Sept. 28, 2013
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With their backs to the wall and their offensive teammates struggling, the Rice defense rose up to produce a pair of touchdowns in the last four minutes and give the homestanding Owls an 18-14 win over Florida Atlantic at Rice Stadium on Saturday night.
Cody Bauer scooped up a fumble by FAU quarterback Greg Hankerson and returned it seven yards for a score, the third consecutive game in which the Rice defense has put points on the board. On FAU's first play after the touchdown, Bryce Callahan picked off Hankerson and two plays later, Darik Dillard barged in from 20 yards out to put Rice ahead to stay.
"I'm so proud of how the defense played tonight" Rice head coach David Bailiff said. "They kept making plays and kept making plays. Cody Bauer scores the touchdown. Bryce Callahan gets the interception. We got four turnovers tonight. The defense was the big reason we won tonight."
The win evened Rice's season mark at 2-2 and snapped a four-game losing streak in C-USA openers. FAU fell to 1-4, including an 0-3 mark in its initial season in Conference USA.
For nearly 55 minutes, the FAU Owls held the Rice Owls out of the end zone and fashioned a 14-6 advantage thanks to a pair of big plays. Greg Hankerson hit William Dukes for 58-yard touchdown pass in which Dukes lost control of the ball but recovered to complete the score and give FAU a 7-3 lead. Midway through the fourth quarter, Jonathan Wallace broke up the middle for a 54-yard run and two plays later, Hankerson his Nexon Dorvilus for a 15-yard score.
To that point, the Rice offense had produced a pair of Chris Boswell field goals and had been continuously stymied by poor field position. In its first 11 possessions, the Owls average starting position was their own 19 yard line.
"Even when the offense was struggling, all they were talking about is 'We got to make plays. We've got to get them a short field," Bailiff noted.
The combination of a 48-yard punt by James Farrimond and a penalty on the return pinned FAU at its own 16 with 5:08 left. After a pair of runs by Wallace gained one yard, Hankerson rolled to his right. James Radcliffe charged forward to meet him and Hankerson lost control of the football. Bauer scooped up the loose ball and rolled into the end zone.
Callahan's pick was the 10th of his career to move him into a tie for sixth on the Rice career list with Jason Hebert and was part of a stellar night for the junior cornerback. He led the team with seven tackles, including one for a loss of a yard, and broke up two other passes.
Dillard's touchdown was the first of his career and capped a 62-yard rushing night. Taylor McHargue led the Owls with 71 yards rushing while throwing for 69.
Rice will hit the road for the next three games. First up is matchup with defending C-USA Champion Tulsa next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 2:30 with the game set to be televised by CBS College Sports.