Oct. 27, 2012
The Rice Owls rebounded from a frustrating late loss at Tulsa, putting together their best overall performance of the year in a 44-17 throttling of Southern Miss at Rice Stadium on Saturday. The win broke a five-game conference losing streak for the Owls (3-6/1-4), while Southern Miss fell to (0-8/0-4).
Turner Petersen rushed for a season-high 136 yards on one touchdown and added a second score on an 38 yards pass from Driphus Jackson, while the Owls defensive added six points of their own while forcing five turnovers and recording 10 tackles for loss to give Rice its most decisive Conference USA win since the Owls blitzed SMU 56-27 in the opening game of the 2008 season.
"I'm really proud of this football team," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "Proud of how we started game, and really proud of how we started the second half. I thought the defense today, with five forced turnovers, was where the separation really started happening in the second half - when you looked up on the scoreboard and we had 17 second-half points. I was so proud, offensively, of Driphus Jackson came in and played early and then finished the game. (Taylor) McHargue could have come back in, but we opted to keep him out with the score being where it was. I was also proud of Turner Peterson, to have the kind of day he had with 19 carries for 136 yards and 7.2 yards per carry."
After trading punts in the early going, Rice took advantage of a special team's error by Southern Miss to break on top.
An errant snap on a punt attempt struck one of the up backs for the Golden Eagles and USM punter Peter Boehme was tackled for a nine-yard loss after picking up the ball. Starting from their own 49, the Owls needed four plays to cover the 51 yards, the final 35 coming on a pass from McHargue to Dennis Parks. The touchdown reception was the first of Parks' career and the ninth of the season for McHargue to establish a career-best.
Taking advantage of an early mistake was key to the Owls following through with the cornerstone message of their week's preparations.... Start Fast & Finish.
"It's a tribute to these young men, because a week ago we absolutely had our hearts broken," Bailiff said. "They came over here more resolute than they've ever been. They came over here on Monday with incredible attitudes, and it had us anticipating a fast start."
"It's what we talked about all week," Petersen said. "We talk about how we are going to prepare all week so that we can execute easily on game day. You could hear it all week from our senior captains Luke (Willson) and Vance (McDonald), yelling `tempo'. That's where it starts, that's the way we practice all week, a high-temp offense. We started fast and jumped on them quick."
After a 50-yard field goal by Corey Acosta put Southern Miss on the scoreboard, J.T. Blasingame's 46-yard kickoff return set the Owls up on the Southern Miss half of the field near the end of the first quarter. On the first play of the second stanza, Driphus Jackson hit Turner Petersen in stride up the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown.
USM responded with a 75 yard march to cut the margin to 14-10 on a one-yard run by Jeremy Hester and looked to be headed for more on its next possession before a sack by Hosam Shahin and Christian Covington forced a 40-yard attempt by Acosta that sailed right into the gusting northerly winds.
Taking over at its 25, the Owls needed 10 plays to cover the distance, with Donte Moore finishing the drive with an eight -yard run on a reverse to send the Owls to the locker room with a 21-10 lead.
It marked the fourth consecutive game the Owls have led at halftime, but they proved in the second half that the painful lesson of the previous week at Tulsa had not been taken lightly.
After a Boswell 40-yard field goal gave the Owls a 24-10 game, Porras plucked a deflected pass out of the air in front of the Rice bench and returned it 75-yards to give the Owls a three touchdown advantage. The interception return for a touchdown was the first by an Owl since Chris Douglas returned one 40 yards vs. North Texas in 2008.
Jackson then found Moore for a 25-yd touchdown to extend the margin to 38-10. Playing exclusively at quarterback in the second half after McHargue was held out as a precaution, Jackson threw for 92 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 27 more. Bailiff indicated that had he been needed, McHargue could have returned to action, but Jackson and company made that question moot.
Leading 38-17 in the fourth, the Owls turned to Petersen and the running game to snuff out any last hopes for the Golden Eagles. Petersen carried the bulk of the assignment, closing the drive win an eight-yard touchdown. His effort pushed his career total to 1,045 yards, making him the third current Owl to have rushed for over 1,000 yards in his career.
Sophomore Gabe Baker, in his second career start, finished with a career-high nine tackles to lead a stout Rice defensive effort that included interceptions from Porras, Cameron Nwosu and Julius White, sacks by Cody Bauer, Hosam Shahin, Jared Williams and Christian Covington and fumble recoveries by James Radcliffe and Ross Winship.
"We had a chip on our shoulder," Baker said. "We came out aggressive. We had too many explosive plays and that is something we need to work on, but it was really good to get some of the young guys some playing time at the end and get some experience. This was a huge win for us defensively and I think we can really build and grow off of this and build on it for the next few weeks.
"When we think about where we can be after these next three games, it give us extra motivation, " Baker continued. "Especially for our seniors. They have contributed so much to our team, so to be able to finish out with some great wins is all we are working for right now. "
The Owls will head to New Orleans next Saturday to face Tulane at 2:30.