The result: Rice 18, Florida Atlantic 14
The records: Rice 2-2, 1-0 in Conference USA. Florida Atlantic is 1-4, 0-3 in C-USA.
The significance: Rice avoided a somewhat embarrassing home loss Saturday that would have damaged the team’s pursuit of a conference title. While the offensive troubles will have to be addressed, the end result was a much needed W to install some confidence after the Bayou Bucket letdown and heading into the Tulsa showdown.
The grade: C. The defensive grade is higher, especially in the fourth quarter, but for the second straight home game the offense only scored one touchdown. While Rice’s running game was fairly effective, the 3 of 16 conversion rate on third downs meant too many promising drives resulted in no points. Special teams was pretty good with punter James Farrimond booming three punts of more than 50 yards.
The play: Rice had just cut the lead to 14-12 with 4:17 left in the game, but could not convert a two-point conversion. Florida Atlantic had the ball first and 10 at its own 25 when freshman FAU quarterback Greg Hankerson unexpectedly dropped back to pass. Rice cornerback Bryce Callahan intercepted the pass at the FAU 48. Two plays later Rice took the lead. It was the junior’s 10th career pick.
The good stat: Rice held Florida Atlantic to 94 rushing yards. It was the first time this season Rice has held an opponent to less than 100 yards on the ground.
The bad stat: Quarterback Taylor McHargue’s passing: 7 completions, 24 attempts, 69 yards, 0 touchdowns.
The X-factor: Rice special teams. Chris Boswell was 2 for 2 on field goals and Farrimond averaged 46.2 yards a punt, helping the field position battle.
The David Bailiff quote: “FAU was packing the box with eight and nine people, telling us we needed to pass the ball to beat them. We have to look at what we’re doing in the passing game and how we can get off man coverage better.”
The Florida Atlantic quote: (Greg Hankerson, QB) “I made a mistake. I just have to take better care of the ball.” -- about the Callahan interception.
The game story: can be found here.
The fun fact: This is the first time since 2008 Rice has won a Conference USA opener. Rice defeated SMU 56-27 that season.
The overall series: Rice 1, Florida Atlantic 0
Rice Examiner Players of the Game:
1. Bryce Callahan (junior CB)- 7 tackles, 2 pass breakup, interception
2. Tanner Leeland (senior DE)- 6 tackles, 2 for negative yards, fumble recovery
3. Darik Dillard (freshman RB)- 11 carries for 62 rushing yards, touchdown
Up Next: Road game at Tulsa, 2:30 p.m. Saturday, CBS Sports Network