HOUSTON -- Dan Persa threw for 307 yards and a touchdown Saturday night to lead Northwestern to a 30-13 victory over Rice.
Persa, who completed 24 of 32 passes and was not intercepted, also ran for a touchdown for the Wildcats (3-0). Northwestern has won 10 of its last 13 road games and is averaging 30 points per game.
The Northwestern defense also scored, on Quentin Davie's interception return of 11 yards in the first half, to open up a 13-0 lead. The Wildcats kept Rice (1-2) out of the end zone until the final 14 seconds of the game, when Turner Petersen scored on a 10-yard run.
The Owls' Nick Fanuzzi was 20 of 34 for 211 yards and an interception.
Rice had not played a Big Ten school since 2002, when the Owls lost 27-10 at Michigan State.
The first half was a defensive struggle, with the only TD coming on Davie's interception of Taylor Cook. Fanuzzi relieved Cook at that point and Chris Boswell kicked a 31-yard field goal for Rice's only first-half points.
Davie finished with 10 tackles, four solo, for Northwestern, which hosts Central Michigan next week before beginning the Big Ten season.
Persa's 18-yard touchdown run put the Wildcats ahead 27-6 with 4:07 left in the third quarter. He ended the game with 34 yards on nine carries, while Arby Fields was Northwestern's top rusher with 17 carries and 55 yards.
Stefan Demos had field goals of 42, 28 and 21 yards for the Wildcats.