|Charles Ross scored the go-ahead touchdown in Rice's win over Air Force (US Presswire)|
RICE WON: Backup Owls quarterback Driphus Jackson -- a redshirt freshman filling in for an injured Taylor McHargue -- threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns to lead Rice (7-6) to a 33-14 victory over Air Force (6-7) in the Armed Forces Bowl on Saturday in Fort Worth. The Owls displayed a balanced offensive attack behind Jackson (who was 15 of 21 passing), getting 295 yards through the air and 214 yards on the ground while holding the Falcons to a season-low 214 total yards and 12 first downs. As it has all season, Rice dominated the time of possession, holding the ball for over 37 minutes. McHargue, the starter, threw for 31 yards and a score and rushed for 39 yards before suffering a possible concussion late in the first half. Sophomore Rice receiver Jordan Taylor caught nine passes for a game-best and career-high 153 yards and three touchdowns. Placekicker Chris Boswell nailed two field goals.
Down 14-7 at the half, Rice rattled off 26 unanswered points to pull off its first bowl win since 2008 (and only its second since 1953). Air Force came into the game averaging 328 rushing yards per game, but managed just 166 against the stingy Owls defense. Kale Pearson replaced an ineffective Connor Dietz at quarterback for much of the game for Air Force, but he finished just 2 of 8 for 44 yards, though he did score the Falcons' first touchdown. Ty MacArthur led Air Force with 48 yards on nine carries. The Falcons dropped four of their last five games to finish the season, while Rice closed with five straight wins.
WHEN RICE WON: McHargue's injury created an opportunity for Jackson, who immediately injected some life into the sluggish Rice offense. After trying the game up at 14 in the third quarter with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Taylor, Jackson directed the offense on a nine-play, 74-yard drive, culminating in a two-yard run by Charles Ross as the fourth quarter dawned. The Owls took a 21-14 lead and never looked back.
WHY RICE WON: Jackson's passing skill and athleticism (he also rushed for 32 yards) was a big key to the Rice victory, but the Owls defense should get the game ball as it held Air Force to half of its usual rushing output (166 yards), allowed just 48 passing yards and forced three turnovers. The Falcons couldn't find their offensive rhythm against the Owls and that allowed Rice to pull away.
WHAT RICE WON: The Owls won their fifth straight and sixth out of their last seven to finish the year, which gives the program great momentum heading into 2013. What's more, coach David Bailiff now has two proven quarterbacks in his program. Rice should be much improved next season.
WHAT AIR FORCE LOST: The Falcons had a chance to arrest their late-season collapse, but instead will end up losing four of five to finish up with their first losing season under coach Troy Calhoun.