With all the success Texas Tech quarterbacks have had over the last decade-plus, it’s easy to think whoever wears that hat will produce — even if it’s a freshman making his first college start. Heck, Baker Mayfield threw for 413 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in that situation six weeks ago.
But Eric Ward has an appreciation for the difficulty of the task.
The Tech senior wide receiver sounded as if he couldn’t have been more impressed at the job Davis Webb did Saturday. Webb, the Red Raiders’ other true freshman quarterback, threw for 415 yards — most by any Big 12 passer this season — and three touchdowns in his first start.
“You’ve got to understand the situation: Davis is a strong kid, and he’s strong-minded as well,” Ward said. “To come in and perform like that, under pressure, after Mayfield going down, that’s a big step for him. Hat’s off to him.”
Webb’s performance helped Tech beat Iowa State 42-35 and improve to 6-0 this season and 3-0 in the Big 12 Conference. On Sunday, the Red Raiders moved up to No. 15 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25.
Even if he was amazed, Ward said he knew Webb had the wherewithal to make an impressive first start.
“I knew he had it in him,” Ward said. “When he first stepped on campus, I made sure we got work in. I worked with all the quarterbacks, because they’re all talented, and I made sure I got work in with him as well. During the summer, we stayed out there after workouts and got on the same page.”
Mayfield was on the sideline not suited up Saturday after suffering a knee injury the week before. Through six games, Mayfield has thrown for 1,488 yards and eight touchdowns, Webb for 965 yards and nine TDs. And the Red Raiders have last year’s No. 2 quarterback, sophomore Michael Brewer, practicing to get back into consideration after his back injury sidelined him for two months.
While Mayfield and Webb have given the Red Raiders a chance to win, they’ve also thrown five interceptions apiece — and Webb tossed an interception deep in Tech territory that helped Iowa State rally in the fourth quarter.
“Yeah, they’re young and they’re going to make mistakes,” Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Ten interceptions by week six, that’s too many. We’ll work on that and try to get those numbers down, but our defense has done a great job responding when we do put them in those positions.”
Tech never trailed Iowa State, though the Red Raiders never seemed to have a safe lead until they were melting the clock in the final minute. In the first half, the Cyclones rallied to tie from deficits of 7-0, 14-7, 21-14. In the second half, they fell behind 35-21 and 42-28, but answered with a touchdown each time to make it a one-score game.
That kept the pressure on Webb. He missed some open receivers, but he also led Tech to 666 yards of total offense.
“(I’m) really proud of his poise,” Kingsbury said. “The game got close. If it got within one touchdown, he’d have a big drive, and that’s what you want in your quarterback.”
Whether because of Webb’s distributing or the game-plan design, the Red Raiders successfully involved more skill position players Saturday than they have in most games. DeAndre Washington rushed for a career-high 88 yards on 13 carries, Sadale Foster for 87 yards on nine carries and Kenny Williams for 80 yards on 17 attempts. All three had a touchdown and season highs for carries and yards.
Tight end Jace Amaro caught nine passes for 143 yards, extending his streak to five games in a row with eight or nine catches. And Ward, Bradley Marquez and Jakeem Grant each caught a touchdown pass.
All three Tech quarterbacks have had their moments — albeit, Brewer’s last year. Right now, none appear to be head and shoulders above the rest, so as Mayfield and Brewer heal, Kingsbury will have more quarterback decisions to make
“It’s up to Kliff. They all are good,” Ward said. “Kliff knows what he’s doing, and we’re right behind every decision he makes with the quarterbacks. We just go out there and do our job.”
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Who: Texas Tech at West Virginia
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
Where: Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, W. Va.
Records: Texas Tech 6-0, 3-0 in the Big 12; West Virginia 3-3, 1-2.
Rankings: Texas Tech No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25, No. 15 in the USA Today coaches poll. West Virginia unranked.
Last game: Texas Tech 42, Iowa State 35; Baylor 73, West Virginia 42.
Last meeting: Tech 49, West Virginia 14 last year in Lubbock.
TV: Fox Sports 1 (Suddenlink Cable channel 51)
Line: Tech by 71/2.