Oct. 2, 2010
HOUSTON - Nick Fanuzzi threw for a career-high 276 yards and Sam McGuffie just missed his first 100-yard rushing effort as a Rice Owl as SMU rode the hot hand of Kyle Padron and a pair of quick-six strikes to down Rice 42-31 at Rice Stadium on Saturday night.
Rice carried a 10-game home winning streak against the Mustangs into Saturday's 13th edition of the Battle for the Mayor's Cup, and while Padron threw for 371 yards and three touchdowns, the outcome eventually came down to a pair of Mustangs scores while the offense stood on the sidelines.
Sterling Moore's 32-yard interception return and Ja'Grared Davis' 77-yard return of a blocked Chris Boswell field goal attempt proved to be too much for the Owls (1-4) to overcome.
"SMU did some good things, but once again it's what we didn't do," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "The blocked field goal was a ten point swing--interception returned for a touchdown. If we take those mistakes away this was a winnable football game," he added.
For the third time in five games this season, the Owls held their opposition scoreless on their opening possession. But Moore's theft gave the Mustangs a quick early lead that they would never relinquish.
Boswell put the Owls on the board early in the second quarter with his 10th field goal of the year, from 42 yards. His 10 field goals this year have moved him into a tie for eighth on the Owls season list.
The Owls held SMU in check for most of the first half, but Padron got the offense moving just before halftime to pad the lead to 14-3 at intermission.
Rice struck back for a non-offensive score of their own in the opening minutes of the second half to cut the margin to 14-10, when Phillip Gaines pounced on a fumble in the end zone when Darius Johnson misplayed a Kyle Martens. Chris Jones was credited with forcing the fumble to set up the Owls' score. After Padron led SMU to its first points of the second half, the Owls appeared to have cut the margin back to 21-13 when Boswell converted from 30 yards out. However the Owls were called for a procedure penalty and when Boswell attempted a kick from 35-yards out, Youri Yenga blocked the kick and Davis scooped it up to give the Ponies their second blocked field goal return for a touchdown against the Owls in as many years.
Fanuzzi led the Owls back down the field, moving 60 yards in 11 plays before Charles Ross capped the march with a one-yard plunge.
After SMU added a pair of touchdowns to push the margin to 42-17, Fanuzzi led the Owls to a pair of scoring drives over the last seven minutes to cut the final margin to 42-31.
McGuffie finished the night with 96 yards rushing on 20 carries and added five catches for 45 yards. He fell four yards shy of his third career 100-yard rushing day and his first since he ran for 105 vs. Toledo on 2008 while at Michigan.
"All we have to do is keep working hard, keep improving our fundamentals, keep believing in these men, and work through the hard times," Bailiff stated. "That is the only way I know how to do it. I know we've got some wins in this football team and I know we have some good players," he added.