Navy's scheduled game against Rice in Houston on Saturday night could be postponed, depending on the path of Rita, the hurricane that is expected to cross the Gulf of Mexico and arrive somewhere on the north or west side of the Gulf during the weekend.
Rice athletic director Bobby May said yesterday that "hopefully, we'll be able to play," but he has conducted discussions with Navy counterpart Chet Gladchuk about the possibility of calling off the game.
"It's heading this way," May said of the storm. "It's a question of whether it wavers or waits. All computer models suggest it'll impact Houston, maybe not in the worst way, but with a lot of rain."
No decision has been made, and officials were giving it a bit more time so "we'll have a little better intelligence," he said.
Both teams have an open date on Oct. 22 if the game has to be rescheduled.
"That happens to be the obvious opportunity if the need arises," May said.
Plenty of time
Because of an open date last week, Navy received two weeks to prepare for a team that is almost its mirror image.
When the Midshipmen visit Rice - an opponent they have met for four consecutive seasons - they will be stepping into very familiar territory.
No more getting ready for the multiple offensive looks presented by Maryland and Stanford, the members of major Bowl Championship Series conferences who each squeaked by Navy with three-point victories. They were foes unseen for 40 years apiece.
So, there shouldn't be any surprises for a Navy defense that is allowing an average of 32 points a game.
"Our tackling has been less than stellar and the last game we gave up some big plays," said coach Paul Johnson. "And we've got to get some pressure on the quarterback."
Rice, a spread option team like Navy, has diversified its attack somewhat, employing more shotgun and I-formations, but, basically, will stick to its primary approach.
"They're a run-oriented-type team, so the game plan is going to be similar to what we play against all the time in the spring and preseason," said Kevin Kelly, who coaches Navy's inside linebackers and special teams.
"But there are some recognition issues with the new options, so we have to make sure we're squared away against those. There are some differences in simulating them."
Taking on Rice is almost like another game against Air Force, where Owls head coach Ken Hatfield ran the program from 1979 through 1983.
"They're just very comparable to us," said Johnson, whose team defeated Rice, 14-13, thanks to a missed extra point last season. "They're going to run the ball, and the game should be over pretty quick."
The game in Houston will end the current contract between the two schools. ... Navy guard Zach Gallion has been practicing on a limited basis and is expected to play. He has been nursing a sprained ankle suffered in the Stanford game. ... Rice is on an eight-game losing streak stretching back to last season, including routs on the road (63-21 at No. 25 UCLA) and (51-10 at No. 2 Texas) this fall. "That's as good a Texas team as there has been in about 40 years," Hatfield said. ... The game will be the Owls' home opener and their only appearance in Houston among their first five games. Two years ago, Navy routed Rice, 38-6, in its last visit to Rice Stadium.
Saturday, 8 p.m., 1090 AM, 1430 AM Line: Navy by 6 Records: Navy (0-2); Rice (0-2)