Houston 35, Rice 14
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Driphus Jackson threw for 272 yards in his starting debut and connected with Sam McGuffie on the longest passing play in school history, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Houston Cougars, who retained the Bayou Bucket with a 35-14 win at Reliant Stadium on Saturday in front of a crowd of 32,718.
"We offensively had a hard time sustaining drives, we had 7 or 8 plays and came away with no points and you can't do that," Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "Defensively we were out there for a long time and we had way too many missed tackles. We got into field goal range and took a sack which cost us. You have to play as a team to win and we didn't do that today."
Jackson, subbing for an injured Taylor McHargue, completed 17-35 passes and threw his first two touchdown passes, both to senior Sam McGuffie, who finished with a career-best 119 yards on six receptions.
"I was proud of Driphus (Jackson) he learned a lot today and is a very talented young quarterback. There are a lot of things he can do better but, he really competed and gave us his best," Bailiff said.
"You always want to start out with a win but obviously we didn't," Jackson said. "Me being the person I am and how I was brought up, I guess the way that I am, I take full responsibility for what happened on the offensive side of the ball. I'm just going to take this opportunity and learn from it and try and capitalize on it next week and fix the mistakes I made this week."
The game began tentatively for both teams. Rice moved 22 yards on the game's first series but Jackson was sacked for the first of five times on the day and fumbled to set up Houston at the Owls' 31. However the Owls defense allowed the Cougars to advance only three yards and Matt Hogan's 45-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The Cougars found the end zone on their next series, driving 65 yards in seven plays, the last 25 coming on a David Piland pass to Larry McDuffey.
Houston extended the lead to 14-0 at halftime and built a commanding 28-0 lead in the third before the Owls broke into the scoring column.
Two plays after Michael Kutzler recovered a fumbled punt, Jackson lobbed a 24-yard scoring toss to McGuffie to cut the margin to 28-7. They pair connected again late in the fourth quarter after defensive end Cody Bauer recovered a Houston fumble. Jackson hit McGuffie up the west sideline on an 88-yard scoring strike which broke the school record for the longest pass play in school history. Kerry Overton and Elliston Stinson combined on an 86-yard play at Air Force in 1985.
It also marked the second straight Bayou Bucket in which a long-standing Rice record was broken. Tyler Smith scored on a 97-yard run last year at Robertson Stadium.
The loss marked the first time since 2006-07 that the Owls have dropped consecutive efforts to capture the Bayou Bucket and dropped the Owls to 1-4 on the season, 0-2 in Conference USA.
"We feel like we are a great football team," Bauer said. "We are a great football team. We have to be more consistent, and we were really counting on this win. Anytime you lose, it hurts. The measure of a man and the measure of a team isn't how many times you fall. It's how many times you get back up. We're going to put this one in the past and we're going to think about the future. We're going to come out and have a good attitude."