The Spartans (2-2, 1-1 Western Athletic) got 28 points and two key interceptions in the fourth quarter of an astonishing exhibition of big-play offense -- and a whole lot of horrendous defense and special-teams play.
"This is one of the wildest things I've seen," San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said. "The conventional rules of football did not apply. You had to score to win."
Rice and San Jose State combined for 1,089 yards of total offense, with the Owls (2-2, 1-1) running a school-record 100 plays for 634 yards --including 570 on 85 rushing plays while setting the NCAA record for most points in a loss.
And to top every incredible development, the Spartans won it on a big defensive play: Nunez's untouched return of Greg Henderson's terrible pass.
The 133 points surpassed the total from Middle Tennessee State's 70-58 victory over Idaho on Oct. 6, 2001, and was just one short of the Division I-A mark for any game set in Arkansas' 71-63, seven-overtime victory over Kentucky on Nov 1, 2003.
The teams also fell just shy of the NCAA regulation record for all divisions, set in Division III North Park's 104-32 victory over North Central, Illinois, on Oct. 12, 1968.
The 19 touchdowns also broke the Division I-A record of 18 that had been accomplished twice, most recently by Middle Tennessee and Idaho in their 2001 game.
"It was just a great game back and forth for the fans to see," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said. "It's what the WAC is all about, a lot of explosiveness."
The Spartans did it all with just 49 plays, controlling the ball for less than 18 minutes and making the most of 211 yards on kickoff returns, repeatedly setting up scoring drives.
"If anything, I was most disappointed with the big plays they made in the kicking game - those field position plays, those momentum-changers," Hatfield said.
Dale Rogers, playing with a hyperextended left knee and a big cut on his chin, passed for 359 yards and five touchdowns -- on just 10 completions -- after entering the game as the Spartans' third quarterback.
Hill hoped to keep Rogers out because of his injuries, but Adam Tafralis and Beau Pierce were ineffective early on.
"They came to me, and I said, 'If you want me to play, I'll go in there and play,"' Rogers said.
Rogers eventually rallied the Spartans from an early 27-point deficit and a 14-point hole with eight minutes to play.
Rice took a 63-49 lead on Armstrong's 44-yard scoring run with 8:38 left, but Rufus Skillern caught his second TD pass from Rogers just 87 seconds later, scoring from 44 yards out.
With 3:22 left, Eric Wilson recovered Armstrong's fumble at the Rice 18, and Rogers scored on a 1-yard plunge moments later. San Jose State committed a personal foul after the play, but Jeff Carr still drilled the extra point from 35 yards out to tie it at 63-63.
Nunez then intercepted a terrible pass down the right sideline, scoring untouched to give San Jose State its first lead of the night.
"I was in the right place at the right time," Nunez said. "The quarterback rolled out and took me right where he was throwing it."
Rice then drove to the San Jose State 28, but Bobby Godinez intercepted Armstrong's pass with 31 seconds left to preserve the win. The Spartans, whose program is thought to be in danger of discontinuation thanks to budget problems and low attendance, celebrated wildly with the students and band.
Just 4,093 fans attended the game.
Trestin George scored on a 77-yard reverse punt return for the Spartans, and Brian Watje made the first of his two TD receptions on a pass from running back Lamar Ferguson.
Rice scored on its first five possessions, taking a 34-7 lead with 299 total yards before the second quarter was five minutes old. Henderson rushed for three scores, including a 39-yard scramble and an 11-yard run after Tyson Thompson's fumble.
But San Jose State rallied with 141 yards and two scores on its next two plays from scrimmage. Thompson ran for a 74-yard score, and after Henderson threw an interception, Rogers hit John Broussard all alone down the sideline for a 67-yard TD catch.
Broussard made a 64-yard reception shortly before halftime, setting up Watje's 13-yard TD catch on a pass from Ferguson.
Chad Price extended Rice's lead to 49-35 late in the third with a 15-yard interception return for a score.