Oct. 20, 2012
TULSA, Okla. - Ja'Terian Douglas turned a stout Rice defensive effort on its ear, bursting free on a 75-yard run late in the fourth quarter to set up the winning score as Tulsa downed Rice 28-24 at H.A. Chapman Stadium in Tulsa on Saturday.
"It was a heartbreaking game," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "This team played well, and we led the whole game except the last minute and 30 seconds. It was one where we had some opportunities out there, and we have to take advantage of those opportunities when you play a team like Tulsa. They were there, but we didn't finish."
Tulsa improved to 7-1 overall and kept its conference record spotless at 5-0, while Rice fell to 2-6 and 0-4 in the league. Backup quarterback Kalen Henderson threw for 201 yards and one score, while Douglas finished with 169 yards on the ground. Keyarris Garrett led all receivers with 118 yards on three catches.
The Owls were making a strong bid to snap a five-game losing streak to the Hurricane and a 13-game road losing streak inside Conference USA and never trailed until the game's final moments. They had outrushed the conference's leading ground attack and dominated possession time in the second half, holding the ball for 23:14. The Owls offensive line held the top sack attack in FBS to half their average while rushing for 246 yards. The Rice defense had held Tulsa to just 159 yards on the ground before the fateful possession.
But after finding the end zone three times in the first half, they could capitalize on only one of three scoring chances in the second half, a Chris Boswell 35-yard field goal with 9:24 left in the fourth to break a 21-21 tie. Those missed opportunities came back to haunt the Owls in the game's final moments.
True freshman Luke Turner ran for a career-best 102 yards, all in the second half to set the Owls up with their scoring chances. He carried three times for 27 yards to set up Boswell's 35-yarder and then after a 14-yard Tulsa punt set the Owls up at the Rice 47, Turner carried the ball seven times for 24 yards to set up a 36-yard attempt that was wide left.
For the third consecutive week, the Owls opened the scoring, breaking a lengthy streak in the process.
After forcing the first of eight punts by the Hurricane, Sam McGuffie broke past the defenders to block Cole Way's punt. McGuffie picked up the loose ball and returned it the final 12 yards for a touchdown. The score goes into the books as a punt return and was the first punt return touchdown by the Owls in 173 games since LaDouphyous McCalla returned one against TCU on Nov. 8, 1997.
Tulsa responded with a score to knot the game at 7-7 but the Owls defense forced consecutive three-and-outs on Tulsa's next two possessions, the second coming when the Golden Hurricane were pinned deep in their own end after a Boswell punt to the Tulsa nine. After a 41-yard punt by Way, the Owls set up shop at their own 48 as the first quarter neared its end.
Rice had been held to only 16 yards and one first down on its first 11 plays, but a Taylor McHargue completion to Sam McGuffie and a pair of Charles Ross runs move the ball to the Tulsa 44 as the quarter closed.
McHargue took the lead as the drive resumed in the second stanza, scrambling for 15 yards and then covering the final 20 on a quarterback draw to put Rice back up 14-7.
Working with a short field after the kickoff went out of bounds, Tulsa needed just three plays to cover 65 yards and tie the game again.
But the Owls answered right back, driving 75 yards in nine plays with McHargue connecting with Luke Willson for an eight yard touchdown. The scoring play was Willson's first trip to the end zone since he scored the Owls first touchdown of the season vs. UCLA. McHargue finished the day throwing for 147 yards and rushing for another 57 and a touchdown. McGuffie matched his career-high with eight catches for 62 yards to go along with his punt block and touchdown.
Rice's defense made that lead hold up the rest of the half, thwarting one Tulsa drive with their first stop on fourth down this year, then rebounding from a 46-yard completion to force a field goal that sailed wide right.
The lead held through most of the third quarter until Dexter McCoil picked off a McHargue pass at the Rice 28 and Henderson found Garrett for a 28-yard score to tie the game at 21. Turner's running would give the Owls their final lead of 24-21, but 58 minutes of winning effort came crashing down as Douglas darted through the Owls defense in the final moments to hand the Hurricane a memorable Homecoming win.
Rice returns home next Saturday to meet Southern Miss in a noon kickoff at Rice Stadium that will be broadcast by Comcast Sports.