HOUSTON (AP) — Rice felt like it showed it could play with anyone Thursday night, even if the results might have shown a bit differently.
Johnathan Franklin rushed for 214 yards and three touchdowns as UCLA racked up 348 yards on the ground en route to a 49-24 win over the Owls on Thursday night.
Franklin just missed his career high of 216 yards rushing set in 2010 against Washington State. He became the first player in UCLA history to have two rushes of at least 72 yards in a game after scoring on touchdown runs of 74 and 78 yards in the first half.
Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, was 21 of 28 for 202 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown. Joseph Fauria caught three passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Rice's Taylor McHargue threw for 172 yards and two touchdowns on 17 of 28 passing and rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Sam McGuffie caught eight passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.
"There is a lot of good to take from this, and the mistakes we made offensively, especially in the second half, are mistakes that are easy to correct," McHargue said. "It was just mistakes — a couple mental busts here and there."
Rice, which hasn't beaten a Pac-12 team since 1970 when it shut out California 28-0, scored 17 straight points after falling behind 19-0 in the first quarter, but could not get over the hump.
Rice coach David Bailiff called the loss disappointing.
"We went on the field tonight expecting to win the game," Bailiff said. "Our team put a lot into winning this game. We have to eliminate the big plays defensively. . Offensively, can't have turnovers."
The big plays started from the outset for the Bruins.
Hundley took UCLA's first snap and ran 72 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. The PAT was blocked to make it 6-0.
After Roosevelt Davis' interception of McHargue, UCLA took three plays to go 47 yards and score on an 11-yard pass from Hundley to Jerry Johnson. The PAT was blocked again to make it 12-0. Franklin took UCLA's first snap on its next drive 74 yards to extend the Bruins' lead to 19-0.
Linebacker Cameron Nwosu, who set an NCAA record with three blocked PATs in a game, said the Owls' defense has to do a better job of communicating. Bailiff agreed.
"It's been a point of emphasis," Bailiff said. "When offenses go fast, we have to have the ability to stay fundamentally sound. . It is little things that are leading to these big plays."
The Owls got on the board with a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by an 8-yard pass from McHargue to Luke Wilson to cut the lead to 19-7 with 6:08 remaining in the first quarter, and sliced the lead to nine on a Chris Boswell 53-yard field goal four minutes later.
After Rice recovered a Bruins' fumbled punt return, the Owls trimmed the lead to 19-17 on a McHargue 1-yard touchdown run to begin the second quarter.
McHargue said it was encouraging to see the heart of both the offense and defense coming back from the big deficit.
"We had some stops there in the second and third quarters," McHargue said. "We dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter. I had a bad interception there in the first quarter, but I was proud of the way we fought back."
UCLA rebounded to extend the lead to 22-17 on a 27-yard field goal by Ka'imi Fairbaim with 9:17 remaining in the first half, and Franklin went 78 yards on the second play of UCLA's next drive to up the UCLA lead to 29-17 3:36 before halftime.
The Owls answered with a 2-yard touchdown pass from McHargue to McGuffie 1:20 before the half to make it 29-24, but Damien Holmes returned Turner Peterson's fumble 43 yards for a touchdown 17 seconds before the half to extend the Bruins' lead to 35-24 after another blocked PAT.
After a scoreless third quarter, UCLA put the game away with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Hundley to Fauria to make it 41-24 after the two-point conversion failed with 12:29 left in the game.
Franklin extended the lead to 49-24 with a 22-yard touchdown run and Hundley connected with David Allen for the two-point conversion with 7:54 remaining in the fourth.
UCLA finished with 651 total yards in Jim Mora Jr.'s first game as coach, compared to 347 for Rice.