Taylor Potts and Lyle Leong were too good at passing and catching in elementary school. Leong said they even got separated from playing football together because it wasn’t fair to the other kids.
What they did to SMU on Sunday wasn’t really fair, either, but the Mustangs had no course of action.
Potts and Leong, who later were high school teammates in Abilene and are now senior standouts for Texas Tech, teamed up for three touchdowns to lead the Red Raiders to a 35-27 victory in a season opener at Jones AT&T Stadium.
“It’s like a comfort zone we have,” said Leong, who makes up the receiving end of the duo. “He knows where I’m going to be, and I know where he’s going to put it and how he’s going to throw it. It’s been a blessing.”
Potts, the passer, knows the feeling. His first two TD tosses went to Leong, who had nearly twice as many receptions as any other Red Raider on Sunday.
Leong’s 11 receptions for 142 yards were both career highs, and he matched his personal best with three touchdown catches. Two of those scoring grabs came on well-executed fade routes in the back-left corner of the end zone.
“That seems to work, huh?” Potts said with a chuckle. “He’s a great receiver. He’s great with his hands and he doesn’t drop many. It just seems to work, so why change something that works so well?”
Potts threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, completing 34 of 53 passes. At one point he connected with a receiver on nine consecutive throws.
So it was a solid start for a guy who had to win the starter’s job during the preseason, but Potts wasn’t satisfied. He had some misfires early as Tech didn’t score until the final minute of the first quarter, and his fumbled fourth-down snap in the fourth quarter led to SMU cutting what was once a 21-point deficit to eight.
“There’s a lot of plays I definitely messed up that could have helped us huge. They could have kept drives going,” Potts said. “There were times that I did things and put our defense in a bind, so there’s a lot of things I can work on this week.”
Leong’s performance drew nothing but praise, although he deflected most of the credit to Potts and the Red Raiders’ offense in general. But he was arguably the most critical part of the offense, especially because it was short-handed at the receiver position.
Sophomore Alex Torres, Tech’s receptions leader last season, sat out the opener with a back injury. Detron Lewis, who finished with six catches for 79 yards and a TD on Sunday, missed some time in the second half because of cramping.
“With Alex not playing, we needed someone to step up,” Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “And I thought Lyle did that today.”
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