Texas Tech’s game-day souvenir program Saturday had Graham Harrell on the front cover with a feature story inside on the school’s all-time leading passer.
Oh, what Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury wouldn’t give right now for a quarterback with 38 career starts and all the experience that comes with it.
Tech’s current quarterback situation, which seemed settled early with Baker Mayfield’s good start and settled at midseason with Davis Webb’s development, is back to being unsettled. In the second quarter Saturday, Kingsbury went back to Mayfield for the first time in five weeks and got mixed results in a 49-26 home loss to Kansas State.
“Not great,” Kingsbury said of the two freshmen. “But they’re young guys, and we needed to score a bunch, obviously, to keep up. We got behind and we once again got off of our plan and didn’t execute the way we should have. I just thought we needed a little spark. Baker got in there, moved around and did some good things, but we’ll have to watch the film and really evaluate it.”
Kingsbury’s been decisive in naming one or the other the starter several times since midseason. This time, he deferred going forward until he can see the tape and talk with the offensive staff.
Webb started the day steering the offense 69 yards in 14 plays to a field goal, then 75 yards in 15 plays before a touchdown pass to Eric Ward.
On the first series, Webb completed six of his first seven passes and then, with Tech having second-and-goal from the 6, twice threw incomplete for Eric Ward. After the TD pass to Ward, Tech went three-and-out on the next two series, ending the second with Webb badly overthrowing Bradley Marquez. That was his last pass of the day.
Mayfield entered for the first time since Oct. 5. The freshman from Lake Travis left the Kansas game that day with a knee injury, though he was cleared to play again not long after.
“I just thought we may need a spark, with protection as well,” Kingsbury said. “I think Baker moved around a little bit better and did some things. So it was just a feel decision.”
Mayfield played the last eight series, showing the traits that made him good enough to start the first five games and second choice for the last few weeks. He completed 34 of 44 passes for 276 yards. He also lost a fumble at his own 32-yard line and threw an interception with Kansas State turning both into touchdowns.
He ran for 50 yards, but also took four sacks that stripped 29 yards off that total. Webb took one sack and safely threw away some passes when he couldn’t find an open receiver.
Mayfield’s fumble was his fifth this season, though the Red Raiders had recovered the first four. Kingsbury was asked if the ball-security issues were a reason he’d been reluctant to play Mayfield the last few weeks.
“No, Davis was playing well,” Kingsbury said. “He won a couple of big games. Like I said, the whole situation with true freshmen, it’s a learning experience for all of them. We have two that can play, so if one’s not playing great, we’re not afraid to put the other one in.”
Webb, in his four series, went 13 of 20 for 78 yards.
Fifth-year senior Eric Ward caught 11 passes for 107 yards. It’s the fifth time in the last six games he’s had at least seven receptions and the third time in the last six he’s been over 100 yards. During the up and down quarterback play this season, Ward has stood behind both freshmen.
“I’m sure they’ll get better at it as time goes on, learning from our mistakes and moving on,” Ward said. “But I only have two regular-season games left as a Red Raider, and I hope we can fix that before I play my final game as a Red Raider.
“I just think we’ve got to go out there and execute. We can’t turn the ball over. That’s the main thing that kills us as a team is turning the ball over. We need every possession we have to put points on the board.”
Follow Don on Twitter