HOUSTON -- Emmanuel Esukpa had a career-high 173 yards rushing and a score and Jack Fox kicked a 23-yard field goal as time expired to help Rice beat Prairie View A&M 31-28 on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
Esukpa came in with 74 carries for 317 yards rushing and three touchdowns in his career. Austin Walter added 11 carries for 83 yards and two scores for Rice, which finished with 310 yards rushing and nearly doubled Prairie View (20:21) in time of possession.
Aston Walter, on third-and-4 from the 37, broke three tackles before being tripped up at the 11 to set up Fox's winner.
Anthony Ekpe's strip-sack of Jalen Morton was recovered by Dylan Silcox at the Prairie View 25 and four plays later Austin Walter scored on an eight-yard run to trim Rice's deficit to 28-26 early in the fourth quarter. Prairie View went three-and-out on its ensuing possession and a high snap on fourth down resulted in a safety that made it 28-all with 10:15 to play.
The Owls, who lost 10 consecutive games to close last season, scored on each of their first four possessions to take a 19-7 lead late in the second quarter. Prairie View scored two touchdowns in the final 93 seconds of the first half and then Bernard Good's 27-yard scoring run on the Panthers' first possession of the second half capped an eight-play, 94-yard drive and gave PVAMU a 28-19 lead midway through the third quarter.
Rice's Mike Bloomgren, who was hired on Dec. 6, won his first game as a head coach.
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