The spark provided by Jake Lange, the former scout team quarterback who was recently promoted to backup, was not enough as Southern Miss (1-4, 0-1 C-USA) fell to Rice (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) 24-19.
Lange took over as the starter after an apparent ankle injury sidelined Ty Keyes after the first drive.
“[Ty] finished the game on crutches…he was out,” said Head Coach Will Hall after the game. “Losing Ty early was a big blow [as we were] down to our third quarterback. I thought [Lange] came in and played his tail off…Lange’s a winner and a tough guy, and he embodies what Southern Miss is about.”
Lange came in strong as he went four of six for 70 yards and a touchdown on his first drive. He connected with freshman Chandler Pittman on a wheel route for a 31-yard score, tying the game at seven apiece.
Lange finished the game 23-37 for 304 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. His yardage, completions and attempts marked the most in a game by a Southern Miss quarterback this season.
“I think when Ty got hurt I knew I was prepared…I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life…[I] just want to give our team the best chance to win.,” Lange said.
Lange connected with receiver Jason Brownlee eight times for 127 yards, giving the Golden Eagles its first 100-yard receiving performance of the season. became the first Golden Eagle to record over 100 receiving yards in a game with 8 receptions for 127 yards.
Lange said his time on the scout team improved his game, which he used in his quick turnaround to taking over the offense.
“It was a great challenge every week…going against our real defense,” Lange said. “Being on the scout team elevated my game exponentially.”
However, turnovers sealed the fate of Southern Miss, as they turned the ball over four times while Rice sustained zero turnovers.
“We lost the turnover battle four to zero, and that’s why we lost the game,” said Hall. “We won every statistical thing there is to win [including] total offense, first downs, special teams [and] return yardage.”
Hall added that the team’s penalties did not help Southern Miss either.
Penalties aided Rice on its first possession, as Southern Miss started with two consecutive penalties on defense. Six plays later, Rice quarterback Jake Constantine found his receiver, Jake Bailey, for a 39-yard touchdown, giving Rice the early 7-0 lead.
Constantine looked sharp in this game, as he went 16-22 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. He split time in the backfield with Nebraska transfer-quarterback Luke McCaffrey, brother of all-pro running back Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey did not account for much offense, however, as he had two rushes for 16 yards and completed his only pass attempt for 15 yards.
Before halftime, Constantine led the offense down the field as Rice kicker Christian VanSickle made his first collegiate field goal from 41 yards out, giving the Owls a 10-7 lead.
The Nasty Bunch had a rough start to the third quarter as Rice scored on their opening drive with a Robert French 19-yard touchdown reception from Constantine. On the following drive, Southern Miss turned the ball over via a Lange interception on third and long. On the very next play, Cedric Patterson III took a reverse all the way to the house, giving Rice a commanding 24-7 lead.
Tyrek Moody was ejected for targeting in the 3rd quarter, meaning he will also miss the first half of the next game.
Camron Harrell took the ensuing kickoff back 95-yards for a touchdown, bringing the Golden Eagles within 10. Harrell made another huge special teams play by securing an onside kick in the fourth quarter.
“I knew one was gonna hit. I didn’t know if it was gonna be week 1, 2, 3 [or] 4…every time I’m back there… I have the most confidence not only in myself but the people in front of me,” Harrell said about the return.
“Coach Meyer knew we had it all week. We just thought the time was right…and [they] made a play…I was proud of them,” Hall said about the onside kick.
The drive would stall, however, as penalties once again played a factor. A personal foul on the offense negated a first down, which led to a Southern Miss punt.
Southern Miss had two more chances to reach the endzone but could not convert. The first try ended with an interception. Rice ran the clock down to seven seconds left. Instead of punting with 14 seconds left, Rice took a safety in the endzone, making it a 24-19 game. Lange’s last hail mary attempt was batted away by Rice, ending the game.
Rice will travel to undefeated UTSA next, while Southern Miss will host UTEP (4-1) for homecoming Oct. 9.