One of the great aspects of sports is that they often provide opportunities for redemption. That is what awaits Texas Tech quarterback Behren Morton Saturday night in Waco.
Last season under Joey McGuire, Tech laid only one true egg, one game in which there was never any real hope of a Red Raider win. It was a stunning 45-17 home loss to Baylor that happened to take place on the night when none other than Patrick Mahomes II was inducted into the Texas Tech Ring of Honor.
That game saw Tech fall into a 17-3 hole at halftime and then give up 21 points in the 4th quarter to erase all hope of a comeback. Along the way, Morton played the worst game of the year by any of the three QBs who started for Tech in 2022.
Completing only 11 of 34 passes for 152 yards, he had just one TD pass but three interceptions. His performance was so bad that McGuire decided to pull him in favor of Tyler Shough who was only seven weeks removed from suffering a broken collarbone in the season opener and who hadn’t thrown a pass in a game since sustaining that injury.
Though Morton had impressed in his three previous starts despite being a redshirt freshman with no significant game experience as a collegiate heading into last fall, he looked every bit of a player who was making his fourth career start that night. Baylor’s defensive-minded head coach, Dave Aranda schemed up a game plan that completely befuddled Morton while the Red Raider O-line allowed six sacks and eight tackles for loss giving the young QB little chance for success.
It was the most disappointing loss of the year given Mahomes’ ceremony and the fact that Baylor would prove to be a very beatable team last season. After that night, Baylor would beat OU but then go on a four-game losing streak to end the year 6-7 making Red Raider fans lament the fact that Tech was unable to take advantage of the Bears in a season that saw Aranda’s program take a step backward one year after winning the Big 12 Championship.
Morton and Texas Tech have a great shot at redemption this week
In some ways, not much has changed as the two long-time rivals prepare to meet this year. Morton has only one more career start to his name while the Bears again appear to be vulnerable at just 2-3 on the season. Therefore, it is the perfect chance for Morton to show that he has grown as a player by beating the team that exposed plenty of his flaws a year ago.
On paper, it would seem that there is an opportunity for Morton to have a big game. That’s because Baylor’s defense is second-to-last in the Big 12 in yards allowed at 394.6 per game.
Additionally, Baylor is giving up the second-most points of any team in the conference, 28.4. While teams aren’t throwing for many yards on the Bears (210 per game) because of how easy it has been to run on them, when opposing passers have taken to the air, Baylor is giving up an efficiency rating of 144.0. That’s also second-worst in the conference. By contrast, Tech sits at No. 7 in the league by allowing a passer efficiency rating of 125.0 and OU is tops at 102.7.
Already this season, several opposing quarterbacks have feasted against the Bears. Texas State’s TJ Finley was 22-30 for 298 yards and three TDs with no picks in week one as the Bobcats stunned Baylor in week one.
In week four, it took Texas’ Quinn Ewers only 18 completions to rack up 283 yards and a TD on 23 passes in a dominant win in Waco. Last weekend, UCF’s backup QB, Timmy McClain also had a very efficient showing against Baylor going for 234 yards and a pair of TDs (with one pick) on 13-25 passing.
Now, Morton will get his opportunity to pick apart a defense that is ranked just No. 87 in the nation. While Tech will again try to feature the run game and RB Tahj Brooks, Morton will have to make timely throws to keep Baylor honest. If he can show improvement and have success on the road against a team that absolutely befuddled him last year, it will be an encouraging sign for his development.
It would also be a huge step forward for Tech as a program given that winning away from Jones Stadium has not been easy under McGuire. Going just 1-6 so far under the current coaching staff in true road games, the Red Raiders need to finally start to string together some road success if there is any hope of this program becoming a true contender in the conference.
That has to start with the play of the quarterback, Morton. The last time we saw him play on the road, he was not up to the task going just 13-37 for 158 yards and a TD in relief of Shough at West Virginia. While that was a tough task for the redshirt sophomore given the wet conditions and the lack of practice reps he had with the starting offense, it was still a disappointing showing from a player that many of us have been clamoring for.
Against Houston, Morton was better going 14-22 for 161 yards and a TD with no picks despite not practicing all week due to a shoulder injury. Now, it will be time for him to move forward again and take another step in his maturation as a starting QB by showing that he is capable of leading his team to a road win against a program that got the best of him last year.
Many people believe that Morton is the future of Texas Tech football and he could in fact be the starter for the next two and a half seasons. However, to solidify his hold on that job, he must perform well in toss-up games the likes of which he’ll play on Saturday night.
If Morton takes the next step in his growth and takes down the Bears, Tech fans will have reason to be excited about what he can become as the leader of the offense. It is a chance for him to put to rest the demons of last year’s meltdown in Lubbock and show how far he has come since one of the worst nights we’ve seen from a Tech quarterback in recent memory.