Moving on from a 70-17 loss at Baylor may be easier said than done when the next opponent on the schedule also has the capability of piling on the points.
Western Kentucky (3-1) is averaging 37 points a game and is coming off a season-high 56 in a blowout win over Miami of Ohio. Hilltopper QB Brandon Doughty ranks second in FBS in passing yards with 1,591 and has thrown for at least 400 yards in five of his last six games dating back to last season.
Rice’s pass defense gives up an average of 249 yards a contest, ranking 82nd in FBS.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Rice coach David Bailiff said during his Monday press conference. “They were a top-five offensive football team in the country last year. Their quarterback, Brandon Doughty, is returning for his sixth year. We’re going to have to be ready. We can’t let this Baylor loss be a strike. We have to get over it.”
Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday in Houston. The game will be broadcast on FSN. It’s the first meeting between the two schools. The Hilltoppers joined Conference USA in 2014.
Doughty is now Western Kentucky’s all-time leader in passing yards and completions. Like Baylor’s Seth Russell, he’s being mentioned in NFL circles. However, Baylor and Western Kentucky operate differently on offense in several respects.
“Western Kentucky, really, they’re upbeat and not as fast,” Bailiff said. “They use a lot more two tight end sets and two back sets. They will spread you (out). But, it’s really not similar to what Baylor does offensively, other than they both have great quarterback and great skill positions.”
Bailiff said some of the Owls problems can be solved by hard work in practice this week. In fact, work ethic is what captured Western Kentucky coach Jeff Brohm’s attention when watching the Owls on video.
“They play extremely hard every week,” Brohm said at his Monday news conference. “They are very well coached. Defensively, they are going to challenge things. Their effort is really the main thing they are good at.”
While beating Texas or Baylor would have been exhilarating, Bailiff and the other Rice coaches from day one have said the primary goal is a Conference USA championship. Rice (2-2) already owns a conference victory over North Texas. WKU is the East Division favorite and already have a win over West favorite Louisiana Tech. The only Hilltopper loss was 38-35 at Indiana.
“I feel good about the progress we’ve made,” Brohm said. “Each week is a different week, and you try to improve on the things you screwed up and didn’t do well. I think we’ve done that.”
While the Baylor loss is in the rear view mirror, the Owls hope the experience will end up being beneficial in the long haul.”
“As tough as that game was, we did have some shining moments. Austin Walters, just with his kick returns, you’re able to see what he can do. He’s just a redshirt freshman. Defensively, you saw a great effort out of Alex Lyons, who had 10 tackles. Stuart Mouchantaf made plays up and down the field.”
The question remains how much hangover – if any – will there from giving up 70 points.
“I’m sure we’ll show them some highlight tapes of them doing some nice things,” Bailiff said. “We’ll just pick some plays that we want them to learn from, and we will. We’re going to flush it. We’re not going to spend a lot of time on it.”