HOUSTON (AP) — Coming off a 31-14 season opening win, Kansas head coach Charlie Weis and the Jayhawks were excited to see what they could do in their first visit to Houston's Rice Stadium since the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl.
But eight minutes into the game, Rice's Michael Kutzler intercepted a Jake Heaps pass and returned it 52 yards for a score, giving the Owls a 7-0 lead. It was one of two critical interceptions that Heaps threw, and Rice went on to win, 23-14.
"Turnovers like that are what lead to losses, and we have to make sure those things don't happen," said Heaps. "We'll learn from it and we'll grow from it."
The Owls limited the Jayhawks to a total of 270 yards of offense — 170 yards passing and 100 rushing. Heaps was held to 157 yards passing on 28 attempts and Kansas had just 11 first downs. More importantly, Rice allowed Kansas to convert on just 6 of 17 third-down attempts.
"That was a great feeling, to get us off on the right foot and to see all of my teammates and the crowd get so excited," said Kutzler. "It was a great defensive play by the whole team all around, the line got a great push. We have a whole new mentality as a defensive unit, so to come out here tonight and hold them to 14 points, we're proud of that."
James Sims led the Jayhawks with 109 yards rushing on 19 carries, but it just wasn't enough offense.
"It hurts knowing that our defense did a great job for us. They got stop after stop, but we have to capitalize off of that," said Sims. "We emphasized that at practice, but we just came out kind of slow. Rice came out hard too, but we just have to execute better. We shot ourselves in the foot tonight, and we just didn't come out like we were supposed to. We're better than what we showed tonight."
In the second quarter with the Owls leading 10-7, Rice stopped a Kansas scoring opportunity when Bryce Callahan came up with a deflected pass deep in Owls territory for his ninth career interception.
"We just could not get going, and we kept shooting ourselves in the foot with some drops and the turnovers," said Heaps. "It's unfortunate and I was surprised by it. We've worked really hard this season, and we really had a good week at practice. We were all excited for this game, for our team and for our offense in particular. We just did not come out and play like we practice."
Heaps was able to convert a critical third-down play when he scrambled and found Tre Parmelee for a 17-yard completion that ended up just short of the Rice goal line. Heaps then scored on a plunge to give the Jayhawks their first lead of the game, 14-13.
The Owls special teams came up with a big play early in the fourth quarter when Derek Brown partially blocked a Kansas punt that went out of bounds at midfield, giving the Owls excellent field position with 10 minutes to play.
Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson sparked the Owls by coming off the bench, and moved them into long field-goal range. Facing a fourth down from the 39-yard line, Bailiff sent kicker Chris Boswell out to attempt the 56-yarder.
"It was right on the edge, and if I had to do it again, I might not have tried it," said Bailiff. "But the kid came through and he's a great kicker. We have a lot of confidence in him."
Boswell nailed the kick to give Rice a 16-14 lead. "It felt great right when I hit it, and coming off my foot, I knew it was good," said Boswell.
After another defensive stop by the Owls, Jackson led Rice down the field for their only offensive touchdown of the contest, giving them a nine-point cushion when Charles Ross punched it in from eight yards out.
Rice starting quarterback Taylor McHargue completed 14 of 31 pass attempts for 168 yards and Ross carried the ball a career-high 27 times for 157 yards.