Texas Tech quarterbacks have long battled a perception problem.
No matter how well they play and no matter how many gaudy numbers they put up, some will downplay their accomplishments because of the offensive system they direct.
The Red Raiders, as the argument goes, could pick a fan out of the student section before each game and still throw for 300 yards so long as they are running plays designed by offensive gurus such as former coach Mike Leach and current coach Kliff Kingsbury. That’s obviously a stretch, but Nic Shimonek did little to quiet the system-quarterback crowd when he took over for injured starter Patrick Mahomes last week and lit up Kansas for 271 yards and four touchdowns in the second half.
“I don’t know the two quarterbacks at all like Kliff does,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said, “but it didn’t look to me like there was any drop off.”
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Shimonek actually gave Texas Tech a lift. Mahomes completed 27 of 34 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns against Kansas, but he also threw an interception. The offense, though effective, seemed sluggish before Mahomes injured his shoulder on a long run early in the third quarter. Then Shimonek came in and got the offense rolling, completing three touchdown passes of 30-plus yards.
Not bad for a former walk-on who transferred to Texas Tech from Iowa.
“What jumped out to me was his work ethic,” Kingsbury said of Shimonek. “From Day 1, he worked as hard as anyone on our team. That impressed his teammates and impressed his coaches. He just got better and better and learned the offense and made himself into the player he is.”
He may now make his first start against K-State on Saturday.
Kingsbury says Mahomes remains day to day with his shoulder injury, but told local reporters there is a chance he will play against the Wildcats. The Red Raiders would prefer to play Mahomes, as he leads the nation with 1,770 passing yards and 18 touchdowns, but they are not afraid to play Shimonek.
In most cases, preparing for two quarterbacks would be a challenge for K-State’s defense. Studying what an offense prefers to do with one passer as opposed to another can be tedious work. But the Wildcats didn’t place much time on quarterback research this week.
“It doesn’t really (matter). I think their offense is their offense,” Snyder said. “Whoever they put in there is going to do it. I think we are going to see (Mahomes), but if you watch the game, I don’t think you see any significant drop off whatsoever. You can tell the other guy is well-prepared. Kliff does a great job with his quarterbacks.”
Texas Tech has the nation’s top-rated offense after four games, averaging 664.2 yards and 59.5 points.
Are those numbers the result of two excellent quarterbacks? Or are two quarterbacks the beneficiaries of a friendly offensive system?
Perhaps that is a debate for another day.
“It’s not like they are skipping a beat with (Shimonek),” K-State linebacker Elijah Lee said. “They still do the same things with him. That is just something we have to prepare for. We have to be ready for both of them.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Texas Tech at Kansas State
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan
Other story lines
1. Staying grounded: Snyder Family Stadium has been good to K-State’s offense, particularly on the ground. The Wildcats are averaging 2.9 yards per rush on the road, but they are averaging 6.6 at home. They will try to keep that trend going against a soft Texas Tech front.
2. Age vs. youth: Kliff Kingsbury vs. Bill Snyder is always a fun coaching matchup. Kingsbury, 37, is one of the youngest coaches in college football. Snyder, who turned 77 on Friday, is the oldest active coach in the Bowl Subdivision. They have faced each other three times. Snyder is 2-1.
3. Game No. 300: This will be Snyder’s 300th game as Kansas State’s coach. He’s 195-103-1.