Pur-don't! Rice blocks last-second field goal to win
The football team, which was once a member of the now-defunct Southwest Conference, arguably the best football conference in the country for a period of time, has fallen on hard times lately against teams with realistic hopes of playing in a national championship game.
Prior to last Saturday, the football team's win over Duke 10 years ago – three years before the launch of Facebook – had been the last time it had defeated a team from a major Bowl Championship Series conference. Fourteen years have passed since Rice had last defeated a Big 10 team, when it had eked out a win against Northwestern University during the Bill Clinton impeachment scandal. Needless to say, the team was due for success – any kind of success – and it finally found some last Saturday.
When Purdue University (1-1) came into Rice Stadium last Saturday after narrowly scraping out a win against Middle Tennessee State University on a blocked kick, it was widely considered the worst team in the Big 10 Conference. Rice, after a disappointing performance against the University of Texas, knew that if there was a chance for a non-conference win, this face-off was it.
Rice came out to play from the opening kickoff, spurred on by the large opening-day crowd at the normally quiet Rice Stadium.
Much like last week, sophomore place-kicker Chris Boswell was the first to put the Owls on the scoreboard, converting a 33-yard field goal to move the Owls ahead 3-0. However, Purdue responded with a touchdown from a five-yard rush by quarterback Caleb TerBush.
Sophomore running back Turner Petersen thrust the Owls into the end zone on their next drive after doing everything to move the ball down the field and into scoring position. After catching a 30-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Taylor McHargue, Petersen capped the drive off with a two-yard touchdown run.
Purdue answered with 10 more points, leaving McHargue mere with mere minutes until the end of the half. He found junior tight end Luke Willson in the corner of the end zone in the closing ticks to tie the game.
After halftime, Rice erupted out of the locker room with McHargue leading the Owls on another long scoring drive capped off with a pass to junior running back Sam McGuffie.
"Coming into the second half, we did a great job of setting the tempo," McHargue said. "When we moved the ball today, it was because of the tempo. We'd hurry up and try to get them on their heels. As long as we were moving, as long as the tempo was up, they were on their heels."
Despite a Purdue field goal, Rice was still up 24-17 with the ball in possession until junior running back Charles Ross was tackled in the Rice end zone, giving Purdue two points and the ball.
One more Purdue field goal in the fourth quarter sent the point difference to two with only minutes left on the clock. After forcing Rice to punt, Purdue entered field goal position during the closing moments of the game.
With the Purdue field goal team on the field, it looked like it would be a heartbreaker for the Owls. However, senior linebacker Justin Allen had other ideas as he rushed past the Biolermakers' offensive line to get a hand in the way of the ball, ensuring that it would never travel through the uprights.
Rice players stormed the field, ecstatic over the narrow victory. As one of the biggest Rice victories in years, it was truly a memorable moment for Head Coach David Bailiff.
"I've been responsible for part of [the streak] for five years," Bailiff said. "Some of the players have been responsible for six weeks of it. I'm glad it's over because the thing I found is that more people [outside the program] talk about it than we do. It's nice not to have to worry about it. I've always believed since we've got here that we're in the process of building a real fine program."
McHargue had his best game ever, throwing for 230 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. McGuffie looked good in his true season debut, carrying the ball nine times with an average of 5.3 yards per carry.
This week, the Owls will enjoy a bye-week before traveling to Waco to take on Baylor University (1-0) on Sept. 24.
More from The Rice Thresher
Pitcher Roel Garcia became the latest Owl to turn pro on Tuesday when he was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in round 14 of the MLB Draft. According to Garcia, he barely remembers the moment he heard his name called because he was so overwhelmed with joy.
On Thursday, sophomore distance runner Grace Forbes proved to the rest of the country what her Conference USA opponents and Rice teammates have known for years – she’s one of the fastest runners in the country. Competing at the NCAA championships in Eugene, Ore. for the second consecutive year, Forbes, took second place in the 10,000-meter, the best finish by an Owl at the NCAAs in over a decade. According to Forbes, who missed the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor season due to extreme fatigue later diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder, the result was a testament to the work she’s put in to overcome an incredibly challenging year.
Five Owls will be heading to next week’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, after qualifying at the NCAA West Preliminaries which ran May 25 through 28. Headlining the meet for Rice was sophomore distance-runner Grace Forbes, who took first place in the 10,000 meters for the second consecutive year. Forbes will be joined in Eugene, Ore., by sophomore thrower Tara Simpson-Sullivan, junior thrower Erna Gunnarsdottir, senior thrower James McNaney and sophomore vaulter Alex Slinkman. Jon Warren, head coach of the men’s track and field program, said that he was impressed not only by the five qualifiers, but by all 13 Owls who participated over the course of the week in Fayetteville, Ark.