LAWRENCE, Kan. â" They ran onto the field en masse, white jerseys spilling onto the turf at Memorial Stadium on Saturday evening. The kick had been true. The stadium had gone silent. The clock had struck 0:00.
Rice junior kicker Chris Boswell had just nailed a 45-yard field goal, a perfect kick that sailed through the uprights with plenty of room to spare. And the Owls had gone on the road against a Big 12 team and left with a statement victory.
Rice 25, Kansas 24.
"To go on the road against a Big 12 opponent and to come out of here with a win, we are just ecstatic as a program," Rice coach David Bailiff said after the Owls got their first win in 21 tries against the Big 12. "We, too, are trying to build something."
In the final minutes, after they had nearly erased a 24-13 deficit, pulling to within 24-22 with 4:47 left, the Owls knew they had a chance. Junior Charles Ross had punctuated a long drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. And even after the two-point conversion attempt failed, there was still time on the clock. The Owls just needed a stop.
It came in the form of an interception by cornerback Bryce Callahan, his second of the game. On a third-down jump ball, Callahan came down with it at the Rice 47-yard line.
"They hung together," Bailiff said. "When the offense needed the defense, it was there. When the defense needed the offense, it was there."
On the ensuing drive, Bailiff said he began to do the math in his head. If the Owls could get to the KU 40 without the wind, they'd have a chance. If they could get to the 40 with the wind, the victory would be all but guaranteed.
"He is pretty automatic from that range," Bailiff said of Boswell.
The Owls would still need to convert a crucial fourth-and-4 on their final drive, and quarterback Taylor McHargue completed a 7-yard pass to Vance McDonald to the KU 40-yard line. A few plays later, McHargue rushed 12 yards to the KU 25, and the Owls were just one kick away. Even after KU coach Charlie Weis tried to ice Boswell, the kick glided gently through the uprights.
"It still hasn't really set in yet," Boswell said.
For Rice, there will be bigger games this season â" games in Conference USA that mean more in the league title race. But on Saturday, this was a small-conference squad playing a team from a BCS league. And that meant something.
One week earlier, the Owls had been blitzed at home, falling 49-24 to UCLA. It was an ominous way to begin a season.
Just a week later, after the Owls outgained Kansas 403-309 â" rushing for 186 yards on 41 carries â" the Rice program could take a moment to celebrate.
Rustin Dodd writes for the Kansas City Star
** Receiver Jordan Taylor carved up the KU defense for nine catches and 101 yards. Owls quarterback Taylor McHargue said KU's defensive backs gave him room to hit Taylor on short and quick routes.
** The Owls defeated a Big 12 team after finishing 0-2 against the league last season. The losses came against Texas and Baylor.