For a few minutes, it looked like offense would be hard to come by in the Hawaii Bowl between the Rice Owls and Fresno State Bulldogs. But despite both teams sputtering a bit to begin when they had the ball, the Owls benefited from three Driphus Jackson touchdown passes and a pair of forced turnovers to come up with a 30-6 win at Aloha Stadium.
Rice looked like they might take a 7-0 lead out of the gate but had to settle for three after a pair of penalties in the red zone set them back. Fresno State tied it with a Kody Kroening 44-yarder before the Owls marched down the field, thanks to a 53-yard pass play to Dennis Parks and a 14-yard TD catch by Jordan Taylor, to take a 9-3 lead. On the Bulldogs' ensuing drive at their own 25, Brian Burrell bombed one downfield that was caught at the Rice 35 by...a Rice player, namely J.T. Blasingame. On the very next play, Jackson found Mario Hull downfied for a 69-yard score to give the Owls a 16-3 advantage.
It turns out that the lead would be more than enough for the Owls despite their attempts to let Fresno State back into it, namely managing just four yards of offense in the second quarter. But all the Bulldogs could manage was a single field goal and an aborted trip to the end zone (they went for it on 4th and 1 at the Rice 18 instead of trying the field goal...and lost three yards).
The third quarter looked a little more promising for the Bulldogs as Marteze Waller broke one for 41 yards to put his team at the Rice 24. But, again, they didn't take advantage as the Rice defense stood firm, gobbling up Josh Harper in the backfield for -6 yards, sacking Burrell and, two plays later, blocking Kroening's 44-yard attempt to hold their 16-6 lead. On Rice's ensuing drive, Jackson found his favorite target, Parks, for a 40-yard score to make it 23-6.
Burrell, again, was in a giving mood as he tossed one to the Owls' Bryce Callahan on the next drive, and while Rice didn't score on the possession, his early Christmas present from Tim DeRuyter was a seat on the bench as Zack Greenlee replaced him in the fourth quarter. Rice, in the meantime, was in a jolly mood after Jackson found Darik Dillard for 58 yards with 10:54 left in regulation, and even more so after the redshirt sophomore pushed it in from a yard out on the next play to extend the lead to 30-6 for the final tally.
Jackson ended the day 15 for 24 with 318 yards and three touchdowns. Burrell, meanwhile, was 10 for 20 for 44 yards and two interceptions, and was sacked three times. Greenlee, his backup, passed for more yardage (49) with three less completions and two less pass attempts. The Owls were able to win despite twelve penalties for 100 yards.
Oh, and there was also...
and of course...