Some may say that if Rice’s senior Kicker Chris Boswell had made the two field-goal attempts he missed, Rice would have won the game. Whatever scenario you create in your head, the Bayou Bucket went to Houston as they retain the Bucket with their 31-26 win over Rice Saturday at Reliant Stadium.
The win was the Cougars third straight in the series which began in 1971 and has been played continuously since 1999. With the two schools now in different conferences, there are no future games currently scheduled between the two. Houston leads the all-time series 29-11, including a 27-10 record when playing for the Bucket.
With an 18-point fourth-quarter lead nearly wiped out, Houston found itself in a closer-than-expected finish Saturday afternoon. The Cougars were fooled by an onside kick, then Rice threatened to steal the game in the final minutes.
“When we needed that stop at the end, it was our defense that got it for us,” UH coach Tony Levine said after Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue’s final pass sailed off target, allowing the Cougars to escape with a 31-26 victory at Reliant Stadium. “The game (lived up) to its billing.”
Freshman John O’Korn threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns in his first collegiate start. O’Korn, who replaced injured starter David Piland, put the Cougars ahead 31-13 early in the fourth quarter on touchdown passes to Daniel Spencer, Deontay Greenberry and Ryan Jackson. The 25-yard pass to Spencer on a post pattern came with 5 seconds before halftime after a missed field goal by the Owls. The 32-yarder to a wide-open Jackson came on fourth-and-3 to begin the fourth quarter.
Greenberry, a sophomore, had another big game, hauling in six catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. In the last two games, Greenberry has 20 catches for 311 yards.
For Rice, Turner Petersen posted his first career 100-yard receiving day, finishing with five catches for 102 yards. McHargue threw for a season-high 232 yards while redshirt freshman Darik Dillard came on in the second half to lead the Owls with 61 yards rushing.
Senior Charles Ross bulled his way to 55 yards in the first half, but did not play in the second after suffering an injury. James Radcliffe led the Owl defense with nine tackles, while junior safety Julius White broke up a career-high four passes.
For the Cougars, the true freshman Tyus Bowser came and and made a big impact from the rush end position sharing time with Trevor Harris . Bowser finished up with 7 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss. He also had an interception and four quarterback hurries.
Ryan Jackson barely missed his fourth consecutive 100 yard rushing game but was extremely effective in the offense finishing with 144 all-purpose yards (87 rushing and 57 receiving) with a touchdown each on the ground and through the air.
The starting trio of Derrick Mathews, Steven Taylor, and Efrem Oliphant combined for 28 tackles including 3.5 tackles-for-loss. They each also had their own unique standout stat in Mathews’ two QB hurries, Taylor’s half sack as well as a pass break-up and Oliphant’s two tackles-for-loss.
Rice opens Conference USA action next Saturday when they host Florida Atlantic at 6:00 at Rice Stadium. The Cougars will travel to San Antonio for Saturday’s game with UTSA in the Alamodome which kicks off at 3:00 PM.