The Rice football team rallied from a 21-0 deficit to claim a 22-21 Conference USA road victory over Charlotte Saturday afternoon in North Carolina.
Charlotte opened the day's scoring in the first quarter, moving 71 yards in eight plays. The 49ers then drove 75 yards late in the first quarter for another touchdown scored early in the second before an interception returned 41 yards for a touchdown. The 49ers made the right move by interfering with a long Rice pass attempt to Temi Alaka inside the 10-yard line, sacrificing the penalty yards at midfield before a Rice turnover on very next snap.
Down but not out, Rice proceeded to pile up the yards and possession time in the second quarter for ten points of their own. The Owls ran 32 plays for 159 yards while the defense held the 49ers to just 22 yards on 13. Haden Tabola's 24-yard field goal put Rice on the board after a ten-play, 66-yard drive. Tyler Stehling later found Temi Alaka for a three-yard touchdown strike to cap a 12-play drive that made it 21-10 at the intermission.
Rice opportunistically converted a turnover into six points in the third quarter. Brandon Douglas forced a 49er fumble on punt return and Blain Padgett pounced on the ball inside the Charlotte red zone. On the next play Stehling dashed 17 yards around the left side into the endzone to make it a five-point game, 21-16.
The Blue & Gray took their first lead of the game with less than three minutes left in regulation. Stehling, with what seemed all 10 other Owls on the field and the sheer will of the entire team behind him, plunged into the endzone from a yard out to move in front 22-21. The defense held the rest of the way to improve to 2-8 on the season and 1-6 in Conference USA league play.
The Owls are back home at Rice Stadium next weekend (Nov. 19). The 11 am C-USA contest with UTEP is Rice's final home game of the season. There will be a special tribute to the Owl seniors prior to the opening kickoff.