HOUSTON – On a night where Rice’s offense had difficultly finishing drives, the Owls turned to its not-so-secret weapon.
Chris Boswell made a 56-yard field goal to give Rice the lead for good with 8:05 left in Saturday’s 23-14 win over Kansas. It was the 12th time the Rice senior has made a 50-plus yard field goal, and this one was a yard short of his school record.
“As soon as it hit my foot, I knew it was good,” Boswell said. “It’s kind of like golf in that the ones you don’t feel off the club are the best hits. As soon as I felt the contact, I thought it would go through.”
Boswell, who hit a 45-yard game-winning field goal as time expired to beat Kansas in Lawrence last season, also made 3-pointers from 40 and 28 Saturday after eight- and 12-play Rice drives petered out. No matter the distance, Boswell said his mindset and approach don’t differ.
“I try to get the ball up as fast as possible because they bring a pretty good rush,“ he said. “I don’t try to chip it more, or drive it more, I just kick it as hard as I can and pray it goes in.”
While not as sharp as the season opener at Texas A&M, the Rice offense outgained Kansas by 100 yards and had a few chances to open up a substantial lead. But two interceptions by Taylor McHargue kept Kansas hanging around.
“I said to the defensive coaches, when you hold them to 16 [offensive points] that should be good enough to win,” said Kansas coach Charlie Weis.
The Jayhawks (1-1) capitalized on the second pick to take a 14-13 lead on a 1-yard Jake Heaps quarterback sneak late in the third quarter. Rice had stopped Kansas on a third and 12 play right before the touchdown, but KU got a second chance because the Owls were offsides. Heaps hit Tre’ Parmalee on a 17-yard pass to set up the go-ahead score.
McHargue complete one more series but then was pulled from the game. Rice coach David Bailiff said McHargue wasn’t responding quite right to questions the Rice staff asked him.
Driphus Jackson entered and led the drive that resulted in Boswell’s 56-yarder to give Rice the 16-14 lead. Cody Bauer sacked Heaps on the Jayhawks next possession after the quarterback could not find an opened receiver downfield.
The Owls (1-1) got the ball back at midfield and strictly kept it on the ground. Jackson and Charles Ross took turns on a six-play, 50-yard touchdown drive. Ross took it in an 8-yard option run with 3:09 left to give the Owls a two-possession lead.
“Driphus pitched it and the receivers had good blocks,” Ross said. “I had one guy to beat and I drove in.”
Bailiff said during the touchdown drive, Rice played with a chip on its shoulder.
“That last touchdown that we scored, we saw inspired offense the way the offensive line blocked, and the way [receivers] Mario Hull and Donte Moore blocked to get Charles to the end zone. That’s why it should have looked like all night.”
Ross finished with a career high 157 rushing yards, a fact he attributed to the offensive line and receivers. No other Rice player had more than 20 yards on the ground.
The Owls held the Jayhawks group of talented running backs to 100 yards on 35 carries, an average of less than three yards an attempt. Rice also consistently put pressure on Heaps, sacking him three times and intercepting him twice.
Kansas crossed midfield on its first drive of the game, but the possession ended when Rice senior linebacker Michael Kutzler tipped Heaps’ pass to himself and returned it 52 yards for the touchdown. Kutzler was starting for an injured Cameron Nwosu.
“It was a great defensive play all around,” Kutzler said. “The defensive line made a great push on it. They might have tipped it. It was a route we saw on film this week, so I saw it coming. I tipped it to myself and I’m glad I caught it the second time. Then I just didn’t want to get caught be an offensive lineman down the field.”
While the Rice coaches and players were excited to beat a Big 12 opponent for the second straight season, they saw plenty to work on before the Bayou Bucket game Saturday.
“We are going to learn a lot from this video,” Bailiff said. “It’s sometimes easier to teach young men when you win than when you lose. Whoever said you the old adage ‘you get more out of a loss’ was not a coach. If you saw the locker room, the offense was thanking the defense for keeping us in the game. And everyone was thanking the special teams.”
Rice will play Houston for the Bayou Bucket at 2 p.m. Saturday at Reliant Stadium.