By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Transferring from Rhode Island to Missouri Southern was like moving from the country to the city for Lions defensive back Devon Dace.
“Up in Rhode Island, our school was basically in the woods,” Dace said. “We were about 45 minutes from Providence, so we really didn’t have a city life. It was pretty much the campus and nothing else around us.
“So went I came down to Joplin and saw we had a mall next to us and a movie theater and laser tag, it was crazy.”
Dace, 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior, starts at cornerback for the Lions. He’s made 11 tackles — 10 solo — in the first five games, and he’s broken up 10 passes, most on the team.
His end-zone interception in the first quarter of last Saturday’s 35-10 loss at Central Missouri came one play after the Mules intercepted a pass deep in Lion territory.
“Coach always talks about sudden change,” Dace said. “I lined up against the receiver and I realized that it wasn’t somebody I had seen on film. It was a tight end, and when I looked inside, I saw the quarterback make eye contact with (the receiver) and he gave him kind of a hand signal. So I figured the ball was coming my way.”
Dace started three years at Rhode Island before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury early last season. He received a medical hardship, giving him one more year of eligibility, and contacting an old friend began his journey to Missouri Southern.
“Brandon Williams (Lions defensive tackle) and I played basketball together since we were in second grade,” Dace said. “When I got my release from Rhode Island, I was talking to some different schools. I messaged Brandon, and I sent him my highlight tape, and he showed Coach (Daryl) Daye. Coach Daye liked it, and I started talking to Coach Daye. I like the type of man that he was and he gave me a scholarship, so I came here.”
At Rhode Island, a Division I-AA team, the Rams played against Big East teams Syracuse and Boston College.
“Playing against teams like that, it was pretty difficult,” Dace said.
“They support their athletic teams a lot more here than they did in Rhode Island. As far as football, of course it is a change for me. During preseason I had to get used to the different play calls ... and it is a totally new defense. So sometimes when I lined up during preseason, I still was doing what I did at Rhode Island because I was there for four years. I am finally starting to get into it and know the defense really well.”
The Lions (3-2) play four of their final six games at home, starting with Saturday afternoon’s homecoming game against South Dakota Mines.
The Hardrockers (1-4) are making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. They lost their first four games — three by a combined 157 points and one by three points in overtime — before winning 39-28 last week at Valley City State.