HOUSTON — It’s only fitting that shortly after the city of Houston was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey, the town’s two major universities, Rice and Houston, renewed the Bayou Bucket Classic rivalry. It was fitting not because of the competition between the two programs, but because the signs of solidarity between the two historic programs.
Shortly before the 41st Bayou Bucket game kicked off, the two teams lined up and met at midfield to shake hands as a sign of support for those who lost their lives and those who are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricane.
“I think that’s just a symbol of what the two universities have done over the past couple weeks and I think it was just a great gesture of our city and how much we love it,” Houston head coach Major Applewhite said.
With the word “Houston” emblazoned across every Cougar players’ nameplate, the game meant a lot to Houston natives like wide receiver Linell Bonner.
“In moments of devastation, sometimes you just need a distraction and we were that for them,” Linell said.
Once the game began though, all attention was shifted to the on-field rivalry, which had been on hiatus since 2013.
The Cougars picked up right where they left off, extending their win streak in the rivalry to four after beating the Owls 38-3. Rice began the game with the ball but wasn’t able to move it much on the first drive or any other in the first half.
At the end of the first quarter, Rice had only managed to gain 36 total yards opposed to Houston’s 132. The Cougars would finish the game with 484 total yards of offense in Kyle Allen’s TDECU Stadium debut as the starting quarterback.
Allen would finish 31-for-33 passing for 309 yards and two touchdown before taking a seat in the third quarter for backup Kyle Postma, who went 3-of-5 for 45 yards.
Turnovers constantly put Rice in tough situations early. Rice’s second and third drives of the game ended quickly, one on a fumble and the other on an interception. Both led to quick Houston scores, lifting the Cougars to a 17-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Applewhite said the turnovers early set the tone for the rest of the game.
“You get short fields like that and the defense plays that well, it just creates an energy in the stadium,” Applewhite said. “You just get the momentum going but we’ve got to challenge ourselves and realize we played with leads and at some point we’re going to be playing at a defecit.”
The Houston defense kept the momentum going into the second quarter, as defensive end Ed Oliver forced a fumble while chasing down Rice quarterback Sam Glaesmann on a scramble. Glaesmann would be replaced in favor of Jackson Tyner on the next series.
Allen played mistake-free throughout the first half, which he said was particularly important given after throwing two interceptions against Arizona a week ago. The Texas A&M transfer completed his first 13 passes to open the game and tallied more than 300 passing yards for the fourth time in his collegiate career, but the first time at Houston after transferring from Texas A&M.
“I just think that…we had to get those first game mistakes out of the way last week and tonight we came together as a unit and was just a lot cleaner in that respect,” Allen said. “I think overall it was just a very clean game on offense.”
Allen also utilized his feet, avoiding a sack several times and delivering accurate passes under pressure, including a 21-yard pass across his body in the first quarter.
Sophomore running back Mulbah Car led Houston with 11 carries for 60 yards.
The Rice offense seemed to spark after the halftime break, managing to get to Houston’s 26-yard line setting up a 43-yard field goal attempt. However, kicker Will Harrison missed the attempt to the right. Rice’s only score would come with three minutes remaining in the game when Harrison converted a 31-yard field goal.
Houston plays its last non-conference game against the Big 12’s Texas Tech next Saturday at 11 a.m. Looking ahead to the matchup with Tech’s high-octane offense, Applewhite said, “We have to take care of the football and be able to run it. It’s been that way ever since I played them back in ’99.”
As for the Bayou Bucket staying on the University of Houston’s campus, Applewhite said he hopes to start every season with the rivalry game. “It’s just great for the city of Houston.”