HOUSTON - Nic Smith rushed for a career-high 178 yards and a score and North Texas warmed up for the Conference USA championship game with a 30-14 victory over Rice on Saturday.
The Mean Green (8-4, 7-1) will go after their first C-USA championship when its plays at Florida Atlantic next Saturday after losing at FAU 69-31 in a regular-season meeting on Oct. 21.
Mason Fine passed for 195 yards and a touchdown, setting a North Texas single-season record with 27 TD passes.
Rice (1-11, 1-7) scored first on Brandon Douglas-Dotson's 75-yard interception return before Smith tied it in the first quarter with a 13-yard run. Fine put North Texas ahead to stay with a 51-yard pass play to Rico Bussey Jr. in the second quarter.
Jaelon Darden returned a punt 81 yards for a Mean Green touchdown, the Owls responded with Miklo Smalls' 52-yard scoring run and North Texas' Trevor Moore kicked the first of three field goals as the half ended 24-14.
Rice running back Sam Stewart was taken off the field on a stretcher after being injured on a run in the second quarter. He remained on the turf for approximately 20 minutes before being taken by stretcher to an ambulance. The school reported during the game that Stewart was "alert and responsive to questions from the medical staff while being treated on the field. He was transported to Methodist Hospital for further evaluation."
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