Rice, Houston capture bowl victories

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: January 6, 2009

Kevin Sumlin

Kevin Sumlin

HOUSTON — The Rice Owls and the Houston Cougars went bowling last week and after outstanding performances by both teams, their futures are shining brightly, not just in Conference USA, but among the top programs in the state and beyond.

Rice, 10-3, defeated Western Michigan 38-14 to capture the Texas Bowl Championship at Reliant Stadium. It was the first time that the Owls won a bowl game since 1954 and it was the first time they reached 10 victories since 1949.

The Owls ended more than 50 years of postseason frustration. The program has come a long way since going 1-10 in 2005 and the players are looking forward to the future.

Senior quarterback Chase Clement threw three touchdown passes, ran for a score and caught a touchdown pass from All American wide receiver Jarret Dillard. Clement went 30-for-44 for 307 yards and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

“When you sit down and look back and see how everything has unfolded, it’s a special accomplishment,” Clement said. “It really sets this program in the right direction.”

Across town, the Houston Cougars traveled to Fort Worth to play in the Armed Forces Bowl and came out victorious with a 34-28 win over the Air Force Falcons at Amon G. Carter Stadium.

The victory gave Houston its first bowl win in 28 years and snapped the nation’s longest bowl losing streak at eight games. Freshman running back Bryce Beall rushed for 135 yards and caught four passes for 92 yards in the win. Because of his efforts , Beall was named the Most Valuable Player.

Cougars sophomore quarterback Case Keenum finished the season with 5,020 yards passing and 44 touchdowns. Beall, who set a UH freshman rushing record with 1,247 yards and 13 touchdowns. They are just two key components that will return from a very talented 8-5 team.

Other key players for Houston include wide receiver Tyron Carrier, who caught 80 passes for 1,026 yards is only a freshman, and wide receiver Patrick Edwards would have surpassed 1,000 yards also, if he hadn’t suffered a broken leg in a game at Marshall.

The Cougars leading tackler, linebacker Marcus McGraw , who is also a freshman, had 103 tackles, 48 solo, and 55 assisted. The Cougars are young, so the future is very bright.

“We want to play for championships. We want to recruit at the highest level, and we want to win big games,” Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said.

“You’ve got to start somewhere with that, and I think in this first year that we put ourselves in position to do that.”