Aug. 31, 2012
On a night that saw a number of odd plays and unpredictable outcomes around the country, Rice and UCLA staged their own worthy contribution. The two teams fashioned a wild first half filled long scoring plays that generated 59 points and an NCAA record for blocked extra points, but the Bruins defense tossed a second-half shutout and emerged with a 49-24 win at Rice Stadium on Thursday Night.
UCLA's Jonathan Franklin rushed for 214 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns, while redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 202 and ran for 68 to hand Bruins' coach Jim Mora a win in his collegiate debut. The pair sparked an early Bruin explosion that saw them take a 19-0 lead on just five offensive plays.
"(It's) A really disappointing loss, because we went on the field tonight expecting to win the game," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "Our team put a lot into winning this game. We have to eliminate the big plays defensively. Three of their rushes were almost all of their rushing yards. Offensively we can't have turnovers. "We got in the hole 19 to nothing and chipped it back to 19-17. I saw a lot of spirit in them, a lot of fight in them. We need to take the good from this video and get better, because we're a good football team."
Rice linebacker Cameron Nwosu was the cause for the odd tally on the scoreboard. The junior from Houston blocked each of the Bruins' first two extra points and added a third in late in the second quarter to break the NCAA single-game record of two, which had been done five times.
"Coach is always preaching that it's always about the next play," Nwosu said. "You have to have a short memory, and just like a quarterback on offense, after an interception you've got to respond. It's all about how you respond. . I give all the credit to the line. They got a great push and I just got my hand up, and did what the coach told me to do. It was a team effort."
Junior quarterback Taylor McHargue rallied the crowd of 23,105 from their slumber by cutting the margin to 19-7 with an eight-yard touchdown pass to Luke Willson. McHargue finished the night with a career-best 95 yards on the ground and threw for 172 more with a pair of scores.
"I was extremely proud of Taylor McHargue," Bailiff noted. "The way Taylor played. He stayed consistent when things went good, he stayed consistent when things went bad. Taylor has grown as a quarterback. It was good to see him operate that offense. In the first half we moved it very effectively. We need to continue to get everyone on the same page on offense, and we have to get everyone on the same page defensively."
The Owls defense, having been stung on the previous three possessions, forced a three-and-out to hand the ball right back to their offense. McHargue hit Jordan Taylor with a 28-yard pass to move into UCLA territory, but when the drive stalled, the Owls turned to their Groza Award candidate Chris Boswell who cut the margin to 19-10 with a 53-yard field goal.
The three-pointer was Boswell's sixth career kick of 50 yards or better, breaking the school record he had shared with James Hamrick, and was only one yard shy of this career long kick in 2011 vs. Tulane. The Owls would continue to storm back, cutting the margin to 19-17 early in the second quarter on a short plunge by McHargue. UCLA answered with a field goal to extend the margin to 22-17, but the Owls appeared ready to answer with a field goal of their own, but Boswell was wide left from 43 yards. UCLA then dipped back into the explosive playbook, as Franklin scored on a 78-yard run to push the lead back to 29-17, but McHargue answered right back, driving the Owls 75 yards to a two-yard touchdown toss to Sam McGuffie to draw them to 29-24.
A Nwosu interception seemed to close the door on the first half with the Owls down just five, but UCLA's Damien Holmes scooped up a late fumble for a 44-yard score and give UCLA a 35-24 cushion at the break.
The second half could not maintain the manic pace of the first, as the two teams combined for just over 100 yards and no points. UCLA iced the game with a pair of fourth-quarter scores to send them home to face Nebraska in the Rose Bowl next Saturday.
The Owls will hit the road for the first time in 2012 when they make their first ever appearance in Lawrence, Kansas to take on the Kansas Jayhawks a week from Saturday. Kickoff is set for 2:30 with national coverage provided by FSN.
"We can play with anybody." McHargue said. "That's a Pac 12 team and pretty solid front, and a solid secondary as well. So those successful drives... if we can find that consistency, which I think we will, we can be pretty good. Like Coach Bailiff said, we showed flashes of it, but we need to find the consistency."