Texas Tech kicked off the Joey McGuire era in grand fashion Saturday evening at The Jones, but paid a price in the end. Starting quarterback Tyler Shough went down awkwardly on his shoulder at the end of the first quarter. The Oregon transfer had just come off of a collarbone injury that cost him the rest of his 2021 season after the Texas game. McGuire named him the starter towards the end of fall camp over Donovan Smith and Behren Morton. Now for the foreseeable future Smith will take the reins of the offense.

The former Frienship Tiger has certainly turned heads since his arrival in 2020. After suffering a preseason injury that kept him out of action that year, Smith fought his way to third on the depth chart last season. He got his first start in a pivotal game against Iowa State in which he threw for 322 yard and three touchdowns to help Tech secure bowl eligibility. He remained the starter and eventually led the team to a Liberty Bowl win over Mississippi State. Smith was named offensive MVP of that game after a 252-yard, one passing and one rushing touchdown performance.

Coming in for relief of Shough Saturday night, Smith looked sharp and appears to have taken several steps forward. He immediately hit Jerand Bradley for a touchdown on his first drive and threw another on his next possession. Smith’s air attack continued into the third quarter, hitting SaRodorick Thompson on a dump pass he ran in for a touchdown and hooking up with Bradley once again. He finished the game as the team’s top passer with 221 yards and a career-high four touchdowns.

No doubt Smith was the best offensive player on the field that night as Zach Kittley’s offense racked up 605 total yards in his debut as offensive coordinator. Shough will likely miss the next few games, but with Smith leading this offense, this group shouldn’t miss much of a beat. The Red Raiders’ backup quarterback situation is in much better shape than in years past so losing Shough won’t doom this season before it even really begins.

Should Smith be playing well and Shough manages to return from injury quicker than expected, McGuire could roll with the hot hand and let Smith finish out the year. The team has a tough remaining non-conference schedule with ranked opponents in Houston and N.C. State on the horizon, but a win against either before starting Big 12 play against Texas should have fans confident in Smith.

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