Late-game takeaways propel Houston to 34-27 win over Rice
University of Houston Football used another late rally to defeat Rice 34-27 for its seventh consecutive victory in the Bayou Bucket Classic on Saturday night at TDECU Stadium. The seven straight wins are the longest for either team in the history of the rivalry.
The Cougars (2-2) forced a pair of fourth quarter takeaways to win a back-and-forth affair against Rice (2-2).
On its second possession, Houston capped off an eight-play, 67-yard drive with a screen pass from quarterback Clayton Tune to receiver Matthew Golden, who went 19 yards for the score. With two scores, Tune has been responsible for 83 career touchdowns, surpassing Andre Ware for fifth in program history.
On Houston’s ensuing possession, a pass intended for receiver KeSean Carter was batted up into the air and intercepted by Rice defensive back Myron Morrison. Four plays later, Rice running back Ari Broussard tied the game with a two-yard rushing score.
After a 34-yard rush from Rice receiver Kobie Campbell set them up inside the red zone, Broussard once again found the end zone from two yards out to take the 14-7 lead.
Houston responded with a lengthy 10-play, 52-yard drive that resulted in a Bubba Baxa 37-yard field goal that cut the lead to four with 58 seconds remaining in the first half.
On the opening drive of the second half, Tune needed just four plays to find receiver Nathaniel Dell for a 40-yard touchdown to retake the lead. Dell finished with 134 receiving yards, upping his career total to 2,137 career yards while passing James Cleveland (2,014) to move into 14th in school history.
The score again titled in Rice’s favor as quarterback TJ McMahon hit receiver Luke McCaffrey deep downfield for a 52-yard touchdown.
Facing a 2nd and 29, Houston running back Ta’Zhawn Henry scampered for a 28-yard run before being pushed out-of-bounds at the Rice 4-yard line. The following play Henry punched it in for his 20th career rushing touchdown. With 112 rushing yards, the back exceeded 100 yards for the third time in his career and for the first time since Nov. 6, 2021, at USF (130 yards).
Down three, Rice manufactured a 10-play, 51-yard drive to set up a 42-yard field goal from Christian VanSickle, tying the game at 24 apiece.
Houston opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 from its own 47-yard line and was unable to convert. Rice capitalized on the starting field position with a 43-yard field goal from VanSickle to take a three-point lead.
The Cougars offense orchestrated a 12-play, 60-yard drive that chewed up over six minutes of clock before Bubba Baxa drilled a 32-yard field goal to tie the game at 27.
Facing third down and 17 yards to go, deep in their own territory McMahon was strip sacked by Houston defensive linemen D’Anthony Jones and the fumble was recovered by fellow defensive linemen Nelson Ceaser who returned it 11 yards for the go-ahead score. Jones’ two forced fumbles were the most for a Cougar since Donavan Mutin did so against East Carolina on Oct. 23, 2021.
On the ensuing possession, Rice was able to move the ball to the Houston 35-yard line before a ball ricocheted off the hands of Rice receiver Isaiah Esdale and into the waiting arms of Houston defensive back Thabo Mwanki.
The victory was not sealed until the final play of the game as McMahon found receiver Bradley Rozner 51 yards downfield to give them one final opportunity from the Houston nine. However, Rice was unable to score.
Houston opens American Athletic Conference play against Tulane at TDECU Stadium Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN. The matchup will serve as Hispanic Heritage Night and will also be the program’s annual “Blackout” matchup with fans encouraged to wear black