Driphus Jackson and Jordan Taylor sparked a second-half offensive explosion while the Rice defense totally dominated on of the top rushing offenses in the country and the Owls downed Air Force 33-14 in the 10th annual Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth.
Playing in a newly-renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium the site of so many past memories from the days when Rice and TCU were Southwest Conference rivals, the 2012 Owls closed out a remarkable sprint to the finish, winning their fifth straight and sixth in the last seven to rescue a season that saw them open 1-5.
Jackson came on in relief at quarterback just before halftime after Taylor McHargue was knocked out of the game. He threw for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the Owls outscored the Falcons 26-0 in the second half.
Taylor matched the legendary Dicky Maegle's effort in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, scoring three times on touchdown receptions. He finished with a career-best nine catches and set a Rice bowl record with 153 yards receiving to earn Rice MVP honors as well as a spot on several All-Bowl game teams.
After taking an early 7-0 led, the Owls found themselves down 14-7 at the half thanks in part to three turnovers. But they played error-free football in the second half on offense, while the Rice defense throttled the Air Force rushing game to just 25 yards in the second half.
Air Force entered the game ranked second in the country, averaging 328 yards per game, but the Owls held them to just 166 in the game, only the fourth time in the last four years a team had held them under 170.
After the Owls' defense stopped the initial Falcons' possession of the second half, the offense put together an eight play, 87-yard drive to knot the score on a 22-yard pass from Jackson to Taylor.
Rice went ahead to stay on their next possession, eating up the rest of the third quarter as they marched 74 yards in nine plays. Two plays into the fourth quarter, Charles Ross barged in from two yards out to make it 21-14.
The Rice defense held Air Force to four three-and-outs in the last half and the offense never gave the Falcons a chance to get back into the game, holding on to the ball for 20:31 in the second half.
The win was the Owls second straight in a bowl game under David Bailiff, allowing him to join Jess Neely as the only coaches in school history to have won multiple bowl games.