As Rice University students begin to make plans for a day trip to College Station, the Rice football team is taking advantage of their bye week to prepare for an in-state showdown. The game against the Associated Press no. 7-ranked Texas A&M University Aggies is on Saturday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. After the 48-17 loss at Notre Dame, the Owls are returning to the field against another high-profile opponent.
Head Coach David Bailiff said the team is focused on cleaning up turnovers and defensive holes present in the game against Notre Dame.
“Going into the bye week, we’ve addressed [last week’s] problems,” Bailiff said. “When you play an opponent that is ranked [seventh] in the country, anything that you don’t do correctly and precisely, there is a price for it.”
The Rice and A&M football teams have faced each other on 81 occasions since 1914, and A&M holds a series lead of 51-27-3. In last year’s game, the Owls lost 52-31 after entering the second quarter with a 14-7 lead, which was subsequently ended in the second half by the return of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Manziel’s replacement, sophomore Kenny Hill, has already established himself as a leader for the Aggies. In his first college game as the undisputed starter, Hill broke Manziel’s passing records by throwing for 511 yards against then-ranked no. 9 University of South Carolina. Through his first two games, Hill has completed 71 percent of his passes for 794 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.
According to Bailiff, Hill has talents similar to Manziel and poses a great challenge to the Owl’s defense.
“He has that same ability to extend a play,” said Bailiff. “He’s a very talented young man.”
Bailiff said he is excited about the noise level and intensity of playing in Kyle Field, Texas A&M’s recently renovated stadium.
“You get excited when you play in these big venues,” Bailiff said. “You really have to work, just like we did against Notre Dame, on communicating when the crowd is loud.”
The stadium fit 104,728 in their home opener against the Lamar Cardinals, the largest attendance ever recorded in the state of Texas.
Senior offensive lineman Nico Carlson also said he is thrilled to play in the newly-renovated stadium.
“[I am] really looking forward to this A&M game,” Carlson said. “You live to play against those big schools.”
Bailiff said opening against back-to-back ranked teams gives valuable experience to the team.
“They’re a little bigger, they’re a little faster,” Bailiff said. “We’re going to go there and try to win a football game.”
Bailiff said the game against A&M is going to be a difficult challenge, but his players aren’t shying away from it.
“I think we have a talented football team,” Bailiff said. “I think we have a football team that believes in itself.”