Jake Constantine quarterbacked Rice football to its first win of the 2021 season, providing stability and hope for an offense in need of direction.
When Jake Constantine took the first snap on Saturday night against Texas Southern, he made history. Constantine became the 11th different quarterback to start a game for Rice football since the 2017 season, the most of any FBS program over that time. He also launched that first ball over the heads of the Texas Southern defense for a 73-yard touchdown pass.
For as bumpy as the journey has been for Constantine and for Rice, something clicked for both parties in the Owls’ first win of the 2021 season. Constantine, who was making his first start since falling to No. 2 James Madison in the FCS Playoffs in 2019, looked like he’d been calling shots in the Rice offense for years. He completed 78.3 percent of his passes, throwing for 271 yards, one score and one interception.
Only once since head coach Mike Bloomgren arrived on campus had a Rice quarterback been that efficient, Tom Stewart also went 18-for-23 against Middle Tennessee in 2019. Bloomgren took notice. “From an efficiency standpoint,” Bloomgren recalled from his Rice tenure, “it’s one of the better [quarterback performances].”
He went on to mention a string of outings from Mike Collins last season, citing that as “the standard we’re trying to get to.” Collins completed 61.6 percent of his passes in three games at Rice with 10 touchdowns and just one interception before injuries ended his collegiate career.
Constantine hasn’t gotten to that mark quite yet, but still led the offense on seven touchdown drives, several of which were capped off by a quartet of touchdown runs from Jordan Myers. Rice scored touchdowns on five of six trips to the redzone.
Both Bloomgren and his quarterback lamented Constantine’s lone interception. Still, the tone remained upbeat. For the first time in four tries, Rice had won, and won behind a strong showing from the offense, rather than its defense.
For Constantine, it was the continuation of his own lofty standard. Now in his fourth season as a collegiate starter, he has yet to lose a regular-season game at home, dating back to his days as a freshman at Ventura College. His only blemish in front of his own fanbase came in a playoff game during his sophomore year. “I love winning,” Constantine says with a smile. “We just need to keep moving forward.”
Moving forward, building on one good game and turning it into two, then three will be the focal point as Rice football returns to action against Southern Miss next week. “We want to be a well-oiled machine,” Bloomgren said as he closed out his postgame comments. “We want to be able to put all three phases out there for 60 minutes. I certainly don’t think we’ve put that kind of performance on the field this year, but that’s what we’re working towards.”
Myers, who was responsible for half of those points on his own, is confident they can sustain that success, in large part because of the man pulling the trigger. “That’s the type of QB we need,” he said.
Bloomgren promised to evaluate the film but was confident the split between Constantine and the more mobile Luke McCaffrey paid off well. Has Rice found the right combination to rejuvenate their offense? 48 points, the most scored by a Rice offense at any point under Bloomgren’s leadership, is a good start.