HOUSTON (AP) _ Corey Pullig's 26-yard scoring pass to Albert Connell in the third quarter put Texas A&M ahead to stay and the 18th-rated Aggies struggled past Rice 17-10 Thursday night.

It was the fourth straight victory for Texas A&M (6-2, 4-1 Southwest Conference) and its 15th consecutive triumph over Rice (2-6-1, 1-4).

Owls quarterbacks Chad Nelson and Raphael Tillman failed to complete a pass until Tillman, in relief of the injured Nelson, hit Spencer George with a 10-yard completion with 1:40 left in the game. It was the only completion for Rice quarterbacks.

Punter Tucker Phillips completed two passes for Rice in the first half, each time catching Aggies special teams napping. His first-quarter, 37-yard pass to Jeff Venghaus gave the Owls a 7-0 lead.

Leeland McElroy had 168 yards on 28 carries for the Aggies, including a 45-yard TD run that tied the game 7-7 in the second quarter. The score came after linebacker Keith Mitchell recovered a botched pitch by Nelson at the Owls 45. Two plays and 18 seconds later, McElroy broke a couple of tackles on the left side of the line of scrimmage and outraced defensive back Warrick Franklin to the end zone. It was the Aggies' longest rush of the year.

The defense helped Rice to a 10-7 lead early in the third quarter when Detron Smith fumbled after catching a pass from Corey Pullig and the Owls' Brynton Goynes recovered at the Texas A&M 31. The Owls moved to the Aggies 4 before stalling and Mike Ruff kicked a 22-yard field goal.

Texas A&M followed with its best drive of the game, going 75 yards in eight plays. Connell outjumped Rice's LaDouphyous Shaw to pull down Pullig's pass in the front corner of the end zone and give A&M its first lead at 14-10

Kyle Bryant accounted for the final margin when he capped a 67-yard drive with a 40-yard field goal with 7:13 to go in the game.

Rice had a last chance when it took over at its 35 with 2:38 left but the drive ended when Tillman's pass on fourth-and-15 from the Texas A&M 45 was intercepted by Reggie Brown.

The game marked the end of a series that began in 1920. With the demise of the Southwest Conference, Rice is headed to the Western Athletic Conference while Texas A&M goes to the expanded Big 12.