The Rice Report: Bailiff talks

Want to know the Rice story-lines heading into this weekend's game? Come inside to see what head coach David Bailiff is talking about.

Looking back at Baylor and the first month of the season: It has been a tough stretch – all four of these games – to get out to a 1-3 start. The good news is we are starting conference play. I am really excited about starting conference. I think we have learned a lot in our first four games. And I think we continue to get better even though we're not winning sometimes. Defensively, after reviewing the film, there were five times Baylor was in the red zone. We gave up one touchdown, three field goals and they missed a field goal … that is improvement. I am excited about it.

That game we had some missed tackles we had not had in our first three (games). We have to get back to fundamentals on that side of the ball. We also gave up two big pass plays. We are going to continue to work and improve. I think our guys are playing structurally sound and with a lot of passion. I think the young men on the defensive side feel we are getting better.

Offensively, you walk off the field really frustrated because we scored 13 points and we had other opportunities. We are still kicking field goals in the red zone when we need touchdowns. That would change the outcome of some of these games if we could get that. Nick Fanuzzi completed 71 percent of his passes. The sack he took in the red zone, that was one where he thought he was going to be protected by an offensive lineman. It's not always what you think walking off the field. I still have a lot of confidence in Nick and what we are doing offensively. Sam McGuffie continues to improve each week. He had almost 100 total yards in rushing and receiving. And this week, I think we should get Vance McDonald back, Keshawn Carrington, Taylor McHargue, Pierre Beasley. So we are getting some guys healthy and it's at the right time.

Special teams … we have really performed well at. (On the punt snap which hit a personal protector) The punt was crazy. We just got to make sure the ball gets by our wall and doesn't get in there too soon. Six minutes in the ball game and down by two scores, we are kicking an onside kick that we had an opportunity to get. Had both hands on it. We got to make those plays and not let those opportunities pass us by.

About SMU: SMU is a good football team. It is amazing how balanced they are right now. The linebacker they have moved to running back is really getting a lot of yards and performing well (Zach Line). (Quarterback Kyle) Padron is performing well. They have two explosive receivers, one from here out of Hightower High School. Defensively, they are very solid basing out of a 3-4. And I think their kicking game is solid too. I think it will be a great Conference USA game. You have the Mayor's Cup involved with it. We need to play well and try to get that (trophy) back in our dressing room.

Expanding on the game being the conference opener and learning from the nonconference games: It's all about getting better for conference. Coming out of these first four games 1-3 … you would love to have been 2-2 but we are 1-3. Going into conference, we need to play our best and I think that is what we will get.

SMU's change in philosophy and running the football more: That young man rushed for over 100 yards against TCU – Line. He is doing very well. He is breaking a lot of tackles. He is confident. You just can't play the pass. You are going to have to get your numbers right. (SMU Head Coach) June (Jones) does a good job of seeing where you have your numbers and where you don't. They are an improving football team.

Concerning the big plays which kept them in the ball game against TCU: They are going to take their shots. They are going to throw the home run ball five or six times a game. (Jones) has done that in all of his games so far this season.

When asked about TCU's hits on SMU quarterback Kyle Padron and if the SMU offensive line was suspect: A lot of that was Padron hanging on to the football. I thought SMU's offensive line did a nice job protecting him. He held on to the ball a little too long and some of those hits were self-inflicted. I think every week he is getting better and trying to get rid of that ball a little faster.

What we have to do is worry about Rice. We have to execute what we do offensively, defensively and on special teams. That's really what we take out of these first four games. It really wasn't what Texas did. It really wasn't what Northwestern did. It really wasn't what Baylor did. It was what we didn't do. We had opportunities. We can't have those same type of opportunities present themselves against SMU and not take advantage of them. We have to get touchdowns when we are in the red zone. We have to tackle better. We have to eliminate the big play. Baylor had two turnovers too. We just didn't take advantage of them. Baylor got the ball once on the 19-yard line and we held them to a field goal. That big time defense. We have to build on what we are doing good and eliminate the silly mistakes that we are making.

What did you see on film that shows improvement: Where I am most excited is where you go back to '07 and we played Baylor. They are a lot more athletic now. That was an embarrassing loss for us in '07. This was not an embarrassing loss. This was a game where with six minutes left onside kicking to try to make it a one-touchdown game. We have been in these games. You see a lot of improvement from '07 until now.

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