First Look: Rice vs. Marshall

After dropping their last two games, Marshall travels west to Houston Saturday looking to rebound against Rice...

An open week came at the perfect time for the banged up and bruised Rice Owls. After hanging on to win in their last two games the Owls limped into an off week needing a much needed rest for healing. They'll have fresh legs as practices resume today in preparation for the dangerous Thundering Herd of Marshall.

They'll need those legs because despite having a 4-6 record, the Herd has plenty of Offensive speed and talent. But not to be ignored, they also have NFL sized Linebackers and a former C-USA Defensive Player-of-the-Year in DE Albert McLellan.

Add to their ample talent the fact that they've lost their last two games, but can still become bowl eligible by winning their remaining two games - and its clear they have a lot to play for come Saturday against Rice. Then again, the Owls would like to make strides of their own towards gaining confidence for possible post-season play, and are even further motivated to avenge a 34-21 road loss to Marshall in 2007.

Here's a quick glance at the Herd's starting lineups...

Position ## Player

WR 1 Darius Passmore, 6-3 188 Sr.

WR 23 Bryan Milligan, 6-1 197 So.

LT 73 Ryan Tillman, 6-5 282 Fr.

LG 71 Chad Schofield, 6-4 316 So.

C 65 Brian Leggett, 6-1 283 Sr.

RG 62 Matt Altobello, 6-1 291 Sr.

RT 75 C.J. Wood, 6-5 288 Fr.

TE 16 Cody Slate, 6-4 220 Jr.

WR 24 Emmanuel Spann, 5-11 189 Sr.

QB 10 Mark Cann, 6-4 238 Fr.

TB 5 Darius Marshall, 5-10 189 Sr.

The Herd has three Offensive skill players that can change games in a hurry. Starting WR Darius Passmore has NFL speed and size and is the leading Receiver for Marshall. He has a 17.5 yard-per-catch average and a season long reception of 88 yards. He's a big time player and will obviously challenge the Owl Secondary. Another player who can make teams play with his pass catching ability is TE Cody Slate, who with Shawn Nelson at USM are probably the league's best Tight Ends (not counting James Casey as a Tight End). Slate has had some injury problems but is right behind Passmore on the stat line for Marshall with 30 catches this season. He also leads the team in touchdown grabs with 7. Finally, the Owls needn't put all their efforts into stopping just Passmore and Slate - if they do, RB Darius Marshall could have a big day rushing the football, just as he did against Central Florida last weekend when he exploded for 142 yards on just 16 carries.

Position ## Player

DE 90 Michael Janac, 6-4 278 So.

DT 91 Johnny Jones, 6-5 288 So.

DT 98 Delvin Johnson, 6-3 296 So.

DE 96 Albert McClellan, 6-2 252 Jr.

LB 8 Brandon Burns, 6-4 205 Jr.

LB 45 Maurice Kitchens, 6-3 246 Sr.

LB 30 Mario Harvey, 6-0 244 Jr.

CB 17 DeQuan Bembry, 5-10 173 Fr.

SS 26 Aaron Johnson, 5-11 185 Sr.

FS 4 C.J. Spillman, 6-0 192 Sr.

CB 13 T.J. Drakeford, 5-11 184 Fr.

Marshall has an active front 7. They get really good Defensive End play from Janac and McClellan, who have 10.5 sacks between them. But McClellan may not even be the best player on the Herd Defense this year - that honor could easily go to Linebacker Mario Harvey. The junior from Georgia has been everywhere for the Herd this year and leads the team in tackles (83), and sacks (4.5). He's also got an interception return of 29 yards to his credit. Cornerback DeQuan Bembry leads the team in passes broken up with 9.

Rice

Getting healthy was the best thing the Owls could do for this game. The team speed of Marshall is a concern for whomever lines up across from them. Rice is no exception and the Owls are focused on defending much better Saturday than they did against Army. They'd also like better execution from the Offense, who sputtered a bit in the second half against Army. Rice would love to beat Marshall to set up a huge showdown with Houston on November 25th at Rice Stadium. Rice, Houston, and Tulsa are all tied now for the C-USA Western Division race at 5-1, by virtue of the Cougars lambasting of Tulsa Saturday night, 70-30, at Robertson Stadium.

The Herd comes first though, and their won't be a soul in the Blue and Gray thinking of anything else but Marshall come Saturday...


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