Lending Tree Bowl today at 5:45 PM: Rice against Southern Mississippi; Owls Game Notes

GAME #13

Who: Rice (5-7, 3-5 C-USA) at Southern Miss (6-6, 4-4 Sun Belt)
When: Saturday 4:45  p.m. CT
Where: Mobile, Alabama
Stadium: Hancock Whitney Stadium (25,450)
Television ESPN  Mike Monaco (play-by-play), Matt Stinchcomb (analyst), Alyssa Lang (Sidelines)
Where to Find the Game:  Watch
Rice RadioJP Heath (play-by-play), Nate Griffin (analyst)
Audio StreamingRiceOwls.comRice Game Day AppVarsity Network
Live Stats: Riceowls.com
Digital Game Program: 2022 LendingTree Bowl
Series Information: Tied 6-6

Rice Bowl History
Full Game Notes

Series Notes
• This is the 13th meeting between the two schools, the first not as members of Conference USA.
• The schools split the 12 games overall, with both teams splitting the six games at each home stadium.
• Rice evened the series by winning the last two meetings and snapped a three-game winning streak for USM at Rice Stadium with a 24-19 win at home in 2021.  
• Rice’s 30-6 in 2020 in Hattiesburg snapped a five-game winning streak in the series for Southern Miss.
• The 12 games in C-USA ranked second for the Owls vs. any team in the conference since their debut in 2005 (Rice played UTEP 16 times). Four of the meetings were when the schools were in opposite divisions of the conference, the last eight in consecutive years as members of the West Division. 
• The teams combined to average 63.2 points during the first 10 games of the series, but only 35.7 in the last three.
• The two teams first met in 2007 in Hattiesburg on a Wednesday thanks to ESPN, as the Owls held on for a 31-29 win for David Bailiff’s first win at Rice. Future NFL draftee and current Bengals TE coach James Casey was called upon to play seven positions for a depleted Rice squad during the game.
Back to Bowling
Rice returns to the postseason for the first time since 2014 and for the 13th time in school history with its appearance in the LendingTree Bowl against Southern Miss. Rice is 7-5 in bowl games (4-3 as a member of the Southwest Conference and 3-2 while playing in Conference USA).  This will be the second earliest appearance for the Owls during bowl season as they fell to Kansas 33-7 in the Bluebonnet Bowl (at Rice Stadium) on December 16, 1961. That game came just two weeks after Rice earned a bowl bid with a 26-14 win over Baylor on December 2 at home, one week less that the turnaround this year (three weeks between games).  This will mark the third time Rice has played a team from Mississippi in a bowl. Rice fell to #3 Ole Miss in the 1961 Sugar Bowl 14-6 and lost to Mississippi State 44-7 in the 2013 Liberty Bowl.  Southern Miss will be the 13th different opponent for Rice in a bowl.
Kicker Tim Horn is the only member of the 2022 Owls with previous playing experience in a bowl.   As a freshman at Washington in 2019, he averaged 63.2 yards on five kickoffs in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl as the Huskies defeated Boise St. 38-7.
Path to Postseason
Rice’s 12 opponents posted a 76-71 combined record this year and seven of the 12 (Houston, Louisiana, North Texas, UAB, USC, UTSA, and WKU) earned bowl berths. Six of the Owls’ 12 games were decided by seven points or less with the Rice splitting those six games with wins vs. UAB (28-24), at LA Tech (42-41) and UTEP (37-30).  The last time Rice had at least six games decided by seven or less was 2013 (5-1).  The Owls also won three games in 2021 by seven or less.
55 for 53
Senior offensive lineman Shea Baker will play in his 55th consecutive game on Saturday and make his 54th career start on the offensive line.  His 55 career games will match the school record set by Gabe Baker from 2010-14, however, Gabe Baker only made 12 career starts and his 55 games were not consecutive.  Shea Baker has made 33 starts at center and 20 at guard in his career, dating back to making his debut with a start at center vs. Prairie View on 8/25/18.  Baker has taken 818 snaps this season and passed 3,600 (3,603) in his career in the regular season finale vs. North Texas.
First Down Generators
Luke McCaffrey leads the Rice receiving corps with 32 of his 51 receptions this season resulting in first downs (62.3%).  Bradley Rozner (29/41; 70.7) and Isaiah Esdale (21/30 53.8) also topped 20 first downs this year.  Kobie Campbell was just behind Rozner in terms of percentage of catches resulting in first downs (12/17, 70.5%). 
Working the Numbers
•  Cameron Montgomery leads the Owls  in rushing with a career-best 498 yards and is averaging 5.8 per carry (86  carries)… The last Owl to have at least 450 yards and average better that 5.8 per carry was Samuel Stewart who averaged 6.3 (76/479) in 2016.  The last Owl to lead the team with 500 or more yards and average better than 5.8 per carry was Charles Ross who averaged 6.1 (211/1,280) in 2013.
 •  Jack Bradley has set career highs with 27 receptions, 235 yards and two touchdowns (13 for 118 and 1 TD in the last four games.   His reception total is the most by an Owls’ TE since Connor Cella caught 31 for 302 yards in 2016.  The last TE with more than 31 receptions in a season was Vance McDonald in 2012 (36-458).
.•  Rice rushed for 279 yards vs. LA Tech, the most since they ran for 304 at UTEP in 2017 and the 11th-best rushing total for the Owls in C-USA competition.
•  The Owls’ win at LA Tech was their first win since at least 2000 while being  -3 in fumbles and the first with three fumbles in a game since the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl.
•  The Owls’ overtime win at LA Tech snapped a four-game losing streak in extra quarters to improve to 7-9 all-time. The last 10 overtime games have been in C-USA action (4-6).