Film breakdown: Rice will bring a familiar look to Heinz Field

Josh Hammack, contributor

Pitt returns home this Saturday to face the Rice Owls who also enter the game at 1-3. In 2 of the 3 games that Rice lost, the Owls gave up 100 points while only scoring 10. Last week the Owls faced another Panther team and suffered a 13-7 loss at home.

Rice could also enter Saturday’s game with a back-up quarterback as Jackson Tyner took over for starter Sam Glaesmann, who suffered a shoulder injury to his non-throwing arm that sidelined him on Saturday vs. FIU. Tyner, in his lone start, was 15-of-26 for 131 yards and 1 interception while rushing for 16 yards and a touchdown.

What to expect from the Rice offense

Get used to seeing the shifts and motions you’ve seen from Pitt’s offense the last two years, as the Rice offense will use a very similar scheme. For example, below you can see a clip vs. Houston where the Rice offense uses a shift and then motions a wide receiver for a jet read with the shovel to the H-back.

Here’s another example of Rice using the shovel/jet read action. This time Rice uses motion similar to that of Quadree Henderson’s at Pitt, where he fakes jet one way and then runs jet the opposite way. On this play, the tight end is the shovel guy but Rice hands off the jet sweep.

There are more examples from Rice that will make you think Matt Canada is on the sidelines for the Owls. Here’s a second example with Rice shifting both the TE/H-Back and using jet motion for jet sweep.

And the similarities keep coming from Rice with the split zone play-action concept. Here you can see the Owls shift and then bring the H-back across like he’s going to block the split zone. Number 7 leaks out in the flat, but Houston stayed at home forcing a tough throw for the QB.

One wrinkle that Rice threw in against Houston was a speed option concept away from the jet sweep. The defensive end does a nice job reacting and forcing the pitch, but Houston’s safety started at 12 yards, guaranteeing the Owls a solid gain.

The Defensive Struggles

The struggle is real for the Rice defense, but the opponents have not helped matters. While Rice struggled early with Stanford's run game, they then faced Houston’s high-powered offense and Kyle Allen threw for 309 yards on 31-of-33 attempts passing.

Rice employs a 3-4 defense that will bring pressure while also adding the outside linebackers into the run game vs. teams that use multiple tight end sets. Here’s an example below of Rice’s defense adjusting to a double tight end set.


Expect a very similar look vs. Pitt when they line up in a 2 TE personnel grouping (or with George Aston as the FB), bringing seven guys into the box. Below is the same look, with Stanford running inside zone for a score.

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