Rice throttles Western Michigan 38-14 in Texas Bowl Print E-mail
Wednesday, December 31 2008
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Rice QB Chase Clement rushes for TD / photo: Jim Klapthor
HOUSTON - On a night when Western Michigan seemed to come up just short or just long, the Broncos could never get any momentum in a 38-14 loss to Rice in the 2008 Texas Bowl in front of 58,880 fans at Reliant Stadium.

WMU's collective heart sank early in the game on its first drive when on first-and-10 from the Owls' 38-yard line, quarterback Tim Hiller pump faked and found Juan Nunez all alone down the middle of the field for what would have been the games opening score.Unfortunately for the Broncos, the ball, like others later in the game, was dropped and the drive stalled  as the Brocnos came away empty after John Potter missed on a 51-yard field goal attempt.

Rice capitalized on its first touchdown drive when Rice quarterback Chase Clement scampered 26 yards into the end zone. Clement finished with 307 yards and three passing TD's on the night.  He also caught a touchdown pass in the third quarter.

Western Michigan had five offensive possessions in the first half with the final four resulting in two punts and two interceptions. It marked the second game in a row Hiller had multiple interceptions.

WMU began the second half with the ball but was forced into a three and out. The Broncos forced Rice into its first three and out of the night but again could not sustain a drive.

The Broncos' Achilles heel throughout the first half, and most of the game, was third downs, both offensively and defensively. Western Michigan was 1-for-7 in the first 30 minutes, while Rice was a staggering 9-for-12 in the first half alone.

WMU QB Tim Hiller (3) passed for 2 TDs but also threw a pair of interceptions.
Photo: Jim Klapthor

Rice's second score, a 30-yard field goal from Clark Fangmeier, was aided in part by a pair of 15-yard penalties on WMU over a span of three plays to take a 10-0 lead. That lead grew to 24-0 by the break with Clement finding Toren Dixon from six yards out at the 6:53 mark of the second quarter and then connecting with James Casey from 45 yards out.

Simmons opened the Broncos' offense on a high note, hauling in a nine-yard reception for his 99th catch of the season, breaking the WMU record previously shared with Greg Jennings. It was the only ball thrown to Simmons in the entire opening quarter. He later became the only receiver in Bronco history to have 100 catches in a season.  He surpassed Jennings' single-season yards mark.  The 41-yard reception gave him 92 yards at that point in the game and 1,276 on the year.

The catch put WMU on Rice's 11-yard line and four plays later, Hiller found Kirk Elsworth from one yard out for WMU's first score of the game.  The TD pass, which capped a nine-play, 69-yard drive, broke Tim Lester's former single-season mark, giving Hiller 35 scoring strikes on the year and 75 for his career.  His 198 yards gives him 3,725 for the season, breaking Tim Lester's mark of 3,639 set in 1999. 

Broncos head coach Bill Cubit
Photo: Brett Selleck

The Broncos added a late touchdown when Hiller found Schneider Julien for a 13-yard scoring strike to make it 38-14 with 25 seconds remaining in the game. But by then the outcome had long been decided. The loss leaves the Broncos winless in bowl games, falling to 0-4 all-time in postseason appearances.

Cubit gets new deal: Hours before the Broncos kicked off against Rice at the Texas Bowl, Western Michigan announced that head coach Bill Cubit had agreed to a new five-year contract beginning with the 2009 season. Cubits deal includes a base salary of $225,000 with a guaranteed annual compensation package of $375,000. Cubit, who just completed his fourth season as the Broncos head coach, owns a 29-20 record and is now 0-2 in bowl games.

Western Michigan athletic communciatons and MAC Report Online staff contributed to this report.

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