By Chuck Pool (cpool@Rice.edu) -
Florida Atlantic exploded for its top offensive output of the year to hand a battered Rice football team only its second November home loss in the last 18 games, 42-25 at Rice Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Tyler Stehling threw for 254 yards and true freshman Kylen Granson caught a career-high eight for 87 yards for Rice, but FAU repeatedly answered Rice's attempt s to rally with a series of quick strikes to post its first win the fledgling series between the liked-named schools.
"We had some opportunities to win that game," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "But we didn't execute well enough or consistently enough offensively and defensively to do it."
"Defensively we played a very inconsistent game," senior co-captain Alex Lyons said. "At times there were plays that we were in position to make them, and we just didn't make them. That's reflective in the yards and the score. There are flashes when we get three and out, a couple tackles for loss and pressure on the quarterback, and then there are insistences where we miss four or five tackles on consecutive plays on a drive. We need to be more consistent going into these next three games."
Rice opened the game by taking advantage of a short field to drive 56 yards to take a 7-0 lead when Stehling waited for Granson to clear into the middle and hit him with a 13-yard touchdown. That lead held for two additional possessions before FAU quarterback Jason Driskel used a pair of long completions to drive his Owls 73 yards to the tying score.
FAU took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter, but Rice found its offensive momentum after four stalled series. Stehling moved them 80 yards to tie the game, with redshirt freshman Nahshon Ellerbe darting around the left end and diving into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
FAU scored on late in the half to take a 21-14 lead but Rice appeared to be poised with an immediate answer when Stehling hit Nate German in stride at the FAU 40, but as German turned towards the FAU goal, he lost control of the ball and FAU recovered.
FAU added to its advantage with a touchdown on its first possession of the third. Rice answered with a Haden Tobola field goal late in the quarter, but Driskel answered with a long touchdown pass to extend the lead to 35-18.
Stehling moved the Owls down the field again, with Austin Walter scoring from one yard out and then taking a toss from Stehling for a two-point conversion to close the gap to 10. However FAU's Devin Singletary put any hopes of a third consecutive Rice rally to win the series to an end by dashing 66 yards for a score.
Rice fell to 1-8 on the year and 0-6 in the conference heading into a road contest next week with an improving Charlotte team which improved to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in league play with a 38-27 win at Southern Miss.
"No one likes the situation we're in," Bailiff said. "The only way out of it is to stay united and to keep working and to continue being more demanding, and for this team to be more demanding of itself. "