Football preview: FAU could steal road win in first-ever meeting with Rice

Wesley Wright

  • Running back Tony Moore and the Owls' ground game should help the offensive output against Rice University in this Saturday's matchup. Photo by Michelle Friswell.
    Running back Tony Moore and the Owls’ ground game should help the offensive output against Rice University in this Saturday’s matchup. Photo by Michelle Friswell.

    Who: Florida Atlantic University at Rice University

  • When: Saturday Sept. 28 at 7 PM ET
  • Where: Rice Football Stadium, Houston, Tx.
  • TV: Fox College Sports (FCS)
  • Radio: ESPN 106.3
  • Prediction: FAU 28, Rice 24

Coming off of an overtime loss in last Saturday’s home opener versus Middle Tennessee State, FAU (1-3) travels to Texas to take on Rice University (1-2).

This will be the first-ever meeting between FAU and Rice, who both share the Owls moniker. And if things break the right way, the visiting team could have more to hoot about.

 FAU sophomore quarterback Jaquez Johnson may have finally found himself within the offense, scoring five touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and nearly leading FAU to a comeback win over MTSU.

 The passing offense looked as fluid as it has all year, as Johnson at times severely exploited MTSU’s defense. Johnson found wide receivers William Dukes, Lucky Whitehead and Daniel McKinney for a touchdown each, and had his efforts complemented by 182 yards on the ground.

 Most of these yards came by way of senior running back Jonathan Wallace, who has proven to be a vital cog of the offense. Wallace leads the team with 228 rushing yards on 53 carries.

The inclusion of junior back Tony Moore — who collected 36 yards on four carries last week — should only help FAU’s ground game. Moore figures to receive more touches as the coaches want to get him going.

 It’s fair to expect more offensive success for FAU against Rice, a school not exactly known for a vaunted defense. Their unit currently ranks 95th in the nation, surrendering 32.3 points per game.

Rice’s defensive line, however, is anchored by sophomore defensive tackle Christian Covington, an NFL-caliber talent who’s racked up 13 tackles and two sacks this season. To open up running lanes and give Johnson time to survey the field, FAU’s offensive line must contain Covington and win at the point of attack.

 On the other side of the ball, FAU’s defense needs a better outing than last week, when they gave up 42 points and 446 total yards to the Blue Raiders.

Owls Head Coach Carl Pelini called Rice “a physical, good team” and mentioned that they’re different from MTSU in that they are primarily a run-first offense.

“It’s a very unique challenge for our defense,” Pelini said in his press conference. “They’re different than probably anything we’ve faced since we’ve been here. They have a physical running game out of the spread.”

Rice averaged 200 rushing yards per game  last year, good enough for top 30 in the nation.

 The FAU secondary must contain Rice’s leading rusher, running back Charles Ross, and dual-threat Rice senior quarterback Taylor McHargue.

McHargue isn’t valued for his passing talent, as he’s thrown for just 580 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions through his first three games. He’s run for 89 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. Ross has totaled 319 on 55 carries (5.8 yards per rush) and scored four touchdowns.

The FAU front seven will have a clear advantage if their offense can get on the board early, forcing Rice out of their comfort zone to a more pass-oriented attack.

This would let FAU defenders pin its ears back and rush the quarterback, which will show the glaring deficiencies in a shoddy Rice offensive line that gave up around two and a half sacks per game last season.

Scoring 35 points should be more than enough to bring FAU a victory. Rice has scored 30 or more points just once in its first three games, a 52-31 loss to No. 7 Texas A&M.

Avoiding turnovers is absolutely paramount, especially on the road, but FAU, at its best, is more than capable of departing the Lone Star state with win number two.

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