After seeing No. 2 quarterback Donovan Smith struggle mightily against NC State on Saturday night, his second start of the season and sixth of his career, many Texas Tech football fans are clamoring for No. 3 QB Behren Morton to take over the starting role until Tyler Shough can return from a collarbone injury. However, after the 27-14 loss, head coach Joey McGuire threw some water on that fire.
“No,” McGuire said emphatically when asked if he was inclined to play Morton earlier in the game than he did on Saturday when the redshirt freshman was inserted into the game only for Tech’s final possession, long after the affair had been decided. “I think both of them came in and did some good things.”
McGuire then pivoted into a compliment of his defense, which was not pertinent to the question about his quarterbacks, before coming back to the topic of Morton and Smith.
“I feel good,” he said. “We’re going to go in this week and watch the film and see where they are and come out, you know, both of them played, we probably could have played Behren earlier but we’ll do the same thing against Texas, I think both of them will play against Texas.”
That’s not what those wanting to see more of Morton wanted to hear. However, it is worth asking whether Morton is ready to assume such a role, after all, he’s never started a game in his college career, and throwing him into that role in such an emotionally-charged game as the Texas game might not be the smartest idea.
But if the offense, and specifically Smith, sputters early, it might be worth a shot to give Morton a first-half series to see if he can provide a spark. That was something that Tech fans were calling for in the middle of the NC State loss and should the offense look sluggish at home against Texas, those cries are only going to grow louder.
It isn’t that Morton’s stats are any better than Smith’s. He’s completed just 64.7% of his passes this year as compared to Smith’s 64.5% completion percentage. Additionally, his body of work is far less extensive as he’s thrown only 17 passes in 2022 compared to the 110 that Smith has attempted.
However, the intangibles Morton has shown seem to be what his supporters are pointing to as reasons why they want to see more of the Lubbock native who played his high school football in Eastland. Whereas Smith has been too slow to make decisions in the pocket often leading to sacks or negative plays, Morton has been extremely decisive with the ball, even if some of his passes have been ill-advised.
Morton is also believed to be a high-IQ player given his status as a coach’s son and the fact that he’s played the QB position for virtually his entire life instead of playing it for just a few years as Smith has. Still, now does not seem like the optimum time to hand the reins over to Morton.
Remember that as recently as three weeks ago, he was the third-string QB on this roster. That means that he received the fewest number of reps of the three QBs prior to the season and most of the reps that he got were not with the first-team receivers.
Additionally, Morton has only led one drive in his career that was not during garbage time and that was a three-and-out in the second half of last season’s 23-0 loss to Oklahoma State. In other words, it simply would be too big of an ask of Morton to step in and lead the team against the Longhorns as the starter.
Morton will eventually get his shot to run this program’s offense as the starter. He may even have the highest ceiling of any QB on the roster.
However, his time is not now according to Joey McGuire. That may not be what most Texas Tech fans want to hear but it is likely what is best for the Red Raiders at this time.