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Tuesday, July 05, 2022 — Houston, TX

Rice football prepares for conference opener

By By Evan Neustater     9/17/14 8:26am

After consecutive losses to currently top-10 ranked teams, the Rice University football team (0-2) returns home this weekend to face off against new conference foe Old Dominion University. After facing the University of Notre Dame’s fourth-ranked scoring defense and Texas A&M University’s fourth-ranked scoring offense, the Owls look to earn their first win of the season against a Monarchs team that is playing its first full season in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest division of collegiate football.

Rice has already faced two of the more prolific quarterbacks in the nation in Notre Dame’s Everett Golson and A&M’s Kenny Hill. Rice will continue that streak against ODU’s senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has thrown for over 12,000 yards and 107 touchdowns in his career. Additionally, Heinicke has rushed for over 1,200 yards and 20 touchdowns in his career.

According to Rice Head Coach David Bailiff, the Owls defense is adjusting to playing some of the top quarterbacks in the country.

“You sure hope Golson and Hill prepared us for this game,” Bailiff said. “Heinicke is very good, he’s right up there with them. It’s [Old Dominion’s] first year in the FBS, but you look at their numbers, the total yardage; you look at his touchdowns. I think last year he threw for over 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, that’s pretty good. There’s a reason he’s on the O’Brien Award Watch List. He’s just the next great quarterback we’re going to face.”

Heinicke, who won the 2012 Walter Payton Award, given annually to the Division 1-AA’s top player, will look to put up numbers against an Owls defense that is No. 123 in the nation in scoring defense.

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Alex Lyons, however, said the defensive unit is prepared to face another top opposing quarterback.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge, we’re going to face it head on,” Lyons said. “We’re going to try to go get this Conference USA championship.”

Additionally, Rice will return several key players who missed playing time this season due to injury.

According to Bailiff, senior all-conference wide receiver Jordan Taylor, starting sophomore tight end Connor Cella, junior defensive tackle Ross Winship and junior all-conference defensive lineman Christian Covington are all poised to return in the home opener.

According to sophomore running back Jowan Davis, the return of Taylor will pose an intimidating threat to opposing defenses.

“We’re getting Jordan Taylor back, he’s a tremendous receiver and a big playmaker,” Davis said. “So, now with him back, I feel that the defense is never going to know what we’re going to do. It’s going to be hard to [strategize] against us, because we can do so many different things.”

Despite playing in some of the most impressive college football venues in the country, Davis said he is looking forward to returning to playing in Rice Stadium.

“It’s always fun to play in front of 103,000 people, that’s a dream come true, but there’s nothing like playing at home in your home stadium in front of your home fans,” Davis said. “I just hope that everyone comes out for our home opener. It’s going to be a good one.”

According to Bailiff, it’s critical that Rice students and Houstonians come to the game and support the returning conference champions.

“We need the city of Houston to come out here and watch the Old Dominion game,” Bailiff said. “The players play hard, they’re true student-athletes. Let’s get the city of Houston excited to come watch this home opener.”

The game against Old Dominion will kick off on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 11 a.m. in Rice Stadium.


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