Owls Rally Falls Short in Season Finale

Nov. 26, 2011

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One week after celebrating their own version of Senior Day with a win over Tulane, the Rice Owls saw their bid to sour SMU's senior sendoff fall just short, as the Mustangs held on for a 27-24 win on a cold and blustery afternoon at Ford Stadium in Dallas. Rice finished the 2011 campaign with a 4-8 record, while SMU finished 7-5.

On a day when the offense struggled against the stout SMU defensive front, Rice's defense provided the offensive spark thanks to a pair of turnovers.

SMU built a 14-0 lead while the Owls were without a first down on their first six possessions. But after Kyle Martens had pinned the Mustangs deep thanks to a 63-yard punt, Xavier Webb picked off his second pass of the season and returned it to the SMU 13.

Senior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi wasted no time, connecting with Donte Moore on a 13-yard scoring play, the first touchdown of Moore's career, to cut the margin to 14-7 with 4:45 left in the half.

The Owls defense forced a three-and-out, but found themselves with their backs immediately against the wall after an errant Fanuzzi pass picked off by Richard Crawford and returned it to the Owls' 11. But a second down stop for no gain by Justin Allen and a third down deflection of a J.J. McDermott pass by Michael Smith force the Mustangs to attempt a field goal which was missed.

Down 14-7, the Owls used the blustery wind and their opportunistic defense in the third quarter to take a 17-14 lead.

SMU's Jared Williams lost control of the ball while running into the line at his own 21 and Cameron Nwosu scooped up the loose ball and dodged a pair of Mustangs to score his second defensive touchdown of the year to tie the game at 14-14.

The Owls found their offensive footing on their next series, sparked by a 38-yard run up the middle by Fanuzzi to the SMU eight. A pair of runs by Tyler Smith pushed the ball to the Mustang one., but a fourth down carry by Smith was stopped short and SMU took over on downs.

Rice's defense again forced a three-and-out and after a 25-yard punt that hung in the wind, the Owls were back inside the SMU 40, setting up a 49-yard field goal by Chris Boswell to put Rice up 17-14. The field goal was Boswell's 17th of the season, tying the school record set by James Hamrick in 1985.

SMU answered with a touchdown drive of its own extending into the fourth quarter which gave the Mustangs the wind advantage. RIshaad Wimberly scored from one-yard out, but the point after was missed, giving SMU a 20-17 lead. The Mustangs added a second score and appeared to have the game in hand, 27-17, before Fanuzzi engineered a late charge that kept the remnants of the crowd of 14,442 in their seats.

He hit Vance McDonald over the middle the junior wideout the rest, blasting his way for a 31-yard gain to the SMU 1. Fanuzzi hit Jordan Taylor one play later to cut the margin to 27-24 and after Corey Frazier recovered the ensuing onside kick, the Owls were 59 yards away from an memorable finish to their season.

Completions to Taylor for 10 yards and Klein Kubiak for five offset a sack on first down to give the Owls a first down at the SMU 49. A nine-yard completion to Brent Hotard on third down force a fourth-and-one from the SMU 40, but Fanuzzi's last pass attempt as an Owl was tipped at the line and fell just short of Moore, bringing Rice's final threat to an end.

Fanuzzi completed 22 of 38 passes for 158 yards and a pair of scores and added 53 yards on the ground to lead the Owls. Taylor led the receivers with a career-best five catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Paul Porras led the defense with eight tackles and his second interception of the year. Scott Solomon was credited with one tackle for loss (one of six by the Owls on the day), but did not register a sack, closing his career sharing the Rice career sack record of 24 with Brandon Green.





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