QB drama highlights Houston visit to Texas Tech

Field Level Media

September 27, 2023 at 8:41 pm.

There will be no shortage of emotional pomp and circumstance on Saturday when Houston faces Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, in a meeting of Big 12 teams desperate to find their stride.

The Red Raiders (1-3, 0-1 Big 12) will induct linebacker Matt Wingo and quarterback — and later coach — Kliff Kingsbury into the school’s Hall of Fame, while coach Mike Leach will be recognized in the Hall of Honor. Leach, who died last December, is the winningest coach in program history.

But the real drama will be under center, as former Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith will start for the Cougars (2-2, 0-1), while Behren Morton will serve as signal-caller for the Red Raiders after starter Tyler Shough broke his fibula in a 20-13 loss to West Virginia last weekend.

Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire praised Smith for how he handled the transfer process and said him suiting up for the opponent adds a “cat-and-mouse part” to the game.

“Hate facing him, but I was just as fired up as anybody when (Houston coach Dana Holgorsen) named him as the starter because I’m a big fan of that kid,” McGuire said.

“He’s seen our defense and will definitely study it all week, it gives us an advantage as well to know his arm angles and how he reacts — when he is going to pull it down and run.”

Meanwhile, the Cougars must contend with a Morton-led offense that sputtered on the road against the Mountaineers until back-to-back scoring drives supplied a flicker of hope. But when the Red Raiders had to have a touchdown late, Morton failed to complete a pass on Texas Tech’s final drive of the game to finish the day 13-for-37 passing for 158 yards and a TD.

Holgorsen tagged Morton as “more of a gunslinger” than Shough and said he expects the change at quarterback to prompt the Red Raiders to adjust their approach to feature running back Tahj Brooks, who averages 6.7 yards per carry and 104.3 yards per game.

Brooks has rushed for 307 yards over the past two weeks, tallying a career-best 158 versus Tarleton State before racking up 149 against West Virginia.

“They have one of the best backs in the Big 12,” Holgorsen said. “I think they’re going to continue to run the ball more.”

Saturday marks the first meeting between the teams as Big 12 foes. Houston is 18-15-1 in the all-time series.