Charles Ross rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns and host Rice won the Conference USA championship, 41-24 over Marshall, the program’s first outright conference title since winning the Southwestern Conference in 1957.
Ross had a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, then capped the Owls’ scoring with a 16-yard scoring burst in the fourth.
Marshall, which got 265 passing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Rakeem Cato, was trying to win its first league crown since capturing its sixth straight MAC title in 2002.
Rockdale graduate Neville Hewitt had eight tackles (seven solo) for Marshall (9-4).
No. 18 Oklahoma 33, No. 6 Oklahoma State 24
The visiting Sooners defeated their rivals for the 11th time in 12 meetings as Jalen Saunders’ seven-yard touchdown catch with 19 seconds left was the difference.
Oklahoma State (10-2) led 24-20 after Desmond Roland (144 rushing yards) capped a seven-play, 89-yard drive on his second touchdown run from a yard out with 1:46 to play in the fourth.
Blake Bell was 5-of-8 for 57 yards on the go-ahead drive for Oklahoma (10-2), which clinched at least a 10-win season for the seventh time in eight seasons.
No. 15 Central Florida 17, SMU 13
The Golden Knights had already clinched the American Athletic Conference title and a BCS bid by-virtue of Cincinnati’s loss to Louisville Thursday, but thanks to a pair of Blake Bortles touchdown runs in the third took care of its own business as well.
UCF (11-1), which won its eighth consecutive game, trailed 10-3 at halftime, but Bortles tied the game with a one-yard run with just over eight minutes left in the third. After Chase Hover gave SMU (5-7) a 13-10 lead with a 39-yard field goal, Bortles capped a 10-play, 46-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring run with 14 seconds left in the period.
The host Mustangs, who had their school-record bowl streak end at four seasons, took the halftime lead when Neal Burcham found Keenan Holman for a 30-yard touchdown with 8:40 left in the second quarter.
Connecticut 45, Memphis 10
The Huskies salvaged an otherwise miserable season with its season-ending third consecutive victory.
Casey Cochran threw for a school-record 461 yards and four touchdowns and Geremy Davis caught a school-record 15 passes for 207 yards in becoming the Huskies’ first 1,000-yard receiver since 1998, according to the Associated Press’ Pat Eaton-Robb.
Deshon Foxx also had 137 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns for Connecticut, which started the year 0-9. Memphis (3-9) led 3-0 on Jake Elliott’s 43-yard field goal in the opening quarter, then didn’t score again until Paxton Lynch’s third-quarter touchdown toss to Keiwone Malone got the Tigers within 31-10.
MAC championship, Friday: Bowling Green 47, Northern Illinois 27
Matt Johnson passed for 393 yards and five touchdowns and the Falcons won the MAC title for the first time since 1992.
The loss not only ruined No. 16 Northern Illinois’ attempt to become the first conference team to win three consecutive league crowns since Marshall won six straight from 1997-2002, but the Huskies’ undefeated season and BCS bowl hopes were dashed as well.
Bowling Green (10-3) had lost three straight to Northern Illinois, but got four of Johnson’s scoring tosses in the first half and led 31-13 at halftime.
Northern Illinois (12-1) quarterback Jordan Lynch, who rushed for 126 yards, had an eight-yard scoring run in the third to get the Huskies to within 31-20 heading to the final period. But Bowling Green got a 52-yard field goal from Tyler Tate, then Travis Greene caught a six-yard touchdown from Johnson and Greene added a 16-yard scoring burst to put the Falcons up 47-30.