It wasn’t pretty.
At times, it may have been a bit ugly.
But there are many positives to take away from Texas Tech’s 35-27 victory over SMU in the Red Raiders’ season opener. Most important among them is what we learned about quarterback Taylor Potts.
The kid can play.
Sure, he did struggle at times. The first drive of the game, which ended in a blocked field goal attempt, he completed four of seven passes for only 23 yards. His next two drives resulted in three and outs.
After the Red Raiders got a gift fumble recovery on the ensuing punt, Potts threw a near perfect fade pass to Lyle Leong on a third and goal play.
After that, he caught fire.
He led another touchdown drive after an SMU interception, throwing two passes of over 20 yards.
To end the first half, Potts led the Red Raiders on the most impressive drive of the day. In seven plays and 1:23, Texas Tech went 80 yards down the field—without using any timeouts—and scored a touchdown to end the half.
He tossed one more touchdown pass in the second half and—despite a fourth quarter where the Red Raider offense was inept at moving the football—finished the game with 359 yards and a completion percentage of 64.2.
Most importantly, he threw no interceptions.
No, he wasn’t perfect, but he was definitely solid.
Yes, at times there were the frustrating lapses in mechanics, like throwing off his back foot. A couple of times, he threw passes into traffic that he had no business throwing. However, those were fewer and further between than games in the past.
On several occasions, Potts moved around outside of the pocket while looking for receivers. On another occasion, he got in a shoving match with a Mustang defensive lineman on the goal line during the first scoring drive.
Perhaps Taylor Potts is no longer the emotionless statue in the pocket he was criticized for being last season.
That was something Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown made a point to work on with him, moving around in the pocket and stepping up away from the pressure.
With the exception of a couple of sacks, it was mission accomplished.
He also showed nice accuracy on several passes, as well as incredible velocity on a few across the middle that were absolute strikes to the receiver.
The good news is that Potts is accountable for the poor throws he made.
"There's a lot of plays that I definitely messed up on that could have helped us huge," 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."
He was also apologetic for a fumble on a fourth down quarterback sneak—a controversial play-call that possibly should have never happened considering Texas Tech was on its own side of the field at the time.
"Coach calls it and expects me to get a first down, I need to do it. The snap was my fault. I've got to come back with Justin this past week and work on it. If he expects us to get a first down, we need to do it.
“We kind of fell short on that one, and that's my fault."
Is he still a work in progress? Yes.
But he and the Red Raider offense have another weekend to improve before a conference faceoff with rival Texas. This weekend, Texas Tech travels to Albuquerque to play the New Mexico Lobos, who got housed by Oregon 72-0 last weekend.
Two receivers who didn’t play Sunday against SMU, Alex Torres and Austin Zouzalik, should be back for this Saturday nights matchup. If those two contribute like they did last season, and Potts’ high school teammate Lyle Leong has another huge game, then the Texas Tech quarterback could put up some huge numbers this weekend.
He may not be Graham Harrell, and the debate between him and Sheffield may never end—it would probably rage on even if the Red Raiders had a perfect season.
But Texas Tech can win with Taylor Potts at the helm of the offense. Believe it or not, he proved that Sunday.
(Photo credits: http://www.redraiders.com/texas-tech-vs-smu)