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Big 12 notebook: Walk-on freshman QB shines for Red Raiders

The SportsXchange

Kliff Kingsbury will sign a quarterback one day and possibly get him to flourish in the Texas Tech system.

The new Red Raiders coach was the first QB to successfully handle the Air Raid attack Mike Leach installed at Tech. Kingsbury is now a promising coach, who at 34 is the youngest to direct a BCS program.

For his debut, Kingsbury had to overcome trouble. Presumed starter Michael Brewer was unavailable for the opener because of back problems, prompting Kingsbury to insert Baker Mayfield, who is believed to be the first walk-on true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback for a BCS school. Mayfield fired for 413 yards and four touchdowns, scored another TD on a rush, and engineered Tech to a 41-23 victory at SMU.

"He had practiced like a senior all week and played really well. I couldn't be more impressed with the way he's handled his operation and handles his teammates,'' said Kingsbury, who took over after Tommy Tuberville left Tech for Cincinnati. "I'm just happy he got to play as well as I thought he would. He didn't look like a second summer session freshman who didn't have his spring ball yet.''

Instead, the 18-year-old showed a complete command of the offense, completing 43 of 60 passes. Mayfield was at his best in the fourth quarter, scoring on an 11-yard rush while also firing touchdown strikes to Jakeem Grant and Reginald Davis.

The 43 completions for Mayfield set a record for a Texas Tech quarterback in his first start. He was opposing another QB from his high school (Lake Travis in Austin, Texas), Garrett Gilbert. Gilbert played for SMU after transferring from Texas.

"He did a great job. I liked the way he managed the game,'' said Tech receiver Bradley Marquez. "He definitely seized the moment and did his thing out there. Credit to him and how he can see the field. He can put the ball up and give us as receivers the ability to be successful.''

Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards and 95 touchdowns while playing for the Red Raiders from 1999-02. He served as the position coach for Johnny Manziel last season when the Texas A&M quarterback became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy.


1. Kansas State, the reigning Big 12 champion, will be hard-pressed to repeat after opening with a loss to an FCS opponent, North Dakota State. The outcome was no fluke as the Bison generated more yardage (380-321) and held the ball for more than eight minutes to produce the game-winning touchdown inside the final minute.

2. TCU offered a solid performance, but could not prevail in the biggest matchup for Big 12 teams on the opening weekend, losing 37-27 to SEC power LSU. Afterward, Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson was quick to credit the competitiveness of his squad, yet his pride and joy, a defense that was tops in the Big 12, allowed too many yards to pull off an upset.

3. Oklahoma State started one quarterback, Clint Chelf, yet settled on another starter, J.W. Walsh, once a 21-3 victory against Mississippi State was completed. Walsh offers more versatility as a rusher, something the Cowboys want to exploit, though some impatience could set in if they do not throw the football at a quick, and successful, pace.

4. Oklahoma may rely more on its ground game, yet that does not mean that QB Blake Bell will contribute. Nicknamed the Belldozer for his work in short-yardage situations, Bell lost the starting job during camp to Trevor Knight, who handled short-yardage situations in a shutout victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Knight still needs to prove himself as a passer.

5. Texas Tech generated headlines by hiring Kliff Kingsbury and making the former quarterback the youngest head coach in the Bowl Subdivision. Kingsbury quickly handled adversity. True freshman Baker Mayfield, a walk-on quarterback, was pressed into duty and fired for 414 yards and four touchdowns while engineering a decisive road win at SMU.
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