Sept. 21, 2013
In the last currently scheduled battle for the Bayou Bucket, the Rice Owls saw a furious fourth-quarter rally fall achingly short as Houston retained possession of the trophy with a 31-26 win at Reliant Stadium on Saturday.
The win was the Cougars third straight in the series which began in 1971 and has been played continuously since 1999. With the two schools now in different conferences, there are no future games currently scheduled between the two.
Houston leads the all-time series 29-11, including a 27-10 record when playing for the Bucket.
The finale of the current series seemed to be decided when the Cougars extended their lead to 31-13 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Rice answered with their first points since the first stanza to cut the margin to 31-20.
Bryce Callahan then forced a Houston punt by breaking up a third down pass, and Rice drove deep enough into Cougar territory for senior Chris Boswell to try a 50-yard field goal. However his attempt drifted wide right.
Houston then moved to the Rice 23 and looked to ice the game with a 40-yard field by Tony Leone. But Christian Covington bulled his way through the line to block the kick and linebacker Alex Lyons scooped it up and returned it 62 yards for a touchdown with 2:19 left in the game.
Rice was foiled on the two-point conversion try, but Boswell executed an onside kick to give the Owls the ball back at the Rice 47 and a final chance to add another dramatic ending to the storied series.
The frantic ending resembled the game's start, as the two teams scored on the first three possessions of the game.
The Owls took the opening kickoff, but stalled at their 23. However Houston roughed punter James Farrimond to give the Owls opening drive new life and the took full advantage.
After Charles Ross ran for five yards on first down, Luke Turner hit Turner Petersen with a 57-yard touchdown pass out of the Owl formation. It was Turner's second career touchdown pass and was the longest reception in Petersen's career. Chris Boswell's PAT was blocked and Rice led 6-0.
That lead proved short-lived as Houston drove 75 yards in just four plays to take a 7-6 lead, but the Owls responded in kind, driving 75 yards in nine plays, with Charles Ross covering the final yard to put Rice back in front 13-7.
Houston answered with 10 points late in the half to take a 17-13 lead into the locker room. Leone nailed 24-yard field goal to cut the lead to 13-10, the freshman quarterback John O'Korn hit Daniel Spencer with a 25-yard touchdown pass with five seconds left to give the Cougars the lead for good.
Houston took control of the game with 14 unanswered points while the Rice offense was stymied and forced to punt on four straight possessions in the third quarter.
Petersen posted his first career 100-yard receiving day, finishing with five catches for 102 yards. McHargue threw for a season-high 232 yards while redshirt freshman Darik Dillard came on in the second half to lead the Owls with 61 yards rushing. Senior Charles Ross bulled his way to 55 yards in the first half, but did not play in the second after suffering an injury. James Radcliffe led the Owl defense with nine tackles, while junior safety Julius White broke up a career-high four passes.
Rice opens Conference USA action next Saturday when they host Florida Atlantic at 6:00 at Rice Stadium. The game will be broadcast nationally by Fox College Sports.