HOUSTON -- Florida Atlantic quarterback Greg Hankerson's debut as a starter was going pretty well, all things considered.
Hankerson, who replaced Jaquez Johnson as FAU's starter in the fifth game of the season, threw a touchdown pass with 6:07 left in the the fourth quarter that figured to propel FAU past Rice to its first Conference USA victory.
But then a Hankerson fumble and an interception on back-to-back offensive plays derailed everything. Rice took advantage of the FAU miscues and pulled out a fourth-quarter comeback for an 18-14 victory on Saturday at Rice Stadium.
Midway through the fourth quarter, FAU running back Jonathan Wallace burst into the open field and broke the game wide open. Wallace's 54-yard run set up FAU Hankerson's 15-yard touchdown pass to Nexon Dorvilus.
That play finally broke through a stalemate that featured 17 punts.
With its offense failing, the Rice defense came up with a touchdown. Hankerson rolled out to pass on third-and-6 from the FAU 17. He fumbled inside the 10 and Rice defensive end Cody Bauer picked it up and took it 7 yards for a touchdown.
FAU defensive back Christian Milstead batted down Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue's pass to maintain a 14-12 lead.
But Rice's defense produced another opportunity.
On first down during FAU's ensuing possession, Rice's Bryce Callahan intercepted Hankerson. That gave Rice the ball at the FAU 41. Rice moved in quickly from there, scoring on the second play of the drive when running back Darik Dillard broke loose for a 20-yard touchdown run.
FAU took the lead to halftime for the first time in a C-USA game as it led Rice 7-6 on the strength of the big play of the half.
Hankerson connected with wide receiver William Dukes on a go-route near the FAU sideline.
Dukes went the distance for a 58-yard touchdown despite fumbling at the Rice 18. The ball bounced back to the FAU receiver and he was able to scoop it and scoot in for the score.
Hankerson's touchdown pass to Dukes gave FAU a 7-3 lead with 5:01 left in the first quarter.
Dukes appeared to have another long touchdown early in the second quarter, this one an 80-yard strike from Hankerson. But it was wiped out by an offensive pass interference penalty on Dukes.
Still, Hankerson found Dukes three times for 72 yards in the first half, which constituted a huge chunk of the yards gained by either team. FAU led Rice 176-160 in total yards at halftime.
Meanwhile, the FAU defense kept Rice outside of the FAU red zone for most of the first half.
Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue marched his team to the FAU 19 on Rice's second offensive series of the game. But a holding penalty from there pushed Rice back to the 29 and FAU stiffened from there.
Rice settled for kicker Chris Boswell's 45-yard field goal. It was the only time Rice crossed FAU's 25 in the first two quarters.
Boswell added a 47-yarder in the second quarter to cut FAU's lead to a point.
NOTES: The Rice-FAU game was the first meeting between the two schools. FAU joined C-USA this season. It is also the first meeting in FBS history between two schools with the Owl mascot. ... Rice had faced two of the top 11 offenses in the nation in Texas A&M, ranked fifth in the nation with 602.3 yards per game, and Houston, 11th with 548.3. FAU entered the game ranked 111th with 315.8 yards per game.