The best thing that could be said about Rice’s 36-17 loss to FIU (5-2) Saturday night was that at least it wasn’t the same as last week’s lose to UAB.
Actually that's not entirely true, redshirt freshman Evan Marshman proved to be a reliable quarterback in his first official start. It's not much, but it’s something to build off of considering how demoralizing Rice’s loss to UAB could have been.
To elaborate, the Owls (1-7) hit rock bottom last week in their 42-0 shutout loss to the Blazers and literally had nowhere to go but up.
Saturday in Florida, the team took about an inch-step forward with an encouraging first-half performance that saw the Owls strike first on a bruising 12-play, 7:30-minute drive that embodied the “intellectual brutality” head coach Mike Bloomgren hopes to eventually implement on a permanent basis. It was a glimmer of hope for maybe pulling an upset, but it was quickly answered with 16-straight points from the Panthers who didn’t surrender the lead the rest of the night.
While FIU eventually took the lead and headed into halftime with a 16-10 edge, the Owls always seemed within one play of retaking the lead. Quarterback Evan Marshman, in place of Shawn Stankavage who will miss the rest of the season, provided a respectable night on the ground 76 yards and two scores rushing and balanced it out with an efficient (Although perhaps unadventurous) game through the air going 11-of-15 for 107 yards and one interception.
Last week, Rice was a team that looked like it didn’t belong on the same field as UAB. This week, Rice looked like a team that just doesn’t have the depth, yet, to sustain a full 60 minutes of quality football yet against good teams. And that’s okay, that’s actually expected, it's still year one.
All hopes of a Rice comeback flew out the window at the end of the third quarter when Marshman left the game after cutting the Panther-lead to 10. He went into the medical tent and didn’t return. The redshirt freshman was replaced by Wiley Green who preceded to throw two interceptions in the fourth quarter, one that set up an FIU score.
The scoreboard won’t hint at it and no one likes the moral victory play, but with North Texas coming up next week, the Owls have things to build off of from Saturday night’s loss.
If Marshman is healthy and can come back in time, he showed to be a good foil on the ground to Austin Walter who was held in check (16 carries for 41 yards). Stankavage being out for the year could’ve spelt disaster for the Owls' already poor season, but if Marshman is able to pilot the offense as effectively as he did against FIU, Bloomgren will likely open the offense for the redshirt freshman and give him a chance to show he can do.