LAWRENCE, Kan.- Chris Boswell drilled a 45-yard field goal as time expired to cap furious Rice rally and give the Owls their first victory over a Big XII school in history, downing Kansas 25-24 in Lawrence on Saturday.
"To go on the road against a Big 12 opponent and to come out of here with a win we are just ecstatic as a program," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "We, too, are trying to build a program that wins consistently. That's something we have talked about - it's an achievement to win a big one on the road, now we have done that."
For the second consecutive year, the Rice Owls used all 60 minutes and last play drama in the kicking game to snap an extended streak and pick up their first win of the season. Last year, they needed a block of a Purdue field goal as time expired to break a 22-game losing streak to schools from BCS conferences.
This year, a crowd of 44,683 sat in stunned silence as Boswell's winner sailed through goal post in the south end zone, breaking a streak of 20 consecutive losses against Big XII schools dating back to the birth of the league in 1996. It was also the Owls' first road win against a BCS conference school since they won at Northwestern in 1997.
Less than two quarters earlier, the home crowd was settling comfortably in their seats after the Jayhawks opened the second half with a nine play, 75-yard drive to push the lead to 24-13. However, the home team would not add another point, seeing a pair of second-half field goals miss the target, while the Owls and their kicker began to mount their comeback.
"I was so proud of this team we had three turnovers in that first quarter that they hung together," Bailiff noted "When the offense needed the defense, it was there. When the defense needed the offense, it was there. I was proud of how we hung together, we persevered and we played together for four quarters. I didn't see anybody with their head down after a turnover, it just strengthened their resolve to get this done today."
Boswell's game-winner not only decided the outcome, it allowed the junior from Keller to tie a pair of school records. It was his 33rd career field goal, matching James Hamrick's school record total set from 1983-85. It was also his fourth of the game to tie the single-game record he already shares with Joel Baxter (10/10/81 vs. TCU) and Matt Heulsman (10/29/94 vs. TCU).
It also capped a furious last seven minutes that saw Rice score nine points on offense, and come up with a key stand as well as the second interception of the game by sophomore Bryce Callahan.
Down 24-16, Rice found itself pinned back at its own seven after penalty on a punt return. But junior quarterback Taylor McHargue, who tied his career-high with 23 completions, hit on all four throws for 81 yards to lead the Owls quickly down the field. He hit Vance McDonald for a 38-yard gain and connected with Jordan Taylor three times for 43 yards, including a leaping 29-yard grab to the Jayhawk two yard line to set up Charles Ross' short plunge to close the gap to 24-22.
Taylor topped 100 yards receiving for the first time in his career, finishing with a career-best nine catches for 101 yards. Ross put together his most productive game since his freshman year, rushing for 94 yards on 14 carries.
Having closed the gap to two points, the Owls turned to their defense to get the ball back and give Boswell a shot for the win.
Sophomore safety Julius White, making his first career start, teamed with Christian Covington to drop Taylor Cox for a two-yard loss on second down and one play later, Callahan picked off his second pass of the day to present the Rice offense with the opportunity they sought with just 3:47 left on the clock.
" The defense got another huge stop, and I came up to (Chris Boswell) and he just said, `Get it to the 45,'" McHargue said. "He was like, `Get me to the 45. With this wind, I've got it.' With the confidence we have in our defense and our kicker, as an offense, there was never a doubt that we could come back. We just had to capitalize on those opportunities."
Knowing they only needed to travel a short distance to place Boswell within striking distance, the Owls were staring down a 4th and four at the KU 47 before McHargue and McDonald combined on a crucial seven-yard connection. A 12-yard scamper by McHargue three plays later place the ball well within Boswell's range .
"To know we have a kicker like Chris Boswell, we knew we just needed to get to that 40 yard line." Bailiff said. "We thought if we could get to the 40 without the wind we would be good. We knew if we could get to the 40 with the wind, he is pretty automatic from that range. So we felt good when we got the ball to the 40. We were trying to just get extra yards and burn clock."
After the Jayhawks attempted to ice Boswell by calling their last two time outs, the Groza Award candidate set of a celebration on the Owls sideline and in the far corner of the end zone where Owls fans were seated with a solid kick between the uprights.
"I had an idea that they were going to ice me, but I still would've kicked it regardless." Boswell stated. "Klein (Kubiak) does a great job every time putting the ball down for me to kick it and our line is just phenomenal, so I was kicking it the same every time."
It was the Owls first win as time expired since their thriller vs. Purdue at Rice Stadium last year and was the first walk off win via field goal since Clark Fangmeier beat SMU with a three-pointer on the road in 2007 as time expired.
It was also the Owls first road win since the won at North Texas in 2010 on the strength of Boswell's first career four-field goal game. Rice will be back on the road next Saturday when they travel to Ruston, Louisiana to face Louisiana Tech at 6 p.m. The game will be available on EPSN 3.