa will be in covering all of the Receivers Rice will utilize in its attack though. "Spur" Safety James Lockett leads the secondary with tackles, collecting 19. He is a force around the line of scrimmage – very good in run support.

Up front, everything revolves around 6-4 330 pound, Terrel Nemons. The massive Noseguard from Cedar Hill, TX has played in over 40 games for TU and is a 3 year letter winner. His presence alone will make running inside a chore. Defensive End Moton Hopkins, another Texan from Universal City (outside San Antonio), is a capable pass rusher, and also brings a ton of experience to the lineup. He's very athletic, and the senior was a 2nd team All C-USA selection last year. Hopkins is second on the team in tackles.

The leading tackler on the Tulsa squad is Middle Linebacker Mike Bryan, who was the 27th best player in Oklahoma his senior year in high school. The junior has 37 tackles on the year, including 4 for a loss. Tanner Antle and senior George Clinkscale are the other Tulsa Linebackers.

Edge : Rice

The way Rice is clicking on all cylinders offensively, it's hard to say they don't have a slight advantage with the ball in Owl QB Chase Clement's hands. Furthermore, if Tulsa chooses to focus too heavily on any single aspect of the Owl Offense, such as bracketing Jarett Dillard, Rice has other weapons such as James Casey, Toren Dixon, and Patrick Randolph.

Game Notes

Going Home

Rice has 3 players on their roster from Oklahoma – junior Offensive Lineman Travis Mason from Oklahoma City, Red-shirt Freshman Offensive Tackle Tyler Parish, and Red-shirt Freshman Linebacker Tanner Shuck from Jenks. Shuck was the Tulsa World 6A Defensive Player of the Year in Oklahoma.

What's For Dinner Mom?

Though Rice Sophomore Receiver Patrick Randolph is the son of Tulsa Co-Defensive Coordinator Paul Randolph, I doubt he'll be home for dinner Friday night in Tulsa, depending on the game's outcome maybe Saturday though.

Ones That Got Away

Tulsa true freshman Cornerback John Flanders was recruited hard by Rice, but narrowly missed out on the 3 Star Defensive Back. Flanders, who is from Midwest City, opted for the Golden Hurricane just days away from signing day last February, and was one of only two recruits who visited the Rice Campus who did not commit to the Owls. He was recruited by Rice Coach D.J. Eliot who is a native Oklahoman and recruits the state for the Owls. Rice also lost out on a promising local athlete when Spring (TX) Klein's Brian Moore made an early commitment to Tulsa over an offer from Rice. Moore held firm as several schools including Miami tried to get him to switch.

Home Improvement

Just as he did at Rice, Tulsa Head Coach Todd Graham asked for, and received, major improvements to the stadium his team plays in. The former Skelly Stadium is now "H.A. Chapman Stadium" and has been renovated to hold 30,000 fans. Additionally, the stadium received new seating, restrooms, concession areas, press box with luxury suites, and a new scoreboard. Field Turf was installed in April of this year. Sound familiar?

Saturday's game is scheduled for a 7:00 pm kickoff, and is Homecoming for Tulsa...

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