By the numbers: Rice easy on paper, victory not guaranteed
After grinding out a down-to-the-wire win against a tricky season-opening opponent in Tucson, Arizona Saturday, the football team returns to TDECU Stadium this weekend to take on its crosstown rival, Rice.
The Bayou Bucket returns following a three-year hiatus that last saw the Cougars steal a 31-26 win victory Sept. 21, 2013. Overall, Houston owns a 29-11 series lead against the Rice, located just four miles away.
Although Rice had a 3-9 record last season and kicked off 2017 with a blowout loss to Stanford, the Owls elevated their level of play in a road win against UTEP last week.
Here is a look at some of the pivotal names on the Owls’ depth chart the Cougars should take note of in order to avoid being upset Saturday.
Inexperience at QB
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann will play his third career game Saturday with sights set on a win against the Cougars.
Glaesmann replaced former starter Tyler Stehling who placed among the nation’s top-40 QBs in completion percentage, interceptions per attempt and rushing yards per carry in 2016.
The freshman had an abysmal collegiate debut against a formidable Stanford defense when he completed 7-of-18 passes for just 70 yards with an interception and two fumbles. Glaesmann bounced back last week against UTEP by scoring his first passing and rushing TDs of the season with no interceptions, albeit against a far inferior opponent.
All in all, he ranks outside top-100 in almost all passing statistical categories. Glaesmann demonstrates an above average willingness to run by placing in the top-40 in attempts and scores per attempt so far this season.
Versatility in the backfield
Junior running back Samuel Stewart highlights the backfield having accumulated 160 yards over 31 rushes this season. While failing to find the end zone in the new year, Stewart finds value as an effective pass catcher who has already reeled in 19 passes for 160 yards.
Stewart was among the top running backs in receiving TDs in 2016.
Not lost among rushers is sophomore Nashon Elerbee and junior Austin Walter, who have combined for 140 yards on 18 carries and a score each this season.
Overall, the Owls used nine different ball carriers to secure the victory in El Paso on Saturday.
Fresh receiving corps
Rice entered the season after losing four of last year’s top pass catchers, who accounted for half of the Owls’ total output through the air.
The sole notable wide receiver returning from 2016 is sophomore Kylen Granson, who caught 33 passes for 381 yards and two scores in his freshman campaign, but has struggled so far in 2017.
Luckily, two of the Owls’ freshmen receivers are showing playmaking ability in Jordan Myers and Aaron Cephus.
Myers, after not seeing any action in the season-opener against Stanford, was involved in eight scrimmage plays versus UTEP, producing 74 yards and a rushing score. The first-year receiver established great rapport with Glaesmann by being the recipient of multiple shovel passes.
Cephus is proving to be the lone deep threat in the unit in the early part of the season. The Houston-native grabbed a 50-yard score in the team’s win last weekend.
Containing these playmakers and limiting Rice’s time of possession can help the Cougars improve to 2-0 on Saturday.
A win will push their all-time series lead against their crosstown rival to 30-11.