After a furious season ending push to become bowl eligible Rice started the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces bowl sluggishly.
Their first drive netted 3 plays, -14 yards, and a punt. The first quarter would yield another punt, and the game's first touchdown to give Rice a 7-0 lead. But the Owls also lost a fumble and starting QB Taylor McHargue to a concussion on the same play.
The Owls would also squander two scoring chances on a fumbled goal line exchange and missed field goal.
With Air Force taking momentum into the locker room up 14-7 at the half, the magic that had carried the Owls to a bowl looked to be over.
But just as they'd done in October and November games Rice found a way to turn things around when they needed to. Actually, what they found was the arm (and legs) of redshirt freshman Quarterback Driphus Jackson.
Spelling McHargue, the former U.S. Army All-American sparked an ineffective Owl Offense to 26 second half points and a decisive 33-14 come from behind victory.
He had a lot of help from a motivated cast of teammates, both on Offense, and also a refocused and physical Defensive unit. In an impressive show of dominance, Rice Defensive Coordinator Chris Thurmond and his charges held Air Force to only 57 yards in the second half, yielded only 2 first downs, and gave up 0 points.
Jackson found sophomore Wide Receiver Jordan Taylor twice in the second half for touchdown passes of 22 and 34 yards. Both he and Taylor had career highs in the game to secure the Armed Forces Bowl Championship Trophy.
Driphus completed 71% of his passes, going 15-of-21 as he threw for 264 yards with no interceptions.
Taylor was named the bowl MVP after collecting 9 catches for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. His performance was even more exceptional considering he separated his shoulder in the 1st quarter of the game.
The game was a poetic finale to a season measured in come from behind wins, fueled by a never quit attitude. And with almost the entire team returning, 2013 should be even more fun.
- Sam McGuffie caught 5 passes for 80 yards in his finale as a Rice Owl. The explosively talented senior became the first player in Owl history to gain 1,000 career yards in both rushing and receiving.
- Turner Petersen led all Owls in rushing with 81 yards. His 48 yard yard jaunt in the 4th quarter will go down as one of the highlight plays of 2012. Petersen broke several tackles along the way and his brutal stiff-arm of Air Force LB Stephan Atrice on the play instantly went viral on the social media.
- Cameron Nwosu led all Rice defenders with 10 tackles. He also added a sack. Julius White added 8 tackles, while Paul Porras made 7. Porras' interception 4th quarter interception snuffed out any slim hopes of an Air Force comeback. Nwosu barely missed tying Porras for season tackles with 92, Porras finished with 93.
- In a tremendous show of class Owl Coach David Bailiff sent former walk-on Quarterback Michael Poynter in to take a bowl game snap in the 4th quarter. He also inserted Poynter into the lineup for the Owls' victory formation snaps. Poynter has been a model teammate and student while at Rice and was awarded a scholarship earlier this year. He is graduating and already has a lucrative job waiting on him.
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