Texas Tech football 2017 rewatch: Breaking down McLane Carter’s first career start

AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 24: McLane Carter
AUSTIN, TX - NOVEMBER 24: McLane Carter /

On the night after Thanksgiving 2017, the Texas Tech football team headed to Austin where backup QB McLane Carter made his first start.  His performance left quite a bit to be desired.

In the 2017 regular season finale, the Texas Tech football team pulled out an improbable 27-24 win over the Texas Longhorns in Austin.  This game was the most important of the season for the Red Raiders as the win not only sent them to the Birmingham Bowl but it also likely saved Kliff Kingsbury’s job.

And as we anticipate McLane Carter starting at QB against Ole Miss this Saturday, let’s look back on his fist career start which came in Austin last season.  Public opinion has not held Carter’s efforts in the greatest of light and there’s good reason why.

He was just 16/37 passing for 237 yards and two interceptions while rushing for a TD.  Ultimately, he was pulled early in the 4th quarter in favor of Nic Shimonek who led Tech to 14 unanswered points.

But let’s take a detailed look at each of Carter’s drives and see if his performance looks any better now that we are almost a year removed from the emotion of the moment.

After the Horns jumped out to a quick 7-0 lead, Carter took over at his own 12.  Tech picked up a first-down but the drive stalled out when Carter scrambled to his left and had a third-down pass tipped and nearly intercepted.

It was the type of risky play that Kingsbury certainly wants to avoid. Interestingly, it looked eerily similar to some of the mistakes that Jett Duffey has been criticized for making but Carter got away with one as Texas couldn’t corral the ball.

Carter would get another shot beginning again at his own 12.  Tech would go 3-and-out after a bad overthrow, a completion on a screen and a scramble for six yards.

But on Tech’s third drive, Carter found a nice rhythm going 5-5 for 75 yards with everything coming over the middle to the slot receivers, especially Keke Coutee who had a 41-yard catch and run.  Carter would finish the drive with a 2-yard TD run to tie the game at 7-7, which was refreshing to see given Tech’s red zone struggles.

Cater’s fourth drive started again at the Tech 12.  The first play was Carter’s first throw over 20 yards and his lack of arm strength was evident as the fade route attempt floated long enough for a UT corner to get his hands on the ball and almost make an interception.

Those are the types of throws that worry many Texas Tech fans.  The Red Raiders’ best receiver is T.J. Vasher who plays on the outside, and to the lefty Carter’s right side, making many wonder how well Carter will be able to get the ball to his most proven weapon.

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But on third-and-10, Carter made a great throw to Coutee on a deep out for 12 yards.  The ball was placed just over the defender and exactly where it had to be.

The next play was a 52-yard completion to Vasher on a post route.  But again, the ball was under thrown and had Carter had the arm strength to hit him in stride, Vasher would have easily scored.  But as it was, Tech had to settle for a 32-yard FG to go up 10-7.

Carter was handed a tough spot on his fifth series as Tech started on its own 2-yard-line.  Three-consecutive passes for Dylan Cantrell were broken up and Tech had to punt from its own end zone.  Again, Carter had a deep throw broken up and almost intercepted by a UT defensive back.

But his luck would run out on the next position as he threw an interception on a second-down 15-yard square-in to Dylan Cantrell.  In fairness, Cantrell slipped as he made his cut allowing the defender an easy play on the ball.  The throw was on time but was still a bit ill-advised.  However, Carter can’t be blamed for his receiver losing his footing.

Drive seven saw Carter hit Vasher for a 10-yard gain before another deep ball to Cantrell was dropped again by a UT defender and the drive ended.  Once again, the sophomore QB was lucky that UT did not come down with a near INT.

But, Carter’s second INT, came on drive eight and was all on Carter.  He was late on a slant to Vasher that was easily picked off.  This pass came to Carter’s right which appeared to throw off his timing on the quick-hitting play.  Texas would convert that pick into a FG to go up 20-10 at the half.

To open the second half, Carter was bailed out by Vasher who made an acrobatic one-handed catch on a 40-yard rain-maker that Carter lofted his direction.  Again, the receiver had the defender beat deep but Carter was not able to get the ball to him in stride likely costing the team a TD.  The drive would stall out in the red zone and Tech had to settle for a FG to pull to within a TD at 20-13.

Drive ten was a three-and-out from the Tech 2-yard-line.  Carter was 0-2 on the series with a crucial 3rd down drop by T.J. Vasher on a nice throw on a slant route.

The next drive was a dud.  An intentional grounding and a throw off his back foot that short-hopped a defender would lead to a punt.  On his final two drives of the game, Carter would go a combined 0-3 and he would leave the game with Tech trailing 23-13.

What was troubling about this performance was that Carter put the ball in harm’s way far too often.  There were eight passes that a UT defender got a hand on, including two picks.  This goes against the assertion that McLane Carter is a safer option than Jett Duffey or Alan Bowman, as the only time Carter has played meaningful snaps, he could have had four or five passes intercepted in just three quarters of action.

Additionally, Carter was ineffective throwing the ball over 10 yards down the field.  On 18 passes that went over 10 yards, Carter completed just six throws while having four passes tipped and being intercepted once.

Carter began the game 11-15 but as Texas adjusted, he went just 5-22.  Also, the running attack was not part of his game, as has been advertised.   Aside from the 2-yard TD run, he rushed the ball eight times for -22 yards, while being sacked twice.

It must be noted that the UT defense was arguably the best in the Big 12 last year, making it a tough task for a first-time starter.  But while Carter had some nice moments, his overall performance was simply not good enough.

Next. Tech / Ole Miss series has been full of exciting games. dark

He put the ball in danger far too often and was not able to make all the throws that the offense requires.  After viewing this game again, it is hard to have any more confidence in McLane Carter as a starting quarterback than I had before breaking down this game. Here’s hoping he made massive improvements over the offseason.