Fort Worth, TX, United States (4E Sports) – Freshman quarterback Driphus Jackson stepped up in the absence of starter Taylor McHargue, throwing two touchdown heaves to lead Rice to a 33-14 victory over Air Force Saturday in the Armed Forces Bowl at Amon Carter Stadium.
Jackson completed 15 of 21 passes for 264 yards with no interception while Jordan Taylor caught three touchdown passes, two in the second half when the Owls (7-6) scored 26 unanswered points en route to their fifth straight win.
The win gave Rice its second bowl victory under sixth-year coach David Bailiff. The Owls also ruled the 2008 Texas Bowl, beating Western Michigan, 38-14.
After winning the Cotton Bowl in 1953, the Owls had lost four consecutive bowl appearances, including the 2006 New Orleans Bowl where they lost to Troy, 41-17.
Taylor tallied 153 yards on nine catches to clinch the MVP award while Rice receivers dominated their Air Force counterparts, who had 43 yards on three catches.
McHargue finished 6-for-8 for 31 yards and a touchdown pass to Taylor before he went down with an apparent head injury after a helmet-to-helmet clash in the dying minutes of the first half.
Running back Turner Petersen ran for 81 yards on nine carries and Charles Ross gained 57 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. McHargue also rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries before he was sidelined by injury.
Kale Pearson hit two of eight passes for 44 yards as the Falcons relied heavily on their vaunted running game that was ranked No. 2 in the nation.
However, the Falcons were limited to just a season-low 166 yards by the Owls, far from their average of 328.8 yards per game.
The Falcons (6-7) ended the season losing four of their last five games. Air Force has now lost two straight bowl games. For the first time since 2005, the Falcons lost to Army, Navy, lost their bowl game and had a losing season.
In the first quarter, McHargue found Taylor for a 16-yard touchdown pass but the Falcons bounced back in the second, with Pearson and Wes Cobb rushing for touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead.
Taking over from McHargue, Jackson then sparked the Owls’ attack, scoring 26 unanswered points to put the game away.