Mike Bloomgren, Rice Preparing for Arkansas

FAYETTEVILLE — Rice’s Mike Bloomgren hopes his Owls can play some bully ball to beat Arkansas on Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Bloomgren talked about how Rice wants to control the ball on offense after Sam Pittman said they try to play bully ball.

“First off, Barry Odom has a lot of different calls in that defense,” Bloomgren said Tuesday. “It seems like a lot like playing our own defense all through camp. They kind of swing in from vines everywhere. I appreciate Sam Pittman saying we play bully ball. It’s something we try to do. Like we live and breathe in literal brutality around here. You talk about controlling the clock, I think we were second in time of possession in the nation last year at 36 minutes a game and that’s something we take very seriously as well. We want to be able to get those first downs. Get those first downs, possess the ball and end up in the end zone. That’s obviously the goal. Something we do talk around here a lot about is controlling the clock, pound the rock and play great defense. It’s a philosophical belief we have. Last year our defense had to take on 15 less plays than the average in the conference. That’s a big deal. It’s also a big deal when we can be efficient and end up in the end zone. That’s something we’ve got to continue to do a better job of this year is by creating the plays that flip the field and then finish in the red zone.”

As far as Arkansas’ offense with Kendal Briles calling plays, Bloomgren knows what to expect.

“Yeah, a lot of tempo. I don’t think Kendal is ever going to change his stripes,” Bloomgren said. “I’ve followed his career as well and remember all the things they were able to do at Baylor when they were kind of cutting edge and nobody had really seen that offense before. I do think it’s an interesting combination with Coach Pittman and how he used to grind the ball and I’d study his film to learn how he blocked some things and how his guys got after people.”

Bloomgren has two quarterbacks he may play. He’s impressed with KJ Jefferson, but also is familiar with backup Malik Hornsby.

“You look at both those quarterbacks,” Bloomgren said. “KJ, obviously, has already been named as the starter, but I think the Malik kid, gosh, he could be a running back. He could play about any position on offense, not just quarterback. So both those guys bring so much to the table. I think KJ’s experience last year, I believe it was in the Mizzou game, is going to pay dividends for him and give him an opportunity to be more comfortable. I know it’s his first home game he’s getting a chance to start, I think that’s going to be really fun for him, too. But we’re going to try to make it not quite so enjoyable. Those guys, I think they can do similar things within their scheme, but obviously Malik and his legs are pretty explosive and is a different concern if he enters the game.”

Bloomgren expects a loud stadium when the Owls take the field against the Hogs. But that is something he and his team are looking forward to.

“More excited to have the opportunity to play in an amazing environment in Arkansas on Saturday,” Bloomgren said. “Play a team from the SEC West, guys with a lot of SEC experience on the roster. Certainly have a lot of respect for Coach Sam Pittman. I’ve followed his career through the years, back when he was a position coach, coaching the offensive line. Now I guess we’re in a unique fraternity of very few people where former offensive line coaches are head coaches now. So again, I look forward to that and seeing him in person.

“But we’re going to worry about what we can control. We’re going up there into a great environment. While we will take it all in, when that ball’s turned over we plan to take advantage of every second of that game clock when we get that opportunity to play this game up in that great environment.”

The kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Saturday in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.