Cougar High Sends Owls Back to Pre-School
Before Thursday night's game at Robertson Stadium on the campus of the University of Houston, many Owls' fans were taking a page out of Governor Rick Perry's book and praying for a sudden deluge of rain that would surely help ground the Houston air attack. Apparently only part of the prayer was heard as heavy rain lasted for a just a quarter-and so did the Owls' grip on the game, as they ended up losing by a score of 73-34.
Like the 2009 matchup, the Cougars returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, making it look like the Owls would be run out of Cullen Boulevard before fans even sat down. But the Owls responded on their first possession, utilizing sophomore running back Turner Petersen's adept skill as the maestro of the Wild Owl offense, crunching up yards on the way to a 52-yard field goal by sophomore placekicker Chris Boswell. The sprinkling rain turned into a downright downpour, muzzling the Cougar passing attack, while augmenting the Owls' advantage on the ground, as the tandem of Petersen and senior Tyler Smith drove down the field to make it 10-7 Owls, aided by a blistering 47-yard run on a wide receiver reverse by sophomore Andre Gautreaux.
UH managed to pick up a few first downs, but the rain took its toll on their offense as the Rice run defense kept the Cougars out of field goal range. Boswell would slip and fall on a field goal attempt, proving that the rain was indeed unbiased as to which team felt its brunt. But with time winding down in the first quarter, sixth-year quarterback Case Keenum, a world beater by all standards and one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, had the ball slip through his hands off a snap, allowing sophomore linebacker Cam Nwosu to scoop and score another Rice touchdown, making it 17-7. But with a few ticks left on the clock in the first quarter, UH would get the ball back and Keenum fired a 57-yard bullet into Patrick Edwards' hands for a touchdown. Still, with one quarter gone by, the Owls knew they had a real chance of pulling off one of the biggest upsets in school history.
But slowly the rain dwindled aways and with it the Owls' chances. Boswell would boot another field goal through the uprights, but UH answered with their own field goal with 10 minutes left in the half, to keep them within three points of Rice. The Rice offense mysteriously shut down its Wild Owl formation, using a combination of sophomore quarterback Taylor McHargue and senior quarterback Nick Fanuzzi to attempt to lengthen the lead. But with wide receivers seemingly off their routes and quarterbacks making errant throws, the Owls would fail to score the rest of the half. Meanwhile, the Cougars were hitting their stride, as Keenum would throw three more touchdown passes in the quarter to make it 38-20 UH as the teams traipsed into the locker rooms.
With rain not returning until the fourth quarter, the air show was back on at Robertson Stadium as Case Keenum torched the Owls' secondary, tossing two quick touchdowns to Charles Sims to make it 52-20 Houston before seven minutes had passed in the third quarter. Rice countered with fireworks of their own as Smith took a pass from Fanuzzi 67 yards for a score. But Rice knew they couldn't catch up to the NCAA's first-ranked offense, and Keenum threw three more strikes to Patrick Edwards, giving Edwards four touchdowns on the day and Keenum a total of nine touchdown throws, which gave him the all-time mark for career touchdown passes in NCAA history, passing Colt Brennan of Hawaii. Perhaps what was most startling was the fact that only of Keenum's touchdown tosses was less than 20 yards, showing that the Rice secondary was no match for the speed of the Cougar receivers streaking down the field.
Still, several Rice players had career days, most notably Smith, who rushed for 173 yards and two touchdowns, including a 97-yard run, the longest touchdown run in school history. Smith also was the team's leading receiver with 73 yards. Petersen also had a career-high in rushing yards for a single game, running for 140 yards on 23 carries. Junior tight end Vance McDonald had three catches for 32 yards and Fanuzzi led Rice in passing with 81 yards, 67 of those coming on his touchdown throw to Smith. Nwosu led the Owls on defense with nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
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