Navy Midshipmen (3-2) vs. Rice Owls (0-5)
Kickoff: 6 p.m. Saturday at Rice Stadium, Houston.
TV/Radio: None; Radio: 980-AM, 1090-AM, 1430-AM.
Last Meeting: Navy beat the Owls, 14-13, last year.
Series: Rice leads, 6-4.
Importance: Navy is halfway toward earning the six victories needed to be eligible to play in a bowl game. Navy has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, including home games against Tulane (2-3) and Temple (0-7) as well as a trip to Philadelphia to play Army (0-6) on Dec. 3. A victory over the Owls would put the Midshipmen in great shape to play in a bowl game for the third consecutive year, which would be the first time that's happened in school history.
Outlook: Rice, an affiliate of Conference USA, was scheduled to play Navy on Sept. 24, but the game was postponed because of the threat of Hurricane Rita.
The Midshipmen have won three straight games, including a 34-31 victory over Kent State on Saturday. Rice is coming off a 41-21 loss to visiting Tulsa on Saturday, which extended the Owls' losing streak to 11 games dating from last season, the longest in Division I-A.
Navy averages 29.4 points and should be effective on offense against Rice, which has allowed opponents an average of 48.2 points and 481.8 yards of total offense per game. The Owls haven't held a team under 40 points this year.
The Midshipmen did not play well against Kent State, even though they amassed 532 yards of total offense. Senior quarterback Lamar Owens rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries to lead an attack that ran for a season-high 336 yards. Owens passed for 169 yards, throwing five of his six completions to junior receiver Jason Tomlinson.
But Navy committed four turnovers and almost squandered a 14-point lead before scoring 10 points in three minutes in the fourth quarter.
"It wasn't a pretty game, and that would be an understatement," Navy Coach Paul Johnson said. "We missed so many opportunities on offense in the first half. But our kids found a way to win."
Rice uses a two-quarterback system featuring redshirt freshman Chase Clement (20 of 47 for 233 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions) and redshirt sophomore Joel Armstrong (18 of 42 for 199 yards, no touchdowns, 3 interceptions).
The Owls rely on a running game in which six players have carried the ball at least 20 times this season, led by redshirt junior running back Quinton Smith (49 carries for 319 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Armstrong (62 carries for 215 yards, 4 touchdowns). Redshirt freshman Jarrett Dillard (16 catches, 231 yards, 1 touchdown) is the only receiver who has caught more than nine passes this season.
"We can't play the way we did against Kent State and expect to win," Owens said. "Every game, we've wanted to go out there, put together four good quarters of Navy football, and it hasn't happened yet. Hopefully, this is the week it happens."
-- Jon Gallo