Last season Taylor McHargue started in his first game, as a freshman, against Texas. Although the Owls lost 34-17, they put up a strong fight. A lot of that has to do with McHargue.
“Last year it was pretty nerve-racking for my first game,” McHargue said. “But it was just like anything else. After one or two plays you settle and it just becomes a football game.”
McHargue missed twice as many games as he played last season due to a mid-season shoulder injury, but he came back later in the year and led Rice to victory in its last two games.
Although he doesn’t admit it, McHargue is very much a dual-threat quarterback. He started three games last season and threw for 491 yards and six touchdowns.
“I do try to make some plays with my feet every now and then just to keep defenses honest,” McHargue said. “You obviously don’t want to depend on that. I think that’s part of my style is trying to make plays outside the pocket with my feet.”
Rice head coach David Bailiff said having McHargue start helps with the team’s confidence and that they are very optimistic. He also said McHargue does a good job of managing the game.
Although McHargue is the leader of the offense and is expected to have a breakthrough season, the Owl’s offense includes other standout players with great potential. Specifically, he is aided by junior running back Sam McGuffie. Last season, the Michigan transfer had solid receiving yards with 39 catches and 384 yards.
“Sam’s just an explosive guy that defenses really have to account where he’s at at all times because we move him around on the field and he doesn’t just line up in the backfield,” McHargue said. “He’s such an explosive player that he can change a game in the blink of an eye.”
Texas’ defense does not seem to be underestimating the potential that the Rice offense, specifically McHargue, has. Sophomore defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said the defense needs to come out and do their assignments and focus on their techniques this weekend.
“They’re a great team,” Jeffcoat said. “We watched a little of them on film. Very explosive plays, passing, running — they’ve got a great offense.”
Defensive end Alex Okafor said Rice’s zone-read concept on offense requires Texas’ defense to have strong discipline because big runs are a concern.
“We have to stay on them,” Okafor said. “We have our assignments down. We study a lot of film and once we do that we’ll be able to stop them, I believe.”
He also said that filling gaps up front and protecting the middle will be important on Saturday night.
Rice is bringing back a lot of experience to their offense, especially with their offensive line and new offensive coordinator John Reagan.
“We don’t have a new offense this year, it is just something we are building on, and that gives you the opportunity to take advantage of studying defenses instead of worrying about where your guys are going to be,” McHargue said.
Bailiff is confident that McHargue is what Rice needs this season. The Owls finished 4-8 last season, and they are aiming to win their conference and make it to a bowl game, which they haven’t done since 2008.
“He makes great decisions,” Bailiff said. “He takes care of the ball. That is why he is there right now.”
Last season, McHargue was told he would be starting in his first game just a few days before the first game of the season.
This year his confidence is up and he, along with other members of the offense, will be ready for Texas.
“This year, I am a lot more confident in myself and more confident in the offense,” McHargue said. “We are really just excited about what we have. I think that’s the biggest thing. I trust fully every guy that we have on our offense.”