Nov. 17, 2012
Chris Boswell tied an NCAA record with his long-distance field goals, while his Rice Owl teammates won the close-in battles in the trenches on both sides of the ball as the Owls dropped SMU 36-14 at Rice Stadium on Saturday, setting up a season-ending road game with UTEP with a bowl berth on the line.
The Owls (5-6, 3-4) won their third straight game and fourth in the last five to put them in contention for a bowl berth next week when they travel to El Paso to take on the Miners.
"That was as satisfying a win as I've ever been a part of, "Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "First off I'm proud of this football team. They've hung together and continued to improve each week. Today you watched an offense that just completely took over the second half, a defense that put an end to it, and our special teams, kickoff team that kept pinning them (SMU) inside their 20, along with Chris Boswell knocking down multiple long range field goals."
Boswell became the sixth player in NCAA history to kick three field goals of better than 50 yards and broke the school record with five three-pointers on the day. His 56-yarder in the first quarter made him the first kicker this season in the NCAA to have a pair of field goals from 55 yards or longer. He was also a force on kickoffs, averaging 64.1 yards on nine kicks, five of which were touchbacks, while his teammates three times pinned Mustang kick returners inside the 16 when they attempted to return the kicks.
The Owls put together their best effort of the year despite the loss of several key regulars early in the game to injuries. Cornerback Phillip Gaines, tight end Luke Willson, safety Julius White and deep snapper Trevor Gillette all left the game with injuries but the Owls were able to maintain their effort thanks to the play of cornerback J.T. Blasingame, safety Garrett Fuhrman, and deep snapper Tanyan Farley, the latter player who was making his college debut at that position.
After Rice took the opening kickoff and drove to midfield where Boswell crushed home his 56-yard field goal, SMU responded with a nine-play, 68 yard drive to take a 7-3 lead. The Owls responded by moving Boswell into range, and he connected from 51 yards to cut the SMU lead to 7-6 after one quarter.
That lead held up through most of the second quarter, but after a Boswell miss from 44 yards, the Rice defense rose up and put the Owls in position to take the lead for good.
SMU quarterback Garrett Gilbert, playing in his third game against Rice, but his first as a Mustang, had the ball stripped by defensive end Cody Bauer and senior defensive tackle Jamael Thomas, who made his second career start on Senior Day, recovered the ball to set Rice up at the SMU 19.
"Our defense played great today," Bailiff said. "After SMU's impressive drive in the 2nd quarter our defense was fantastic. When they started to pass late in the game, our front four stepped in and completely took over the game. We were making great plays on the ball, we were tackling well, you know when we go back and watch this film, we're not going to see many missed tackles."
Rice needed just two plays to turn the fumble into point. Taylor McHargue celebrated the return of Vance McDonald to the lineup by hitting the senior tight end for a 19-yard touchdown to put Rice back on top, 13-7.
After a three-and-out by the defense, McHargue led the Owls back down the field in the final two minutes of the half, rolling to his right and finding Donte Moore in the end zone for seven-yard score to push the margin to 20-6 at the half.
It marked the sixth straight game the Owls have gone into the locker room at halftime with a lead. After the failed to move the ball with their initial possession of the third quarter, the Owls caught a break after the Mustangs appeared to have closed the gap to a touchdown.
Mustang senior Zac Line rolled right and appeared to have to stretched the ball over the pylon for a touchdown, but replays showed the ball had slipped from his hands just before crossing the goal line. The play was ruled a fumble and a touchback.
Rice responded by moving 10 plays to set up Boswell's third kick of the day to extend the lead to 23-7. SMU bounced back with a scoring drive of its own, capped by a 10-yard run from Line to cut the margin to 23-14.
Boswell opened the fourth quarter with his NCAA record-tying third field goal from over 50 yards, a 53-yard effort to build the lead back to 26-14. He then pinned SMU at the 13 with his kickoff, and after a three-and-out, the Owls turned to running back Jeremy Eddington to should the load and drive to Boswell's fifth field goal of the day.
Boswell pinned SMU again at the 13 and after sacks on consecutive plays by Bauer and senior Jared Williams, the Owls force another punt. Eight plays later, McHargue ran it in from 13 yards out to complete the scoring for the day.
After throwing for 271 yards and rushing for only 40 in the first three quarters, the Owls left it in the hands of their offensive line in the fourth, rushing for 86 yards in the final quarter, suffocated any comeback hopes by holding on to the ball for nearly 11 minutes of the final quarter.
McHargue completed a career-high 24 passes, 21 of them in the first three quarters. He finished with 335 yards of total offense (297 passing, 38 rushing). McDonald, who has been dogged by a foot injury for multiple weeks, celebrated his return to the playing field by catching seven passes for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Bauer was credited with three tackles for loss, including a pair of sacks, to run his season total to 12 TFL, tying him for 10th on the Rice single season chart.
"We're a talented football team," Bailiff said. "We've had some bad luck come our way, but our guys continue to show up every day willing to work hard and it makes me very proud of them and what they have been about to accomplish.
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