Rice football notched their first win of the season, leading from start to finish in their first-ever meeting with intra-city foe, Texas Southern.
Rice football might very well look back at the first place of their Week 4 game against Texas Southern as the moment things clicked for a team in desperate need of a spark. The Owls had turned to their third starting quarterback in four weeks, but rolled the dice, trusting him to take a shot right out of the gate.
Not only did Weber State transfer Jake Constantine connect on that gutsy opening call, he hit wide receiver Cedric Patterson in stride and watched him gallop the rest of the way into the endzone.
The 73-yard pass from Constantine to Patterson is the longest scoring play for @RiceFootball since Nov. 24, 2018 when Juma Otoviano ran 80 yards for a score against Old Dominion. pic.twitter.com/MB1evbLsk4
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) September 25, 2021
That proved to be the catalyst this team needed, jump-starting a rout of Texas Southern in the first-ever meeting between the two programs. Here are a few immediate reactions from the game:
Rice offense wakes up
When Patterson crossed the white line of the Rice endzone on that long touchdown pass, he secured the longest scoring play for Rice football since Juma Otoviano’s 80-yard touchdown run against Old Dominion on Nov. 18, 2018. It was also the first time Rice had scored on the first play of a contest since Driphus Jackson found Jordan Taylor for an 88-yard score on Nov. 25, 2014 against North Texas.
The Roost Podcast: Stay tuned for the game recap this week
The couple of firsts pales in significance when compared to the noticeable boost it gave to the 2021 Owls’ morale. After being shut out against Texas and limited to one scoring play against Houston the week prior, Rice put 48 points on the board against Texas Southern. For this team on this day, it didn’t matter who was lined up on the other sideline this offense needed proof that they could do it. And they did.
Now, it wasn’t perfect. Constantine was intercepted on a deep shot on first down following a Texas Southern penalty. A muffed center/quarterback exchange set Texas Southern up for points at the end of the first half. It was a mixed bag, but it was proof the upside exists, nonetheless.
Build the whole plane out of Jordan Myers
Head coach Mike Bloomgren didn’t make it far into his opening remarks in his postgame press conference following the Texas loss before he hinted at what was to come for the Rice offense, specifically who he was going to trust to carry the load moving forward.
“We’ve got to lean on him more,” Bloomgren said of versatile do-it-all utility man Jordan Myers. “We’ve got to give him more opportunities because we trust that he’ll get it done for us.”
On Saturday against Texas Southern, Myers got it done.
He carried the ball 26 times for 160 yards and four rushing touchdowns, the most touchdown runs from a Rice Owl since Nahshon Ellerbe had four against Southern Miss in 2017. He also added four receptions for 48 yards. That included this run, that put away any chance of a late Texas Southern comeback:
Jordan Myers called game.pic.twitter.com/jgRSdsPESu
— The Roost (@AtTheRoost) September 26, 2021
Cam Montgomery saw an increased workload, but his carries seemed to eat more from Khalan Griffin’s usual workload than from Myers’ snaps. If anything, it was just enough to ensure Myers was fresh and ready to go from start to finish. He certainly made his presence felt.
Quarterback questions linger, for now
As expected, Rice football played two quarterbacks against Texas Southern. Jake Constantine saw the vast majority of the work, completing 18-of-23 passes for 271 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He looked extremely comfortable in the pocket and delivered on-time, catchable passes to his receivers all night.
McCaffrey entered the game for specific packages, primarily in the red zone. He did not attempt a pass but carried the ball five times for 36 yards and a touchdown. The starter for the Texas game, McCaffrey was relegated to ad-hoc duty in his return to play. Whether or not that remains the plan going forward remains to be seen.
On one hand, Constantine looked very much the part against Texas Southern. Outside of the interception, a first down throw that probably should have been held instead of slung downfield, he led the offense well.
Will McCaffrey be Wally Pipp’d? More importantly, should Rice ride with the hot hand who produced almost as many points in the first half as Rice had scored to that point in three games prior? Very possible, will we see both quarterbacks in action against Southern Miss? Those are the questions that will be asked this week. For now, the Owls will enjoy their first win of the season.
Going 1-0 this week
Bloomgren has an oft-heard mantra that’s heard almost nonstop reverberating off the walls of the Brian Patterson Center. Whether in meetings with the team or media sessions, Bloomgren consistently implores his team to “go 1-0 this week”. For the first time this season, Rice football has risen to that request.
The chances for a thrilling non-conference upset are long gone, all that’s left is for this team to follow Bloomgren’s drumbeat.
A 1-3 start isn’t what anyone at South Main was hoping for, but it was probably the most likely outcome any outside the hedges would have projected prior to the start of the year. So, despite the harrowing highs and lows, Rice has the chance to step back into line with preseason expectations.
If Rice football hopes to beat those expectations and reach their aspirations of bowl games and more, it’s going to take a return to that “1-0” mentality. This week, they checked the box. Now it’s on to Southern Miss.
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