Oct. 28, 2011
For the fourth consecutive season, the Bayou Bucket trophy, presented by State Farm, will have a change of address, after the Houston Cougars withstood a fast start by Rice and downed the Owls 73-34 at Robertson Stadium on Thursday night.
The Owls (2-6) came into the game as heavy underdogs to the Cougars (8-0) who came into the contest ranked 17th by AP and 18th by the coaches and struck first in the opening seconds of the game, thanks to Tyron Carrier's 100-yard return of the game's opening kickoff.
But the Owls responded by scoring the next 17 points to take a 17-7 lead. Turner Petersen opened the game at quarterback and moved the Owls into scoring position on their first drive. Chris Boswell converted on a career-best 51 yard field goal to start the Owls scoring. Rice then recovered a bobbled squib kick and needed three plays to score, with Tyler Smith taking it the final yard.
The Owls defense sparkled in the early going, forcing a punt on the Cougars first possession, then intercepting Cougar quarterback Case Keenum on the next possession. On Houston's third series with the ball, Keenum had the ball slip out of his hands deep in his own territory and sophomore linebacker Cameron Nwosu scooped up the ball and returned it 12 yards for the Owls third defensive touchdown of the season.
Houston's high-powered attack the found its rhythm, scoring on its next five possessions to take a 38-20 lead into the locker room. They added 28 points in the third quarter and a final score in the fourth.
Smith added a pair of long-distance scores for the Owls in the third quarter. Early in the frame, Nick Fanuzzi found him alone up the sideline on a wheel route for a 67-yard scoring play. Later, after the Owls were pinned at their own three, he darted through the line and ran away from a pack a defenders to record the longest run from scrimmage in both Rice and Conference USA history.
His 97-yard scoring jaunt knocked Dicky Maegle's famous 95-yard scoring run in the 1954 Cotton Bowl and Kyle Herm's equally long scoring sprint at home from the Rice records. He also bettered the conference mark of 96 yards by Houston's Antowain Smith in 1996.
One the night, the fifth-year senior re-wrote his personal record book, finishing with 170 yards on 13 carries and a pair of scores, 73 yards on three receptions and a touchdown, and 243 all-purpose yards. Petersen recorded his first career 100-yard rushing day, finishing with 140 yards on 23 carries.
The win by the Cougars marked the fifth straight win by the home team in the annual contest between the two schools. After Houston captured the trophy for three consecutive years from 2005-07, the two schools have traded victories over the last four games, with the home team winning each game.
The Owls will return to Rice Stadium a week from Saturday to celebrate Homecoming 2011 when they host UTEP at 2:30.