Rice separated itself from Fresno State late in the first quarter of the Hawaii Bowl, and it did so quickly.
After Fresno tied the score at 3-3 with 2:16 left in the quarter, the Owls scored twice – both on Driphus Jackson touchdown passes – before the quarter even ended to take a 16-3 lead. It was a lead the Owls would not relinquish in a dominant 30-6 win.
Following Fresno's game-tying field goal, Jackson led the Owls on a five-play, 78-yard drive that was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Taylor to give the Owls a 9-3 lead (the extra point was wide right). Rice’s J.T. Blasingame intercepted Bulldogs’ quarterback Brian Burrell on the first play of Fresno’s ensuing possession.
On the very next play, Jackson, a junior who threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns in the game, went back to the air and hit Mario Hull behind the defense for a 69-yard score. All of a sudden, in 23 seconds of game time, the Owls scored twice and took a 16-3 lead.
The rest of the half was mainly a defensive affair, though Fresno’s Kody Kroenig added his second field goal of the half to cut the deficit to 16-6.
The second half was a continued struggle for the Fresno State offense. Aside from a 41-yard run by Marteze Waller, the Bulldogs struggled to establish much of a ground game. That, combined with an increasing deficit on the scoreboard, forced Burrell to go to the air. That didn’t yield much success. The junior completed 10-of-20 passes for just 44 yards and was intercepted twice. He was eventually replaced by Zack Greenlee, who didn’t fare much better.
Meanwhile, Rice used a steady ground game to set up Jackson’s air attack. Dennis Parks broke a wide receiver screen for a 40-yard score midway through the third, increasing Rice’s lead to 23-6. Darik Dillard later added a short rushing touchdown in the fourth to put the game out of reach.
Overall, Rice put up 463 yards of total offense while its defense held Fresno’s offense to 255 yards.
With the win, Rice ends its season with an 8-5 record. The loss, Fresno State’s sixth consecutive bowl loss, dropped the Bulldogs to 6-8 on the season.
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