Texas Tech football: Should Behren Morton have been given a shot against Wyoming?

Texas Tech's quarterback Behren Morton (2) prepares to throw the ball during Spring Game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Lowrey Field at PlainsCapital Park.
Texas Tech's quarterback Behren Morton (2) prepares to throw the ball during Spring Game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, at Lowrey Field at PlainsCapital Park. /

Given the way the Texas Tech football team played in Saturday night’s 35-33 loss to Wyoming, everything that happened in Laramie deserves to be questioned.  That includes the way that the coaching staff decided to stick with Tyler Shough on a night when he had one of his worst showings as a Red Raider.

In fact, many fans are still wondering if Joey McGuire and Zach Kittley should have given backup QB Behren Morton an opportunity to ignite the offense as it went scoreless from the 4:02 mark of the first quarter until the final minute of regulation. However, replacing your QB1 in the middle of a game seems to be one of football’s greatest taboos.  Still, it is worth questioning whether or not the decision to ride with Shough for the duration of the game cost the Red Raiders a victory.

Tyler Shough had one of his worst games while at Texas Tech

Saturday marked the 10th start for Shough in a Red Raider uniform.  It was also the first time that he’d started and completed a game that he had lost while with the program.

Some might suggest that success of that caliber would earn the super-senior a longer leash than most quarterbacks.  However, the truth is that he does not have enough of a track record as a starter to be given blind faith by the coaching staff, especially on a night when he was clearly off his game.

At first glance, his stats were not abhorrent, though.  He completed 31-47 passes for 338 yards with three TDs and one pick.  Also, his 66% completion rate was actually the second-best of his Texas Tech career.

However, there is no denying that he played poorly, especially after the first quarter.  Outside of the first two Red Raider drives of the game, the only two TD drives of regulation for Shough and the offense, he was a much different player completing only 25-41 passes (60.9%) with only three completions for more than 15 yards.

During Tech’s scoreless drought, Shough was uncomfortable in the pocket, he repeatedly had passes deflected or knocked down that line of scrimmage, his lack of pocket awareness led to multiple sacks, and he threw at least two passes that could have easily been picked off.

What’s more, it seemed as if he was confused by the adjustments of the Wyoming defense.  Despite having the reputation of being a player who has a total understanding of the offense, he didn’t seem to have much success when changing plays at the line either as he frequently ran the play clock near zero causing the offense to become hurried and discombobulated at the snap.

In other words, it wasn’t the performance of a player in control of the game.  So why not give Morton a couple of series to see if he could pump some life into the offense?

Texas Tech shouldn’t buy into the fallacy of the one-quarterback tradition

There are two schools of thought when it comes to QB play during a game.  Traditionalists believe that if you have two quarterbacks, you really don’t have one.  They think that an offense functions best with QB continuity throughout the game, regardless of how well the starter is playing.

Others think that if a QB is playing poorly, he should be taken out if there is a viable option behind him.  After all, any other player on the field is subject to being taken out if he doesn’t do his job well enough.  Why not treat the QB position the same way?

Sure, the nuances of playing QB make this decision more difficult than deciding to replace a running back or linebacker.  However, if the greatest college football coach in the modern era of the sport is willing to make a QB swap in one of the biggest games of his career, shouldn’t every team consider it?

In the 2018 National Championship Game with his team trailing 13-0 at halftime and looking listless, Alabama head coach Nick Saban benched his season-long starter Jalen Hurts for freshman Tua Tagovailoa to begin the second half.

Tagovailoa would complete 14-24 passes for 166 yards and 3 TDs to lead the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 overtime win.  So again, if Nick…freaking…Saban is willing to swap QBs in the middle of the National Championship Game, why would any coach stay beholden to the belief that changing out QBs mid-game is a move too drastic to make?

Morton could have given Texas Tech the spark it needed

If McGuire had no reasonable option behind Shough, then it would have made perfect sense to stick with the struggling starter for the duration of the game.  However, we’ve seen Behren Morton perform well in Big 12 games as recently as last year.  He’s started and played well at Oklahoma State and TCU and he led the Red Raiders to a win over West Virginia in Lubbock.

What’s more, his mobility and penchant for making plays off-script could have been exactly what the stalled Red Raider offense needed against a Wyoming defense that feasted on Shough as he stayed almost statuesque in the pocket.

Also, Morton is more of a gunslinger than Shough.  With a much stronger arm and a quicker release, he likely would have allowed the offense to take more shots down the field instead of having to revert to getting the ball out of Shough’s hands with quick screens and low-risk throws.

In the end, Morton should have at least played a couple of series.  We’ve seen that move at Tech before as Mike Leach once pulled Kliff Kingsbury for a couple of series as he struggled on the road at SMU in 2002.  Putting B.J. Symons into the game to both send a message and to calm his entrenched starter, Leach wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and McGuire shouldn’t have been either on Saturday night.

At the time Kingsbury was pulled against SMU, he had more accomplishments to his name than Shough ever will at the college level.  Still, Leach had the guts to make the tough call and try to spark his team, which he did as Tech would shake out of its slumber soon enough for a 24-14 win.

McGuire should have done the same with no regard for Shough’s psyche.  Instead, he stuck with a struggling player at the most important position on the field and it may have sent his team’s season off the rails before the train ever really left the station.

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