Lowell Narcisse passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns and UTSA scored 24 points after halftime en route to a 31-27 victory over Rice in Conference USA action on Saturday night at the Alamodome.
The Roadrunners piled up 229 yards of offense in the second half and 361 for the game in running their record to 3-4 overall and 2-2 in conference with their fifth straight win against the Owls (0-7, 0-3). The victory also improved UTSA to 5-4 all-time in Homecoming games, including 2-0 versus Rice.
Making his third start of the season, Narcisse completed 19 of 29 passes (65.5 percent) in posting his season high in passing yardage. The sophomore’s favorite target was Carlos Strickland II, who hauled in six passes for a season-high 86 yards.
Meanwhile, Zakhari Franklin added four receptions for 26 yards and a school record-tying two TDs and Sincere McCormick had a pair of catches for 39 yards to go along with a team-high 94 rushing yards and a score.
Rice held a slim 10-7 advantage at halftime, but the two teams combined for 31 points in the third quarter resulting in a 24-24 deadlock entering the final 15 minutes.
The Owls took a 27-24 lead when Chris Barnes nailed a 37-yard field goal with 9:02 left to play.
However, the Roadrunners answered with a scoring drive of their own that resulted in the go-ahead touchdown.
Narcisse hit Tariq Woolen on a 14-yard pass and McCormick had back-to-back rushes of 30 and nine yards to set up the home team at the Rice 25-yard line. Strickland was on the receiving end of a 12-yard pass from Narcisse to convert a third down and take the ball inside the 10. On the next play, Narcisse found Franklin open in the back corner of the end zone for their second scoring connection of the evening. Hunter Duplessis’ extra point gave UTSA a 31-27 lead with 5:06 remaining in the game.
Needing a touchdown, Rice drove to the UTSA 24 but the Roadrunners’ defense ended the threat with four consecutive stops behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack for 14 yards by DeQuarius Henry — one of three tackles for loss by the junior defensive end — on third down and a four-yard loss before a fumble by the Owls quarterback on fourth down that was recovered by Eric Banks to seal the win.
Carl Austin III paced the UTSA defense with six tackles — all solo — while Cassius Grady, Andrew Martel, Jaylon Haynes — who matched Henry’s three TFLs —and Henry added five stops apiece. The Roadrunners forced four turnovers, the most in a game since also coming up with four takeaways against Rice on Oct. 6 of last year. UTSA recovered three fumbles (Banks, Hayne and Trevor Harmanson) and Rashad Wisdom picked off the first pass of his career.
On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Wisdom stepped in front of a sideline pass by Rice quarterback Wiley Green and returned it 34 yards to pay dirt. The true freshman from Converse Judson High School became the seventh Roadrunner with a pick six and it marked the program’s first since C.J. Levine ran one back eight yards for a TD at Southern Miss nearly one year ago to the day. UTSA made the initial point-after try but was called for a holding penalty, and then a bad snap led to a failed two-point conversion attempt, leaving the score at 13-10.
Rice grabbed the lead back on the next possession, as backup QB Tom Stewart hit Brad Rozner on a 19-yard touchdown pass to put an end to four-play, 75-yard drive.
Duplessis cut the deficit to one point when he drilled a 34-yard field goal — his fourth of the season — with 8:58 left in the third quarter.
The Owls extended their lead to 24-16 later in the third after stuffing a fake-punt attempt by UTSA at the 22-yard line. Aston Walter dashed 21 yards on the first play of the drive and then just reached the plane of the end zone on the next play.
UTSA knotted the score late in the quarter after McCormick scored on a 6-yard jaunt and Narcisse found Sheldon Jones open in the end zone on the two-point try.
Walter led all players with 109 rushing yards, while Rozner turned in a game-high 138 receiving yards on nine catches for the Owls.
Rice struck first on a 31-yard field goal by Barnes with 6:30 left in the opening quarter.
The Roadrunners responded, as Narcisse found Franklin wide open in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard TD pass that capped a 13-play, 60-yard drive.
The Owls reclaimed the lead just before halftime when Green hit August Pitre in the corner of the end zone on a 2-yard pass.
The Roadrunners are idle next Saturday before heading to College Station to face Texas A&M on Saturday, Nov. 2. An announcement on a kickoff time is expected on Monday.
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