Air Force option offense poses challenge for Owls

Post-practice comments by Rice Coach David Bailiff on December 26 (windows media audio file) - D26BAILIFF

Post-practice comments by Rice defensive back Phillip Gaines on December 26 (windows media audio file) - D26GAINES

By Cary Estes, www.armedforcesbowl.com

The Rice Owls are not worried about the dusting of snow that greeted them when they arrived in Fort Worth on Tuesday to begin preparations for the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. That figures to be long gone by the time kickoff rolls around at 10:45 a.m. CST on Saturday.

The bigger concern for the Owls when it comes to what’s on the ground is the Air Force option offense, which has rolled up an average of 328.8 yards rushing per game this season, the second highest total in the nation. That definitely could be a problem for Rice, which has allowed an average of 193.2 yards per game this season, ranking 94th nationally.

“It is challenging because of what they do offensively,” Rice head coach David Bailiff said. “It's tough. It takes such great discipline to get somebody on the quarterback and on the pitch. You can't get distracted. And if you don't use all the clues that are available, all of a sudden they launch one over your head on a play-action post (pass).

“So it makes you stay focused every snap. At the same time, you can't just blitz it, because if you do, usually they hit their head on a goal post going the other way. So it's one where we'll have to work on some different techniques in what we are doing in our defensive line and change our reads with our linebackers and safeties. It presents a challenge.”