Rice 33, UTEP 24
Nov. 3, 2012
El Paso, Texas
Faced with the need to answer a late UTEP score and preserve their hopes of returning to a bowl game for the first time in four years, the Rice Owls turned to an unlikely option, as Jeremy Eddington stunned UTEP with a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to seal Rice's 33-24 win at the Sun Bowl.
The win was the Owls fourth in a row and fifth in the last six to close their regular season at 6-6 and clinch a spot in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl.
Rice had not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since before any of the current squad had been born, a period of 319 games since Antonio Brin¬kley returned one against Baylor at Rice Stadium in 1984.
It fell to Eddington to remove Rice from the mantle as he darted up the sideline in front of the UTEP bench and retiring head coach Mike Price. Price, who ended a 31-year coaching career, was in only his fourth year at Weber State when the Owls' kickoff drought began.
Rice stormed to a 17-14 halftime lead thanks to the powerful running of Charles Ross and the passing combination of Taylor McHargue and Vance McDonald. Ross topped 100 yards in the first half and would fin¬ish with a career-high 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns. McHargue and McDonald combined on three key third down completions to keep Rice scoring drives alive during the first half.
McDonald continued to celebrate his return from injury by catching a career-high nine for 99 yards.
After halftime, UTEP retook the lead in the third quarter, but Eddington returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to set up a Chris Boswell 51-yard field goal to cut the lead to one. It was Boswell's sixth field goal this year from 50 yards or more and his fourth consecutive successful kick from that distance.
UTEP seemed to be ready to answer right back after Nathan Jeffery busted off a 37-yard run to the Rice 37, but the Owls held and Hosam Shahin's tackle for loss on third down force a punt which was downed at the Rice five yard line.
From there the Owls mounted a methodical 20-play, 95-yard drive to retake the lead on Ross' second touchdown of the night. After missing a try for two, the Owls led 26-21. UTEP cut the lead to 26-24 after recover¬ing a muffed punt, setting the stage for Eddington's dash.
Eddington finished with 210 yards on four kick returns, the second-best total in school history added 59 yards on the ground and caught one pass for a total of 279 all-purpose yards which was just 16 yards shy of Trevor Cobb's school mark of 295 set vs. Iowa State in 1991.
The win was Rice's 19th in its last 28 November games since 2006. In each of the Owls three bowl seasons, they ran off an unbeaten final month to earn the chance to play an additional game.
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