MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Rice didn't show its best side in the Liberty Bowl and failed to reach a team goal for one of the few times this season.
The Owls (10-4) saw their four-game winning streak come to a crashing halt Tuesday, falling 44-7 to Mississippi State in the most one-sided game in the Liberty Bowl's 55-year history. Rice, which won the Armed Forces Bowl last year, was seeking to earn bowl victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time.
"We knew coming into this game we were going to have to play our best to win it," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "We didn't."
Rice scored the opening touchdown on a 1-yard run by Charles Ross in the first quarter, but the Owls fell apart after that. Offensively, Rice managed a mere 145 yards of offense in the game, including only 32 yards and one first down in the second half.
Rice gained only 61 yards rushing — 179 below its season average — on 32 carries. Ross, who averaged 113.8 yards rushing per game during the regular season, finished with 28 yards on 10 carries.
"We knew coming in their 'D' line was pretty big, and we were going to have trouble moving them," Ross said. "We were going to try and do some things to get some movement. Their game plan, whatever they had, worked better than ours."
Rice also couldn't contain Mississippi State's passing game and couldn't stop the Bulldogs on third down.
Defensively, Rice surrendered 283 yards passing by Bulldog quarterback Dak Prescott, who accounted for a Liberty Bowl record five touchdowns — two rushing and three passing. Prescott delivered arguably the finest performance of his career less than two months after his mother, Peggy, died of cancer.
"It's really just been about Mississippi State University and this football team comforting me, being there for me and just helping me and making what I would say is the hardest thing in my life easier," Prescott said.