The Rice Owls continued their high-scoring ways when they hosted the Texas Southern University Tigers on Sept. 16. Before and during the game, Rice and TSU officials commemorated a close relationship, despite their cross-town rivalry.
“It’s always great playing a crosstown rival, but TSU has had such a close relationship with us and there is a long history between Rice and TSU,” Rice President Reginald DesRoches said before kickoff. “It’s a special relationship.” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner did the pregame coin toss, demonstrating that special relationship with a shirt featuring both Rice and TSU logos.
Once the game started, however, Rice wasted no time dominating its opposition. The Owls again racked up points in the first half, dominating an 0-2 Tigers team. But unlike last week, Rice continued its dominance in the second half, allowing only one score by Texas Southern and Texas Southern suffered a fumble on the first play of the game; the ball was recovered by cornerback Tre’shon Devones. The Owls cashed in with a rushing touchdown by Daelen Alexander (his fourth of the season).
After a quick three-and-out by TSU, Owls QB J.T. Daniels threw his 50th career touchdown – to wide receiver Braylen Walker. Just minutes later, Daniels threw a 70-yard strike to junior receiver Kobie Campbell for the score – Campbell’s first career touchdown.
With six minutes left in the quarter, Daniels hurled a 45-yard pass to Max Ahoia, then tossed to tight end Jack Bradley for the touchdown. Rice went up 28-0, a score they maintained at the end of the first quarter.
In the second, TSU quarterback Jace Wilson fumbled the ball; Rice recovered. Rice running back Dean Connors rushed to the goal line, somersaulting over the back of another player to score. The Owls took a commanding 35-0 lead after Connors’ first career rushing touchdown.
On 3rd and 8, Wilson converted with a 31-yard pass to Derek Morton. RB LaDarius Owens rushed 13 yards for a first down before Rice got called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, adding 15 yards. Then Wilson threw to receiver Jyrin Johnson for a TSU touchdown. With four minutes left, Texas Southern was finally on the board.
Rice responded when wide receiver Luke McCaffrey caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from Daniels. Another week, another unreal catch for McCaffrey (who caught two TDs – including that dramatic one-handed grab – in last week’s win at UH). He scored with just over a minute remaining; the Rice Owls led 42-7 at halftime.
Connors broke out with a 32-yard rush to open the second half, starting a drive that culminated with kicker Tim Horn’s 48-yard field goal. Rice mounted a 6-play, 73-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 14-yard catch by McCaffrey that took the Owls to 1st and goal. Daelen Alexander rushed in for the touchdown. It was 52-7 with 6:31 left in the third quarter.
Texas Southern embarked on an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ate up nearly five minutes. Wilson threw to Jyrin Johnson for 25 yards, taking the Tigers to 1st and goal. But their red-zone play got stifled by the Owls defense. TSU elected to go for it on 4th and goal, but Wilson’s pass to A.J. Bennett fell incomplete. The Tigers came up empty.
Rice also turned the ball over on downs. But it didn’t matter. On their next drive, the Owls reached the end zone again when running back Christian Francisco scored his first career rushing touchdown. Rice led 59-7 with 3:13 remaining.
The Rice Owls steamrolled the TSU Tigers, 59-7. JT Daniels tied a career high with four touchdown passes, Daelen Alexander rushed for two scores, and both Connors and Francisco earned the first TDs of their careers.
“The guys came out on fire,” Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said after the game. He added that the win represented “a lot of good steps forward for our program.”