The much maligned Houston Cougars defense took advantage of the absence of Rice starting quarterback Taylor McHargue in Saturday’s Bayou Bucket game at Reliant Stadium.
With the 35-14 victory Houston won its first game of the season and kept the Bayou Bucket trophy for the second straight year.
While Driphus Jackson threw two touchdown passes in his first collegiate start, the Rice redshirt freshman had a long day at the office. He was sacked five times, fumbled once and completed less than half of his passes.
UH (1-3, 1-0 in Conference USA) came into the game 117th in the country in scoring defense, 107th in pass defense and 113th in run defense. While the pass defense was up and down Saturday, the Cougars gave up just 64 rushing yards on 34 attempts. That equates to less than two yards a carry.
Jackson was supposed to provide more of a running threat than McHargue, who missed the game with a shoulder injury sustained late in the Marshall double overtime loss Sept. 22. Jackson’s best run was seven yards and he finished with negative 20 yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, Houston’s rushing attack was successful for the most part. After missing the UCLA game two weeks ago, Charles Sims looked like an all-conference running back with a 158-yard- 3-touchdown effort Saturday. His 47-yard breakaway touchdown run with 8:02 left in the third quarter put the game out of reach by making it 28-0 Cougars.
The game started bad for Rice (1-4, 0-2). Jackson fumbled on the fifth play of the game after a sack by senior linebacker Phillip Steward. UH couldn’t take advantage as Matt Hogan missed a 46-yard field goal.
The Cougars cashed in on its second possession with a seven play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass from David Piland to Larry McDuffey.
A few nice runs from Charles Ross set the Owls up in Cougar territory early in the second quarter. But on third and eight from the UH 35, Lloyd Allen sacked Jackson. The loss of seven put Rice out of field goal range.
UH got its second score on a great second quarter drive by Piland. He completed eight passes on the drive for 67 yards, including a 31-yarder to Daniel Spencer for the touchdown.
After a pair of Sims touchdown runs in the third quarter, Rice finally got a golden scoring opportunity following a disputed punt return fumble. Two plays after the fumble, Jackson connected with Sam McGuffie on a 24-yard touchdown pass. McGuffie also scored on an 88-yard touchdown reception with 6:50 to go. Ironically that also occurred after a UH fumble.
McGuffie finished with six catches for 119 yards, which is a new career high. Jackson was 17 of 35 passing for 272 yards. Eight different Owls caught passes.
McDuffey totaled 100 yards receiving for UH while Spencer had 99. Piland finished the day 26 of 43 for 341 yards and two touchdowns. That total is right at the Cougars average of 346 passing yards a game. Here’s the final stats.
Houston now leads the overall series 28-11. The series at Reliant is 1-1, and this marked the Cougars first ever win at the Texans stadium (1-4 overall). The game returns there next year though UH will be a Big East team then.
Rice will visit Memphis at 6 p.m. next Saturday. Houston will host North Texas at 6 p.m. next Saturday.