8:00 PM ET, August 30, 2003
Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX
HOUSTON (AP) -- In his debut as a collegiate head coach, perhaps it was fitting for Art Briles to call upon a freshman to lead his Houston Cougars. Whatever the reasoning, it turned out to be the right choice.
Kevin Kolb, who was announced as the starter shortly before kickoff of the annual Bayou Bucket game against crosstown rival Rice, threw for two touchdowns and rushed for two more Saturday night to lead the Cougars to a 48-14 victory over the Owls.
"We decided two or three days ago," Briles said of his decision to start Kolb over sophomore Blade Bassler. "The main thing is (Kolb's) consistency. Kevin has been a little more consistent in practice."
Kolb finished 17-of-22 for 246 yards and no interceptions in the opener for both teams. Brandon Middleton caught four passes for 122 yards and the two scores, while Vincent Marshall had eight catches for 95 yards and threw a crushing block that sprung Middleton for his second TD, which came on a screen pass that Middleton took 55 yards down the right sideline to make it 41-7 midway into the third quarter.
Kolb credited his receivers for helping to juice up his stats.
"A lot of it was little quick screen stuff and the guys blocked really well," Kolb said. "The yardage was all (because of) the receivers. I just threw one deep ball -- everything else was up front and easy. I've still got a long way to go, a lot of work to do."
Briles was similarly short on self-congratulatory remarks.
"We had a little lull there in the third quarter where we should of scored some points and didn't," Briles said. "Hopefully, we'll rectify that this week and be better next week (at Michigan)."
Kolb set the tone in the first quarter when, ahead 3-0, he faced a second-and-31 after a double penalty on the Houston offense. He responded with a 47-yard bomb to Middleton, who beat linebacker Jeff Vanover near the goal line and took it into the end zone.
After Houston took a 17-0 lead with the first of two 1-yard TD dives by Kolb, Rice showed signs of life despite losing halfback Clint Hatfield with a sprained left ankle. Greg Henderson capped a quick 74-yard drive with a 22-yard keeper around the right end for a touchdown.
The Cougars retaliated quickly. Roshawn Pope returned the kickoff 45 yards to near midfield and, four plays later, redshirt freshman Jackie Battle broke loose for a 17-yard touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
"The thing that broke our back was the kickoff return," said coach Ken Hatfield, no relation to his halfback. "We didn't get a good kickoff and then we didn't make a tackle."
Henderson led Rice with 73 yards rushing and also scored Rice's other touchdown on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"We'll fix all these problems, turn it around and have a winning season," said Henderson, who split time at quarterback with Kyle Herm.
Briles, the first Houston alumnus to return as head coach, masterminded a pass-oriented offensive scheme that his high school teams at Stephenville used to win four Texas high school titles in a span of seven years during the 1990s. He spent the last three seasons as an assistant at Texas Tech.
"We wanted to throw more than we did," Briles said. "We are a high-percentage passing team -- our goal is to complete 60 percent and we did better than that (74 percent)."
The margin of victory was Houston's largest in the series since 1989, when both teams were in the Southwest Conference and Andre Ware led the Cougars to a 64-0 victory moments before claiming the Heisman Trophy.