The Daily Texan spoke to Eric Barber, assistant sports editor at The Rice Thresher.
Daily Texan: What’s going on with the injury to (redshirt freshman quarterback) Wiley Green, and what does that mean for Saturday?
Eric Barber: So Wiley played in four games last year — that (was the) maximum that you could play and redshirt him. He has a little experience from last year, so he won the battle in camp. He had a really bad injury this past weekend, he was down for 10 minutes or more. They said that in terms of neck or back, it was negative. They haven’t said anything about a concussion, but I think it’s sort of safe to assume. So Tom Stewart will be starting, he’s a graduate transfer from Harvard. He played about two and a half quarters of the last game, and he looked good. He threw for around 150 yards, he rushed for a touchdown, he looked mobile. Obviously it was his first reps at the FBS level because Harvard is at the FCS level, but right now he’s the starter. He didn’t really get the first team reps in camp, so this week will be his first week with the first team reps in practice.
DT: Last week against Wake Forest, junior quarterback Jamie Newman threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns. What did Rice do last week that didn’t work for them on defense, and how can they fix that against this Texas offense?
EB: One of the big things is they just don’t get pressure on the quarterback so far this season. Last game especially, but even in the Army game … Rice has zero sacks and only two quarterback hits. That’s just kind of indicative of the pressure that the Owls don’t have on the quarterback in these circumstances. They do a decent job of wrapping people up in the open field, but when you can’t get pressure on the quarterback, that’s detrimental.
DT: This game is at NRG Stadium, what do you think the atmosphere is going to be like? Obviously it’s a professional stadium, (so) is the atmosphere going to be different than a general Rice game?
EB: It’ll be, if I had to guess, probably more of a Texas crowd, just because UT has so many more students and alumni than Rice. Rice has done a good job promoting it to students, student tickets are cheaper than what the seats would actually retail for. … They’re trying to get a lot of students to come, but at Rice, the undergraduate population is only 4,000 students. Houston’s only a two hour-thirty minute, three hour drive (from Austin), so I assume there’s going to be a lot of students coming down, but also there’s a lot of alumni in Houston. As it relates from a crowd perspective, even though it’s designated as a Rice home game, I could definitely see it turning into a Texas crowd.
DT: What does Rice need to do in order to make this a game, especially in the first half — what does Rice need to do to hang with Texas?
EB: That’s a tough question obviously, given that Texas is a top-25 team. I’d say the No. 1 thing is just contain on defense. Defense, I’d say, is stronger than offense. If they can keep Texas from building too much of a lead into the half, then they can keep it a game. In the fourth quarter, if the game is close, and Rice as the underdog, you never know what can happen.