While the rest of the Division I college football world rushed to line up a 12th or 13th opponent because of a fluke in the calendar, wily Ken Hatfield feels he made the right move -- by making no move.
Rice happy withTinoisamoa changed man
just 11 games
TENTH OF 13 PARTS
PREVIEW OF HAWAII OPPONENTS
By Dave Reardon
The Rice coach stayed right at 11 games.
"I just didn't think it was a good time to (add) a nonconference game," Hatfield said. "I think we have a good enough, attractive enough schedule where we don't need to add. We certainly didn't want to add a road game."
The Owls have five games at Rice Stadium (including the season-closer Nov. 16 against Hawaii), and Rice goes to Michigan State early on.
Hatfield will have his hands full trying to match last year's 8-4 (5-3 WAC) record; the wins were the most for a Rice team in 49 years. Although most of the offensive skill position players return, the only starter back along the line is senior left guard Keith Meyer (6-foot-2, 290 pounds).
The veteran head coach welcomes back four starters defensively. They are senior end Brandon Green (6-3, 250), junior tackle Ross Lassley (6-2, 275), junior cornerback Patrick Dendy (6-0, 180) and senior safety Greg Gatlin (6-0, 175). Green was one of the league's best defensive players last year with 94 tackles and 12 sacks.
Among the 25 departing seniors are bandit Dan Dawson, who lived up to the name of his position by pilfering four of Hawaii quarterback Tim Chang's passes in two seasons. Dawson's pick last year helped Rice to a 27-24 victory at Aloha Stadium.
"All those guys graduating created a little hole for us," Hatfield said.
New linemen will have to create holes in the Owls' option attack for quarterback Kyle Herm (5-8, 185), halfbacks Clint Hatfield (5-9, 185) and Vincent Hawkins (5-6, 175), and fullback Robbie Beck (5-10, 220).
"Herm's a tough old hombre," Hatfield said, noting the junior put on 10 pounds of muscle over the summer.
The coach won't be afraid to have Herm put the ball up once in a while, especially with Gavin Boothe (6-1, 185) to throw to. The junior caught 21 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns last fall, huge numbers considering Rice's ground-oriented attack.
The Owls have four key players returning who were injured most or all of last season: noseguard B.J. Forguson (6-3, 290), linebacker Jeff Vanover (5-11, 210), safety and former quarterback Corey Evans (5-11, 175) and another ex-QB, receiver Jeremy Hurd (5-10, 155).
Hatfield is counting on contributions from all four, especially Vanover, whom he calls, "as good a linebacker as I've ever coached."
Senior punter Travis Hale (6-3, 200) is among the WAC's best with his 41.6-yard career average, but junior kicker Brandon Skeen (6-2, 190) needs to improve on his 6-for-16 field-goal performance last year. Freshman Brennan Landry (5-9, 175) kicked a 55-yarder in high school, Hatfield said.
All-time record: 391-490-33
Against Hawaii: 3-0
Now you know: Nine Rice players made the WAC Academic All-Conference team last year. ... One of Rice's traditions is "The Coaches' Table," which has been signed by many college football luminaries including Bear Bryant, John Heisman and Duffy Daugherty.
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