Both teams got off to a slow start at Rice Stadium Friday night but was the home team who'd dominate the second half and walk out with the win. The Owl seniors must have been especially happy to win their final home game against UTEP.
The Miners (6-5, 4-3 C-USA) fumbled away their first drive but weren't punished as Rice (7-4, 5-2) went three and out before throwing in a 13-yard punt. The offenses continued trading three-and-outs almost the entire first quarter. UTEP finally earned a first down at the 2:56 mark.
The offensive ovens warmed up from there. Rice drove into the red zone, stalled out and (a miracle!) scored a field goal midway through the second quarter. UTEP did the same on its next drive.
Late in the second quarter that's how it stood, 3-3. It was nearing 10 p.m. on the east coast and bed beckoned for anyone watching there.
Darik Dillard changed all of that with a 5-yard touchdown run off an option pitch from Driphus Jackson to give Rice the lead right before the break. They'd keep that lead the rest of the game.
Rice scored again on the first drive of the third quarter, marching 82 yards in just four plays to make it 17-3 on a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Jordan Taylor.
UTEP looked to make it 17-10 midway through the third quarter during a long drive. Instead, a holding penalty left them settling for a field goal, which by then wasn't going to cut it with the Rice offense steaming along.
The home team scored again on a Dillard run and another Jackson touchdown pass to end the scoring.
Rice can still win the C-USA West if La Tech loses to Old Dominion and then the Owls beat the Bulldogs next weekend. But as we've said before, the "reward" would be another date with Marshall.
Here are highlights if you're interested:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/g6o129Tq6WY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Also, while the win was exciting for Rice, the most epic part of the game may have been this UTEP player's beard:
One of the announcers said he grew it for No-Shave November. If so, that must be a record or something.