A season’s worth of frustrations were put on the back burner for 30 minutes Saturday afternoon as the Rice Owls exploded for 45 first half points against Prairie View A&M
Rice (1-6) scored on seven of its eight first half possession and rung up 31 points in the second quarter alone on its way to a 65-44 win. The 65 points were the most ever scored in a Homecoming game. It was Rice’s highest point total since scoring 77 against UNT in the 2008 season.
Whether they scored 65 or 2, the Owls were just happy to finally earn a victory after exasperating near-misses against North Texas and UTSA in the last two games at Rice Stadium.
“To be honest, losing takes a lot out of you, because you put in all the work and all the effort,” Rice quarterback Tyler Stehling said. “But to finally win, it feels good to relish it.”
Stehling played a significant role in the victory, passing for 407 yards and five touchdowns. It was the fourth most single-game passing yards in school history.
“ I am so proud of the offense, and proud of the way Tyler Stehling directed that offense tonight,” Rice coach David Bailiff said. “I thought that he was completely confident in everything that he did.”
The senior quarterback from Spring also ran for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. Early in the second quarter, James Mayden took a pitch on a reverse and tossed 27-yard touchdown to the wide open Stehling. That score gave Rice a 21-7 lead.
The Owls scored again two minutes later on Stehling’s 46-yard pass to Temi Alaka. It was part of a big day for Alaka, who caught six balls for 143 yards, the junior’s first career 100-yard receiving game.
“We’ve been talking about consistency obviously this past week and over the past couple of weeks, and this game I felt like we got better at that, but we’re not where we want to be, especially in the second half,” Alaka said. “It’s definitely the best we’ve looked so far, but we need to improve on it.”
Down 45-14 at the half, Prairie View (4-3) had a productive second half. The Panthers scored four touchdowns, including a 62-yard pass from Jalen Morton to Darius Floyd. Prairie View also had several good special team moments, such as a Joshua Simmons 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and a blocked extra point, which was returned the other way for two points.
While giving up 44 points was far from ideal, the Owls finally have the win monkey off its backs. Rice was the only FBS team to have not won a game. Getting into the win column should relieve some of the pressure going forward in the next four conference games.
Rice will look to notch its first C-USA win Saturday at Louisiana Tech.