Nov. 29, 2008
HOUSTON - For the first time since 2004, the Bayou Bucket will reside at Rice as the Owls rode the all-around play of James Casey and an inspired effort from a defense bolstered by the return of Brian Raines to defeat Houston 56-42 in front largest crowd to see at game at Rice Stadium in over eight years,
The 32nd Bayou Bucket drew a crowd of 35,534, which was the largest crowd for an Owl home game since the 2000 Bayou Bucket drew 40, 714 to see the Owls win a thriller in overtime.
Casey smashed the C-USA season receiving record, catching 12 for 172 yards and three touchdowns, ran for a fourth score and threw for a fifth. It was the second time this year that the multi-talented Casey has caught, ran and thrown for a touchdown in the same game. His 12 catches raised his season total to 104, making him the first Rice receiver to top 100 catches, and breaking the previous conference record of 101, set by Arnold Jackson of Louisville in 1999.
Raines returned to the field just six weeks after he was told his career was over after breaking both bones in his left forearm. Wearing a protective cast over his injured arm, Raines set the early tone, picking off a deflected Case Keenum pass and returning it 24 yards to set up the Owls fourth touchdown of the game.
The Owls never trailed in the game, taking the opening kickoff and driving 72 yards to set up a 1-yard run by Casey. After Houston tied it up, the two teams traded punts before the Owls took their second lead on an eight-yard run by Clement. After the Cougars tied it back up at 14-14, Rice scored 21 straight points to gain the lead for good.
After scoring their first two scores on the ground, Clement and the Owls unleashed their air assault as the senior from San Antonio threw for five touchdowns to increase his career total to 96, tying Chase Daniel of Missouri for ninth on the NCAA career list.
While Houston's game plan was focused on stopping Jarett Dillard (four catches for 43 yards), Clement turned his attention to his other receivers with devastating results.
Clement finished the night hitting on 28 of 41 passes for 381 yards, added 58 yards on 13 carries, and also had the first pass reception of his career.
C.J. Ugokwe topped 100 yards for the third time this season, finishing with 110 on 18 carries.
The win was the Owls ninth of the season, their most wins since they won nine in 1953. The have not won nine games in a regular season since 1949, when they went on to win the Cotton Bowl and finished 10-1.
The win was also the Owls sixth in a row to end the season, and gave them a perfect 6-0 record at home this year. They finished the season with a 7-1 record in C-USA play, their most wins in a conference season, and good enough for a share of the C-USA West title with Tulsa.
The Owls will meet as a team on Monday to vote on team awards and discuss the schedule for the upcoming weeks. An announcement on their bowl destination is expected later in the week.