Fresno State Falls to Rice in Hawai‘i Bowl

 

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HONOLULU - Driphus Jackson had his best game of the year by passing for 318 yards and three touchdowns, and Rice completed a remarkable turnaround with a 30-6 victory over Fresno State on Wednesday night in the Hawai‘i Bowl.

The Owls (8-5) started the season at 0-3 and ended it with their second bowl win in the last three years.

Jackson was accurate with his arm, especially on two deep sideline routes, and dangerous with his feet. He rushed for 41 yards and some key scrambles out of trouble. The Owls got plenty of help from their defense.

Fresno State (6-8), the only team with a losing record to play a bowl game this year, broke its Hawai‘i Bowl record for fewest points. Fresno State scored 10 points two years ago in a lopsided loss to SMU. It was the fewest points Fresno State scored all year.

The Bulldogs lost to Rice for the first time - they had a 6-0 edge from their old WAC days - and dropped their sixth consecutive bowl game.

This one wasn't close.

Rice piled up 463 yards and held Fresno State to 93 yards passing, well below the Bulldogs' season average of 238 yards. Brian Burrell was 10 of 20 for 44 yards and didn't complete a pass longer than 8 yards.

The Owls had 96 yards on their opening possession and had to settle for a field goal after two penalties on one play - holding on Caleb Williams, and then Mario Hull was called for unsportsmanlike conduct for jamming an open palm in the face of cornerback Charles Washington during some trash talk. That made it first-and-goal from the 34, and the Owls got all the way down to the 4 before they had to settle for a field goal.

Even so, it set the tone for the Rice offense - and for the game.

Jackson was perfect on a fly route down the left side to Dennis Parks for 53 yards that led to his 14-yard scoring pass to Jordan Taylor. And after Burrell threw a deep interception, Jackson struck on the next play. He slightly underthrew a deep pass that Hull came back for, and then Hull turned and ran the last 25 yards for a 69-yard touchdown and a 16-3 right before the opening quarter ended.

The Bulldogs made enough defensive adjustments to hold Rice to one first down and 4 yards in the second quarter to at least stay in range. Their offense, however, offered little in return.

Fresno State was helped by a defensive holding call on fourth-and-7 to reach the 26, but it could only manage another field goal by Koedy Kroenig from 40 yards. Late in the first half and trailing 16-6, Fresno State again went for it on fourth-and-1 from the 18. Burrell threw a quick sideline pass to Greg Watson, only for Bryce Callahan to break through a block and drop him for a 3-yard loss that kept Rice up by 10 at intermission.

Callahan later picked off Burrell's deep throw, and that was the end of Burrell's night. He was replaced by Zack Greenlee, who was equally ineffective.

One drive effectively sealed the game for the Owls. Jackson worked the sidelines beautifully to complete four straight passes and move them down the field on their second drive of the third quarter. On third-and-2, he found Parks down the sideline. Parks stiff-armed linebacker Donavon Lewis and raced into the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown pass and a 23-6 lead.

It was Parks' first touchdown reception of the year, and he went over 100 yards receiving for the first time this season.

Rice padded the lead midway early in the fourth quarter when Jackson hit Darik Dillard on a screen in the left flat, and Dillard sped down to the 1, narrowly missing his stretch to the pylon. Dillard ran it in on the next play.

The Bulldogs got 76 yards on 15 carries from Marteze Waller, but that included runs of 41 and 16 yards.