Marshall hadn’t scored fewer than 45 points in a game since Oct. 12, but the Rice defense stood up to the task and its offense could not be contained as the Owls won their first Conference USA title in a 41-24 victory.
Rice's downhill ground attack set the tone all day long. Two-hundred and fifty of Rice’s 489 offensive yards came via the run as Charles Ross (18 carries, 109 yards, 2 TDs), Darik Dillard (10 carries, 53 yards, 1 TD) and Luke Turner (9 carries, 49 yards) and the Owls’ offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Rice offense came out swinging by marching right down the field, scoring on a 10-play, 82-yard drive. The drive culminated on a trick play where running back Luke Turner took a pitch on the option, then looked down field and threw to a wide open Donte Moore for a 35-yard touchdown.
After a Marshall three-and-out, Rice struck again quickly. On the second play of the drive, quarterback Taylor McHargue attacked the weak Marshall secondary, hitting Jordan Taylor in stride for a 75-yard touchdown pass to jump out to a 14-0 lead.
From there, the Rice defense took charge by containing Marshall dual-threat quarterback Rakeem Cato and 1,000-yard rusher Essray Taliaferro.
Touchdown runs from Ross and Dillard, coupled with another Turner touchdown pass – this time from the Wildcat formation – gave the Owls a 35-10 lead late in the third quarter.
Marshall briefly made things interesting by cutting the lead to 34-17 then forcing a three-and-out early in the fourth, but the Rice defense again stood tall and stopped the Thundering Herd on a fourth-and-1 as they looked to cut the lead to just 10. Ross then essentially clinched the win on his second touchdown run of the game from 16 yards out.
The Rice defense limited the Thundering Herd offense to just 4.8 yards per play. Coming into the game, Marshall had averaged 44.6 points per game, good for sixth best in the country.
The win clinched Rice's outright league title since winning the Southwest Conference in 1957.
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