Jake Lange leads Southern Miss rally for 20-19 homecoming win against Arkansas State


Photos by Sean Smith, SM2

HATTIESBURG, MS –  Southern Miss needed to pull something out of its back pocket to pull off a stunning comeback against Arkansas State, and Head Coach Will Hall and company did just that. Hall put walk-on quarterback Jake Lange in at the end of the third quarter because it “put them in the best position to win the game.”

Lange delivered, and Hall’s decision-making at coaching fueled a 13-0 fourth quarter to lead the Golden Eagles to its first homecoming win since 2019 and the largest comeback win since the road match against Kentucky in 2016 by beating Arkansas State 20-19.

“Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve talked a lot about how we are doing things the right way, how we are building this program back the right way. I’ve talked about how we are doing good things nobody sees. One day we are going to start winning game too [but] right now we just aren’t a complete team,” Hall said. “I know it’s not pretty. I’m going to be honest with you that it may not be pretty for a while around here.”

Hall also added that it was the fight of the Golden Eagles that led the squad to victory.

“I saw a group of kids that battled all week. I saw a group of kids that saw things not go in their way for three quarters, but they kept battling,” Hall said.

Arkansas State opened the game with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Starting quarterback James Blackman found wide receiver Jeff Foreman for a 28-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0 early.

“I never felt like [our defense] wasn’t working. He was completing passes but they weren’t scoring. We completed a lot of passes last week, but we didn’t score. I thought our defense was working and I thought we really got some good hits on him,” Hall said.

Southern Miss’s offense sputtered to get any momentum in the first half. On Southern Miss’s first drive, starting quarterback Zach Wilcke tried to squeeze a ball into Jason Brownlee, but Kenneth Harris intercepted the pass, and Arkansas State got the ball right back. That would be the first of two interceptions by Wilcke in the first half.

However, defensive coordinator Austin Armstrong’s defense came to play as they have, forcing Arkansas State to a quick three and out.

Southern Miss could not get anything offensively and had two straight punting series. Arkansas State added a field goal to go up 10-0 before Southern Miss got on the board.

Wilcke led the offense on the best drive of the night, up to that point, with six plays for 75 yards, capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass to Brownlee that brought the score to 10-7 at the half.

Southern Miss led in yardage at halftime and had almost 100 more rushing yards than Arkansas State; however, they had two turnovers to none by the Red Wolves.

Arkansas State forced Southern Miss in a three-and-out to start the second half and followed that with a ten-play, 79-yard touchdown drive where Blackman found Foreman again for a nine-yard touchdown pass to bring the score to 17-7. After another drive led by Wilcke, Hall decided to go with Lange.

“I thought it gave us the best chance to win the game. Zach is a talented, really good player. He has turned the ball over a lot here recently. I thought he was a little emotional early- that’s why the ball was high on him. He is a really accurate passer that was missing high because he is so into it,” Hall said. “I thought we had to remove him for a second. Let Jake come in, let him catch his breath. Jake is a guy that’s going to do exactly what the play call says…we just needed a little more execution and I thought Jake could give us that.”

That did not happen right away, as the first drive he was in ended with safety as Mason Hunt dropped the ball out of the endzone, which pushed Arkansas State’s lead to 19-7 entering the fourth quarter.

In response, Lange led the offensive right down the field with the longest drive of the season- a nine-play, 95-yard drive in just under three minutes.

Using younger weapons, Janari Dean and Tiaquelin Mims, Lange kept the Golden Eagles alive with the drive. Starting running back, Frank Gore Jr had a 30-yard touchdown rush on third and ten to bring the game to 19-14.

“It’s a lot of prayer. I just go out there and do my job. I came here to play college football, and I believed I was ready,” Lange said.

Lange also led the Golden Eagles on the go-ahead touchdown drive with a 12-play, 45-yard drive to give the Golden Eagles it’s first and only lead of the night. While facing a third and nine, Lange scrambled to avoid a sack, hurdled a player, then got positive yardage to set up a more manageable fourth down, which they completed. It was arguably the play of the night.

“When you have a coach like Coach Hall who teaches you how to read and react and see the play before it happens, it was easy to go out there and do my job,” Lange said

He also compared the play to a play by former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence he remembered watching on TV.

Dean then scored the first touchdown of his career on what would be the game-sealing score.

“Yeah, that was a heck of a birthday present. My birthday is tomorrow, so I was really excited for that, but it wouldn’t have been done without the offensive line. They did a heck of a job blocking up front,” Dean said.

Southern Miss won the game by the incredible heroics of Lange, but the defense paved the way for the team by putting them in the position to get back in the game.

Jay Stanley, Santrell Latham, and Daylen Gill all led the team with tackles (eight) and four different Golden Eagles accounted for sacks.

Dominic Quewon got the hurry on Blackman that forced a bad pass to seal the game on fourth down.

“That was a Southern Miss win. When everything was against us, we just kept freaking battling. Together.” Hall said.

Southern Miss improves to 3-3, and 1-1 in conference play. The Golden Eagles go on the road to play Texas State next weekend.