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(Saturday, December 7)
Final Score: Rice 41, Marshall 24
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Charles Ross ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns to help lift the Rice Owls to their first-ever Conference USA Championship, as they notched a 41-24 win over Marshall at Rice Stadium.
It marked the first time clinching an outright conference title since 1957 for the Owls (10-3), who have won nine of their last 10 games and earned a bid to the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Dec. 31. Jordan Taylor finished with six catches for 131 yards and a score, while running back Luke Turner threw for two touchdowns. Taylor McHargue completed 8-of-16 passes for 196 yards and a TD.
Rakeem Cato was 24-of-41 for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for the Thundering Herd (9-4), who saw their winning streak halted at five in a row.
Rice got the ball first and marched 82 yards on 10 plays, and Turner tossed a 35-yard touchdown on a halfback pass to Donte Moore, marking the 12th time in 13 games this season that Rice scored on its opening drive.
Following a three-and-out on the next series, the Owls offense needed only two plays to find the end zone again, as McHargue found Taylor for a 75-yard scoring strike to make it a 14-0 game. The pass was the longest in C-USA Championship history.
Marshall got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal from Justin Haig, which concluded a 12-play, 64-yard drive.
However, Rice answered right back with another quick strike as Ross scored on a four-yard run less than a minute later.
The Thundering Herd found the end zone on the very next drive, as Devon Johnson scored on a one-yard run to cut the deficit to 21-10 at the 9:18 mark of the second quarter.
The score would remain that way until the 5:34 mark of the third quarter, when Darik Dillard broke loose for a 17-yard touchdown scamper to push the Owls' lead to 27-10. Chris Boswell missed the PAT.
Later in the third quarter, Connor Cella scored on an eight-yard flip pass from Turner, his second TD pass on his second attempt of the day.
Marshall trimmed the margin to 34-17 on Cato's seven-yard touchdown pass to Essray Taliaferro with 11:02 to play in the fourth quarter.
But the Owls erased any doubt about the outcome with another touchdown on their next drive, as Ross notched his second score of the day on a 16-yard run with just over eight minutes remaining.
Marshall tacked on one more touchdown on a three-yard pass from Cato to Devon Smith to account for the final margin.
Rice finished with a 487-371 edge in total offense. Turner became the first non-QB ever to throw a TD in the C-USA Championship, and he did it twice.
12/07 16:50:59 ET
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