Nick Mullens threw for 386 yards and five touchdowns, four of them in a 35-point explosion in the second quarter to lead streaking Southern Miss to a 65-10 win at Rice Stadium on Saturday.
The win was the Golden Eagles first in three tries at Rice Stadium and snapped the Owls 10-year Homecoming winning streak as well as the Owls' 15-game home winning streak in the month of November.
"That was a tough loss. It was embarrassing," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "You never want to play that way. As hard as we work on eliminating mistakes, doing the little things right and cutting out the penalties and to go out there and have penalties again and to have the amount of drops and miss tackles ... I'll be the only one here tonight. I've asked the team to go home. We need to get this fixed, and they need to go home."
The teams traded punts on opening possessions before USM drove to the game's first points on a Mullens' 28-yard toss to Ito Smith. Rice forced a second punt on the Golden Eagles next possession, but the Golden Eagles offense found its footing over its next five possessions.
The outburst began when they converted a fake field goal for the second straight week, as holder Xavier Thigpen shoveled a pass to Tyler Sarrazin for a six-yard score.
Mullens followed with scoring strikes of 50, 51, 13 and 16 yards to put the game away.
"We were playing pretty good defense until they scored the fake field goal," Bailiff said. "That's when you have to be your absolute best: when things go bad. We have to grow this football team up. We have to make plays when the opportunities are presented to us, and the opportunities were presented to us and we're not (making plays)."
Rice was held to just 56 yards on 33 plays in the first half as quarterback Driphus Jackson was sacked five times. He was replaced late in the second quarter by Tyler Stehling, but returned in the fourth quarter to lead the Owls' lone touchdown drive.
He finished with 69 yards passing on 8-19 attempts and the one touchdown toss to Nate German. Darik Dillard led the Owls with 70 yards on the ground, followed by Austin Walter, who gained 65 on 10 attempts. Walter also returned nine kickoffs on the day, matching the second most in school history and finished with 176 yards, the seventh most in school history.
Senior punter James Farrimond finished with a 45.9 average and a career-high nine punts.
Rice stands at 4-6 with two games remaining on the 2015 schedule, a road game next week at UTSA and a home finale vs. Charlotte.
"We've got two games left, and we've got to somehow come back in these two games and play the best football that we've played all year," Bailiff said. "We're going to go home and meet on Monday, and we're going to get this figured out as a team, as a coaching staff and it's something I believe we can do."