Sept. 19, 2009
By MOISEKAPENDA BOWER
STILLWATER, OKLA. - There are no moral victories in athletics, even for winless teams in search of an identity on the road against a Top-20 foe seeking redemption.
But Rice could take solace in the fact that, despite coming out on the wrong end of the scoreboard on Saturday at Boone Pickens Stadium, it showed signs of progress.
Owls sophomore quarterback Nick Fanuzzi enjoyed a breakout performance and freshman tailback Charles Ross scored three second-half touchdowns, but No. 16 Oklahoma State made an early two-touchdown lead stand in a 41-24 victory.
Fanuzzi led the Owls on three touchdown marches, and Ross capped each drive with short scoring runs out of the jumbo formation. After the Cowboys (2-1) parlayed a deflected pass into an interception and a touchdown that bumped their lead to 28-3 early in the third quarter, Fanuzzi engineered scoring drives of 78, 32 and 80 yards.
It proved to be too little too late, but it was exciting nonetheless considering the manner in which the offense scuffled last weekend in a loss at Texas Tech. Fanuzzi connected with Toren Dixon for a 72-yard catch-and-run to set up the first Ross plunge, a two-yard push that cut the deficit to 18 points with 9:09 left in the third. After Owls safety Travis Bradshaw recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, Fanuzzi completed a 14-yard pass to Patrick Randolph and scrambled for a first down on a muffed snap before Ross pounded his way for a score at the 6:46 mark.
The Cowboys had an answer, and it came in the form of All-American receiver Dez Bryant, whose two first-half touchdowns enabled Oklahoma State to build a 21-3 halftime lead. His 38-yard reception on a simple crossing pattern moved the Cowboys deep into Rice territory, and Beau Johnson added a two-yard touchdown run two plays later. Fanuzzi remained hot when he returned to the field, with his 23-yard scramble to the Oklahoma State 1-yard-line setting up the final Ross score.
Rice (0-3, 0-1 Conference USA) could muster no such momentum in the first half, punting to close its first two possessions before a Fanuzzi-led march ended in disaster. With Clark Fangmeier in to attempt a 48-yard field goal, holder Randy Kitchens had the ball squirt through his hands. Donald Booker recovered the fumble and rumbled 51 yards for a touchdown to expand the Oklahoma State lead to 14-0. The Owls punted again after regaining possession before tallying a field goal with 5:50 left in the half. But Bryant's 29-yard reception keyed another Oklahoma State scoring drive, one that ended with Bryant snagging a jump ball for a 10-yard score.
Fanuzzi finished 16-for-28 with 182 yards while Dixon made nine catches for 120 yards. Dixon posted his third, 100-yard receiving game when he snared a 17-yard grab in the game's final minute. Bryant, who the Owls avoided kicking to, posted nine catches for 161 yards. Fangmeier moved into second on the C-USA career chart for PATs, upping his total to 161 on the night.