Sept. 15, 2013
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Rice rode the rugged running of Charles Ross and the accurate right leg of Chris Boswell to stage a fourth quarter rally and down Kansas 23-14 in the Owls home opener at Rice Stadium on Saturday night.
Ross rushed for a career-high 157 yards and iced the game with an 8-yard run late in the fourth quarter while Boswell booted three field goals, the last from 56 yards with 8:05 left in the game to put the Owls on top to stay.
"Early in the half when we were struggling offensively, the defense really stepped it up and kept us in the football game," head coach David Bailiff said. "It is typical 'United we stand, and divided we fall.' We hung in there together offensively and defensively. The defense was making plays, and then I thought the special teams sparked us. Boswell hits a 56-yard field goal. Derek Brown blocks a punt. And then big Charles Ross came out in the third quarter and lowered his shoulder. I'm just proud of this football team. I coach the greatest young men in America, and I think you saw young men with great character that hung in there."
Much as they had when they rallied to defeat the Jayhawks 25-24 in Lawrence last year, the Owls had to rely on a four-quarter rally to gain the final advantage. In their two wins over Kansas, Rice has outscored the Jayhawks 19-0 in the final quarter, with Boswell and Ross being responsible for all of those points.
Rice showed evidence of rust after waiting two weeks to play its second game. The Owls started smartly, gaining 37 yards on their first six plays, their initial drive bogged down thanks to a pair of penalties and it was left to the Owls defense to put the first points on the home scoreboard in 2013.
Senior linebacker Michael Kutzler, making his second career start, deflected a Jake Heaps pass to himself and then sprinted 52-yards up the east sideline to give the Owls a 7-0 lead.
"It was a great defensive play all around," Kutzler said. "I know the defensive line got a great push on it. The throw came a little weird, like it might have had a tip on it. I then tipped it to myself and caught it the second time. I just wanted to make sure that I didn't get caught by a lineman on the way down there (to the end zone)."
It was Kutzler's second career defensive touchdown, matching his 17-yard fumble return at Southern Miss in 2011.
It was a strong start for the Rice defenders who had closed the 2012 season by holding three of their last five opponents to less than 20 points. They limited the Jayhawks to 270 yards of total offense, with 106 of them coming on two plays that created all of KU's points.
The first of those big plays allowed Kansas to tie the game as Heaps hit Tony Pierson for a 77-yard touchdown with 9:20 to go in the second quarter.
The Owls responded with an eight-play drive that was sparked by a 54-yard completion from Taylor McHargue to Dennis Parks. The drive stalled at the Kansas 23 and Boswell came in to nail a 40-yarder to put Rice back up 10-7.
The Owls extended the lead on a 28-yard Boswell field goal just before the half ended. The scoring drive began when Bryce Callahan picked off Heaps for his ninth career interception and his third in two games against Kansas. McHargue and Jordan Taylor connected three times for 46 yards to move the ball deep in KU territory.
The teams traded punts for most of the third quarter, but a McHargue interception late in the quarter set the Jayhawks up at the Rice 16 and four plays later Heaps snuck in from the one to put KU back on top 14-13.
Kanas opened the fourth quarter by picking off McHargue at its own six. But the Owls forced a punt which Derek Brown partially blocked to set Rice up at midfield. The Owls only moved to the Kansas 39, but that was plenty of room for Boswell, who crushed a 56-yard field goal to put Rice back in front.
It was his 12th career field goal from 50 yards or more, this third of the game and the seventh in two games vs. Kansas. "It's just another kick, and that's how I approach it every time," Boswell said "My line does a great job. They make a great wall for me to do my part. We're really clicking right now."
The Owls defense then ramped up the pressure, forcing a punt after Cody Bauer sacked Heaps for a loss of 10 on third down.
Ross then took over the game, rushing for 51 yards, including the final eight to score his 24th career touchdown and clinch the game for Rice." We just kept grinding it out and kept our heads up throughout the game," Ross said. "As you saw, in the end it worked out."
Rice will now turn its attentions to a familiar foe as they begin preparations for their annual Bayou Bucket Battle with the Houston Cougars. Game time is set for 2 p.m. next Saturday at Reliant Stadium with the game being carried nationally on FSN.