Rice Bowl Hopes Alive and Kicking

Nov. 18, 2006

Final Stats

Nov. 18, 2006

Clark Fangmeier drilled a 40-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to lift the Rice Owls to a dramatic 18-17 Homecoming victory over East Carolina and keep their hopes for the school's first bowl bid since 1961 alive.

The Owls trailed 17-9 with just over five minutes left in the game and starting quarterback Chase Clement in the locker room with an injury. Just as they had when Clement missed three games early in the year, Joel Armstrong and John Shepherd stepped into the fray, and they both converted crucial fourth down plays and combined to lead the Owls on a pair of drives that resulted in nine points in the final 2:37.

Brandon King, who set up the Owls' last two scores with punt returns, celebrates Rice's fifth-straight win

The two combined to lead four drives into ECU territory, but the first two were foiled by the Pirate defense, first on a stop on fourth down and second on an interception in the end zone when Pierre Parker ripped the ball from Jarett Dillard's hands in the end zone.

But the Rice defense, who held the Pirates to just 95 yards in the second half, forced a three-and-out to give the Owls one more shot with just over five minutes left.

Brandon King returned a punt 18 yards to set the Owls up at the ECU 46 and Armstrong needed just five plays to get the Owls in the end zone. He hit Corbin Smiter for a 32-yard gain on a fourth and three to put the ball on the Pirate seven, and then ran it in on the next play. Quinton Smith, who would go over 1,000 yards in a season for the first time in his career by rushing for 115 yards on the day, was stopped short on the two-point conversion attempt to leave the Owls down 17-15.

The Pirates took over at their own 46 after Rice failed on an onside kick attempt, but after losing two yards on the first two plays, ECU's James Pinkney tried to ice the game by attempting to pick up the first down with a pass to Chris Johnson that was just off his finger tips, stopping the clock with just over a minute remaining.

King returned the ensuing punt 13 yards to set the Owls up for one last chance to keep their bowl hopes alive at the Rice 24, but three straight incomplete passes (two by Shepherd, one by Armstrong) left the Owls facing a 4th and 10 with less than a minute to go.

However, Shepherd borrow a page from Clement's playbook and heaved a pass downfield in the direction of Dillard, who turned the tricks on his Pirates defenders and pulled the ball away for a 40-yard completion to the Pirates 36. One play later, Shepherd found Dillard across the middle and the Biletnikoff finalist raced to the sideline to save time and put the ball in field goal range at the ECU 25. Smith rushed the ball into the middle of the field and Shepherd hurried the team to the line to spike the ball to allow Fangmeier his chance to win the game.

Quinton Smith left Pirates defenders behind on his way to 115 yards

George Chukwu and the Owls' defense held ECU to under 100 yards in the second half

After a pair of timeouts by ECU to try and ice him, Fangmeier drilled the game winner through the goal posts and send the Homecoming crowd home with smiles on their faces and bowl hopes alive.

Dillard hauled in a five-yard scoring pass from Clement in the second quarter that not only extended his streak of games with a TD pass to 13 (the longest current streak and tied for the second longest in NCAA history), it also allowed Clement to tie the school record with his 21st TD pass of the year.

Clement left the game after throwing an interception at the ECU two yard line and did not return to the game. The interception was his first in 120 attempts dating back to the end of the Owls last home game, an equally nerve-racking 34-33 win over UAB on October 14.

The win by the Owls was their fifth straight, with three of those wins (UAB, Tulsa and ECU) coming on the final offensive play of the game.

Rice will host SMU, a 34-24 winner over Tulsa at 2 pm next Saturday at Rice Stadium, with the winner guaranteed of a bowl berth. The loser will fall to 6-6 on the year and into a pool of C-USA teams hoping to snare the final post-season berth.





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