Sept. 5, 2009
Final Stats |
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Joe Webb set a Conference USA record with 191 yards rushing and threw for 221 more to lead UAB to a 44-24 win over Rice in the season opener for both teams at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday.
Rice (0-1) entered the game looking to build on the momentum of a 10-win season in 2008, but the 2009 Owls offense misfired early and could not overcome the record-setting effort by Webb.
After stopping the Blazers' initial offensive effort on three downs, true freshman Vance McDonald partially blocked Trey Ragland's punt setting the Owls up at the UAB 43.
Fifth-year senior John Thomas Shepherd, making his first start since the UCLA game in September of 2006, hit on a pair of passes for 19 yards and Tyler Smith, making his first career start, added 18 yards on the ground to move the ball inside the 10. However the drive stalled and Clark Fangmeier's 26-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
Webb then moved the Blazers 80 yards in seven plays to take the lead and put the Owls behind in a game for the first time in over 240 minutes of football. Rice had not trailed in a game since the first quarter of the 2008 UTEP game.
Owls' freshman Shane Turner provided a quick response to the Blazer's score, returning the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to set up the offense for the second straight series on the UAB side of the 50. Turner's first career return was the longest for Rice since Andray Downs returned one 53 yards in 2004 against San Jose State. Downs went on to set the Rice single-game record for kickoff returns with 189 that day, but the record now belongs to Turner, who finished the day with an even 200 yards on six returns.
Shepherd moved the Owls to the UAB two-yard line, where the drive again stalled. This time, the Owls chose to go for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal, but Shepherd's pass was intercepted at the goal line by Chase Daniel and returned to the UAB 45. The Owls took the ball back two plays later, as Justin Hill
stripped the ball from Webb and John Gioffre
recovered at the UAB 47.
Nick Fanuzzi took over for the Owls on the following series, but could not generate a first down. After a Kyle Martens' 51-yard punt placed the Blazers' at their own 20, it took Webb just two plays to double UAB's point total. On second and one from the 29, he darted and dashed his way to a 71-yard touchdown, the longest against the Owls since Tyson Thompson of San Jose State sprinted 74 yards for a score in 2004.
Webb added a pair of TD passes in the second quarter, bracketing a 29-yard field goal by Clark Fangmeier to take a 27-3 halftime advantage.
Fanuzzi ran for a touchdown and threw for another as the Owls found the end zone three times in the second half. He connected with redshirt freshman Luke Willson on a 52-yard scoring play for his first career touchdown pass, as well as Willson's first career reception. The scoring pass extended the Owls' streak of consecutive games with a TD pass to 22, since the Baylor game in 2007.
Shepherd finished with a team-high 48 yards rushing and completed 10 of 22 passes for 81 yards, while Fanuzzi hit 12 of 20 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. Senior wideout Toren Dixon caught a career-high nine passes, extending his consecutive games reception streak to 27 games.
The Owls will be back on the road this Saturday for the second of their three consecutive games on the road to open the season as they travel to Lubbock, Texas for the first time since 1995 to face the Texas Tech Red Raiders. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.