Nov. 3, 2007
HOUSTON - On a day when the Rice Owls honored a team who produced one of the great wins in school history, the 2007 Owls produced more that a few memories of their own, as Chase Clement shattered the school record with 498 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns, leading the Owls to a remarkable 56-48 Homecoming win over UTEP.
Rice survived seven turnovers and a pair of successful sky kicks by UTEP to take their first win at home in 2007 and run their C-USA mark to 2-3. Three times in the comeback, they had to convert fourth-down plays to keep drive and their hopes of victory alive.
After Rice took a 14-3 lead after one quarter, the school honored the members of the 1957 Rice team who defeated then #1 Texas A&M, 7-6 at Rice Stadium. Few of the players of that era could have dreamed of what was in store over the final three quarters.
The Miners opened the second quarter by scoring 17 consecutive points to take a 20-14 lead before Clement drove the Owls downfield to take a 21-20 lead into the locker room.
UTEP re-took the lead at the start of the third quarter when Trevor Vittatoe hit Fred Rouse with a 76-yard scoring strike. Vittatoe finished the day throwing for 373 yards and five touchdowns of his own. Three plays later, Clement was intercepted, and it took the Miners five play to extend their lead to 35-20 on a two-yard run by Marcus Thomas and a two-point conversion.
The Owls answered with a drive of their own to cut the margin to 35-28, but the Miners drove back down the field to take a 42-28 lead, and added to it early in the 4th quarter after another interception by Clement to boost the margin to 48-28. George Chukwu broke through the line to block the extra point attempt, but he and his defensive mates found them right back on the field after Patrick Randolph fumbled the kickoff after the UTEP score and the Miners were back on the attack at the Rice 21.
However Andrew Sendejo broke through to drop Lorne Sam for a three-yard loss on first down, and the Miners were hit with a holding penalty on second down. A pair of Vittatoe incompletions followed and Jose Martinez's 51-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
Clement then moved the Owls to the UTEP 15, and then hit Jarett Dillard on a crucial 4th and two plays for a first down at the UTEP eight. On the next play, he found Tommy Henderson in the end zone for the touchdown, to cut the margin to 48-35.
The Owls held UTEP to a three-and-out on their next series, but could not move the ball. However, Quintin Demps of the Miners fumbled the punt and James Casey recovered to give the ball to the Owls at the UTEP 46. Clement moved the Owls to the UTEP nine when he was faced with another crucial fourth down. His pass to Dillard fell incomplete, but Demps, who like Clement and Dillard is a product of a San Antonio high school, was called for face guarding Dillard and the Owls had their first down.
Clement then found Toren Dixon in the front corner of the end zone to cut the margin to 48-42.
The Owls then turned the tables on UTEP, executing a sky kick of their own, which was knocked around until Bio Bilayae Benibo recovered it at the UTEP 11. Again the Miners defense stiffened and Clement and the Owls were faced with a fourth down play at the UTEP five.
Clement avoided pressure rolled back to the left and found Dillard in the end zone. It was his 11th catch of the day, matching his career high, to go with 169 yards
The Owls got the ball back at their own 26 after three straight incomplete passes and Clement took matters into his own hands, busting off a 59-yard run and rushing for all but one of the 74 yards needed, including the last nine to push the margin to 56-48.
UTEP got the ball back with 3:38 to go and moved to the Rice 32 before their drive stalled, with Aubrey White sacking Vittatoe on fourth down. The Miners had one final grab for the victory, but Gary Anderson broke up Vittatoe's third and fourth-down efforts to clinch the win.
Anderson led the defense with eight tackles in addition to a career-high six pass breakups. He also recovered a fumble.
The Owls will travel to Dallas next week to meet SMU, before returning to Houston to wrap up the season with games against Tulane and Tulsa.