Texas Tech football: Red Raiders can’t keep living with Tyler Shough’s turnovers

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Tyler Shough #12 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders fumbles the ball while being tackled by Bryce Boettcher #28 of the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the game at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Tyler Shough #12 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders fumbles the ball while being tackled by Bryce Boettcher #28 of the Oregon Ducks during the first half of the game at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Coming into the 2023 Texas Tech football season, one of the reasons so many people were bullish on the Red Raiders was the return of super-senior quarterback Tyler Shough.  After leading Tech to wins in each of the final four games of last season and compiling an 8-1 record in Lubbock as the starter, the thought was that Shough would be one of the best QBs in the Big 12 this year and lead Tech to great heights.

I have to admit that I bought into the hype as well.  I thought that Shough would be the best QB Tech has had since Pat Mahomes and though he may still clear that very low bar, it is becoming obvious that he is a lot closer to Nic Shimonek than Graham Harrell.

The main issue with Shough is that he’s turning the ball over at an alarming rate this year.  That is something no team can survive from its most important player.

Every Texas Tech turnover this season has come from Tyler Shough

Already this season, Shough has turned the ball over five times in two games.  That’s more than he had in seven appearances last fall.  His four interceptions on the season are already equal to the number he threw a season ago and he’s on pace for 24 INTs in the regular season.

Having your quarterback average 2.5 giveaways per game is a recipe for a losing season.  What’s more, Shough could have easily thrown two or three more picks against Wyoming and he nearly lost a second fumble against Oregon.

Unfortunately, Shough’s turnovers are proving to be game-changing plays as well.  Again, that’s not the type of difference one wants a quarterback to make.

His interception against Wyoming came with Tech leading 17-3 in the second quarter and looking to take that game by the throat.  Instead, he gave the ball to the Cowboys at their own 44, and five plays later, Wyoming would be in the endzone to crawl back into a game in which the home team had been thoroughly dominated to that point.

Against Oregon, Shough was even worse in the turnover department.  While no one should hold the game’s final interception against him because it was a desperation Hail Mary heave, the other three gaffes he had were crushing.

His fumble in the second quarter just can’t happen.  Down by two points but possessing the ball at the Oregon 12, Tech had an opportunity to score late in the quarter and then score again after receiving the second half kickoff.  Doing so would have allowed the home team to take command of the game.

Instead, Shough tried to do too much from a collapsing pocket.  He tried to make a Mahomes play even though he’s not that caliber of athlete in the pocket and the result was a lost fumble and at least three points kept off the board.

In the third quarter, he again killed some serious momentum for his team.  After partially blocking a punt, Tech had the ball at the Oregon 41 looking to expand on a two-point lead.

However, Shough and Jerand Bradley were not on the same page as the wide receiver broke to the sideline on his route and Shough threw inside where a waiting Oregon defensive back was there for the easiest interception of his life.  Maybe Bradley ran the wrong route.  Only the players and coaches will know that.

Regardless, the reality is that Shough threw the ball after Bradley made his break.  He started his throwing motion after Bradley had turned outside.  That’s why I put that pick on Shough more than his receiver.

Finally, there was the game-deciding pick-six.  Sure, some of the blame there must go to center Rusty Staats who was whipped on the play.

However, Shough must have better pocket awareness in that instance.  It was only a second-down play meaning that he had to have known that he could get rid of the ball and still live to fight another down.

Granted, time was short in that situation which likely led Shough to try and make something happen.  However, what he ultimately did was lose the game for his team.  That’s not what an All-Conference QB does.

Texas Tech coaches must seriously consider making a change

During the offseason, one of the reasons Shough was named the starter over the more physically talented Behren Morton was that Shough took better care of the ball in practice.  If that isn’t going to translate to Saturdays, then there’s no reason to play him over Morton who has the better arm and the higher upside.

Morton gets rid of the ball faster, moves better in the pocket, and makes more happen off-script than Shough.  Thus, if Shough is going to be a turnover machine, then why exactly should he keep his job when his backup can do everything he is doing and could bring some extra juice to the offense while not appreciably increasing the risk of turnovers?

Some will say that Shough was pretty good against Oregon outside of the turnovers.  (He was 24-38 passing for 282 yards and 3 TDs while also rushing for 101 yards and another score.) However, that is akin to saying that the Hindenburg had a nice flight until it caught fire.

Coaches preach ball security so much that fans and players alike often tune them out, even though it is the most important aspect of playing offense.  Therefore, having your quarterback responsible for all five of your team’s giveaways this season is good reason to examine whether or not a change needs to be made.

If your QB is going to be as charitable to opposing defenses as Mother Theresa was to orphans, you aren’t going to win games.  That’s why Joey McGuire and Zach Kittley need to take a very hard look at whether or not Shough should remain this team’s starter.

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