We all knew that the Texas Tech football team wouldn’t go undefeated this season. Still, Saturday’s loss to NC State was a frustrating watch.
Had we said going into the game that the Wolfpack offense would score only 20 points, that NC State QB Devin Leary would throw for only 121 yards and no TDs, and that the Wolfpack would go just 6-16 on third down, we would all have felt rather confident in Tech’s ability to win the game.
However, that didn’t happen as the offense was utterly inept for the vast majority of the evening. That was something head coach Joey McGuire addressed in his postgame press conference.
"“We’re going to face some good defenses in the Big 12,” he said. “I think we have to be better in catching all catchable balls, getting vertical when you catch it. We’ve got to put ourselves in good situations and that goes back to being more focused, obviously, in practice and making those plays…I ask everybody in there to look in the mirror, I said it earlier this week, to look in the mirror and make sure we’re continuing to get better. But there’s some stuff that we’ve got to do as a staff to put these guys in better situations.”"
Certainly, there’s plenty for Tech to improve upon after this loss. That’s why it is wise for a team to challenge itself in the non-conference portion of the schedule; to reveal flaws that must be addressed before league play begins. Unfortunately, after the loss to the Wolfpack, Tech has plenty of areas that need to be addressed.
The quarterback play has not been good enough
After two games with Donovan Smith as the team’s starting quarterback, it has become obvious why he lost the offseason QB competition to Tyler Shough. Now, after his second-straight shaky performance, it is fair to question whether Texas Tech has enough at the QB spot to survive until Shough returns from the collarbone injury he sustained in the opener.
In his two starts, he’s completed just 60.4% of his passes while being picked off five times. Plus, on Saturday, his legs were not a factor thus eliminating what makes him most dangerous as a QB.
On multiple occasions, Smith appeared to be slow in going through his reads as he held onto the ball for far too long before being sacked or having the throw the ball away to avoid a sack. Now, some of that might be because his receivers were not getting open, but I suspect that the 3-3-5 stack defense of NC State confused Smith for much of the evening.
When Shough won the starting job, McGuire said that the main factor in that decision was that Shough avoided mistakes and put the offense in the right situations with his calls at the line. That’s something that this offense has been missing in his absence, especially in Raleigh as Smith was a liability rather than an asset.
We must remember that Smith is just a sophomore who has only six career starts to his name. Even the best QBs in Tech history such as Graham Harrell and Pat Mahomes struggled at times in their first handful of starts so we should afford Smith some latitude and an opportunity to grow.
However, for his career, he’s been just a 62.7% passer and he’s got only a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio. That’s not good enough to beat the types of defense that Tech saw on Saturday night nor the types of defenses that the Big 12 will feature this season.