HOUSTON (AP) — JT Daniels tied a career high passing for 401 yards and three scores, Daelen Alexander rushed for three touchdowns and Rice defeated Houston 43-41 in double overtime in the 42nd Bayou Bucket, on Saturday.
“To win the bucket for the first time in 12 years and get it back was one of our goals this season,” Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said. “That’s a big deal for our program. To beat a Big 12 team is a big deal for our program.”
The victory for Rice snapped a seven-game win streak for Houston in the series. The last win for the Owls over Houston came on October 16, 2010, when they beat the Cougars 34-31. This is only the second time a game in the Bayou Bucket series has gone to overtime. The last time was September 2, 2000.
Daniels finished 28-for-42 passing and registered his second career 400-yard game. His only other came against Mississippi State on November 21, 2020.
“This is just the start of what he can do,” Bloomgren said. “He played good today. but he didn't play his best game. We're going to see better. That's exciting. There's a lot of good.”
Rice started the second overtime with a 3-yard rushing score by Alexander. He also ran in the two-point conversion to give the Owls the 43-35 lead. The Cougars answered with a 2-yard touchdown run by Donovan Smith, to make it 43-41. On the two-point conversion attempt, Smith’s pass was broken up by the Rice defense, securing the win.
The Rice fans and students stormed the field after fireworks shot off above the scoreboard and video boards on each end of Rice Stadium.
“I can’t explain it," Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. "Maybe it’s a trap game. Maybe it’s a trophy game. Maybe it’s a rivalry game. Maybe we were looking forward to the Big 12 and TCU. I don’t know. Maybe we didn’t respect our opponent and they whipped our tail. At the end of the day it’s on me.”
In the first overtime period, Smith hit Matthew Golden for a 2-yard score to give the Cougars a 35-28 lead. Rice answered the score with a 3-yard score by Alexander to send the game to double overtime.
“Just to finish,” Alexander said. “We worked real hard as a team throughout the week to get to that moment. I didn't want to waste it. Lose the Bucket. So, my goal was to finish the game.”
With just 15 seconds remaining in the game, Smith plunged in for his second touchdown of the night to complete a 21-point fourth quarter comeback for Houston, forcing overtime. A 14-yard touchdown run by Stacy Sneed with 3:46 to go in the game cut the lead to 28-21.
Smith completed 24 of 42 passes for 260 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for 57 yards and three scores on 16 carries. Samuel Brown led Houston in receiving with 138 yards on nine catches.
Rice raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter as Daniels connected with Luke McCaffrey on 10- and 32-yard touchdown passes. Then the Owls made it 28-0 with 8:32 to go in the second quarter on a 15-yard touchdown reception by Braylen Walker.
“The first 24 to 26 minutes of the game was Rice Owl football,” Bloomgren said. “It was the jump from game one to game two we wanted to see.”
McCaffrey finished with seven catches for 99 yards and two scores. Dean Connors had seven receptions for 82 yards and eight carries for 48 yards for the Owls.
Houston was held scoreless until Smith hit Golden in the back of the end zone for a 10-yard score with 2:42 left in the first half to cut its deficit to 28-7 at the half.
“I sensed it Wednesday that it meant more to them than it did to us," Holgorsen said. "I tried to get our attention Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and today. First half was unacceptable.”
MCCAFFREY ONE-HANDED CATCH
McCaffrey, who is the younger brother of San Francisco 49er Christian McCaffrey, had his own highlight-reel catch on Saturday. With three minutes left in the first quarter, McCaffrey reeled in an incredible one-handed diving catch in the left corner of the end zone. McCaffrey, as he was diving to the ground, tipped the ball with two fingers on his left hand back towards him and reeled it in for the score. His helmet came off during the play, he got up, screamed and pointed to the sky in celebration.
“That was just how we drew it up,” McCaffrey said. “It was drawn up where he's going to put it low and I reach one hand out. It was cool to see that come into fruition.”
Rice: After being held to 176 total yards of offense against Texas last week, the Owls took a big step forward on offense as they finished with 470 against the Cougars.
Houston: Houston also had trouble converting on critical fourth downs. In the third quarter, the Cougars’ two drives both ended on failed fourth-down conversions and they failed to score any points in the quarter.
Rice: The Owls host Texas Southern on Saturday.
Houston: The Cougars host last season’s national runner-up TCU in its inaugural Big 12 Conference game.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll