Those BCS youngsters for Texas Tech had quite a debut.
Baker Mayfield, believed to be the first walk-on true freshman quarterback to start a season opener for a BCS school, accounted for five touchdowns in a 41-23 victory over SMU on Friday night in the Red Raiders’ first game under Kliff Kingsbury, at 34 the youngest head coach at a BCS school.
"I haven’t been around many kids with a bigger chip on their shoulder, and rightfully so," Kingsbury said. "He practiced like a senior the last week. He didn’t look like a true freshman who got here the second summer session."
And most of that — three TD passes and the scoring run — came after SMU opened the second half with a drive that ended with a missed 27-yard field goal only two plays after a touchdown scramble by Garrett Gilbert was wiped out by a holding call.
The Red Raiders then went 80 yards in 13 plays, with Mayfield lofting a pass over the shoulder of a defender to Brad Marquez for a 10-yard score that made it 20-9 halfway through the third quarter.
Mayfield certainly seemed at ease under the Friday night lights — just like the past two seasons as a starter at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, while winning a state championship. He completed 15 of 18 passes for 175 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter alone, when he also had his running score.
"He managed the game, definitely seized the moment," Marquez said.
Kingsbury threw for 12,429 yards and 95 TDs in 43 games with the Red Raiders from 1999-2002. Last season, he was Texas A&M’s offensive coordinator with Heisman Trophy-winning freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"Very similar in their mentality. Johnny’s a phenom athletically, so it’s tough to compare," Kingsbury said. "But as far as their fearlessness, attacking and not getting flustered, I saw the same look in Baker’s eyes."
Like the policy was for Manziel last season, until the week of the Heisman ceremony, Kingsbury isn’t allowing freshman to talk to the media.
Texas Tech has won 15 games in a row against its former Southwest Conference rival. SMU has lost 17 in a row against Big 12 teams since a win over Kansas in the 2000 opener that was the first game played in its current stadium.
With presumed starter Michael Brewer dealing with a back issue, the Red Raiders knew they would be starting a freshman in an opener for the first time in school history. When Mayfield started ahead of Davis Webb, the appearance was even more historic.
"I coached Case Keenum as a sixth-year senior (at Houston), so God’s getting back at me," Kingsbury said. "It’s fun, it makes you raise your level as a coach."
The last time Texas Tech has played a regular season game on a Friday was in 2002, when Kingsbury threw for 407 yards and six touchdowns in a 49-0 win at New Mexico.
SMU’s Gilbert also went to Lake Travis High, where he won two state titles.
Gilbert, starting his second season as a graduate student at SMU, completed 41 of 62 passes for 388 yards. He scrambled 23 yards for a touchdown with 5 minutes left in the third quarter, but the Mustangs didn’t get in the end zone again until Prescott Line’s 2-yard run with 1:05 left in the game.
Gilbert transferred to SMU from Texas, where he played in the BCS championship game as a freshman four seasons ago against Alabama when he took over for an injured Colt McCoy. He started all 12 games for the Longhorns in 2010 and got a medical redshirt after starting only two games in 2011 before a shoulder injury.
Both teams had 14-play opening drives that ended with field goals.
Mayfield was 7-of-9 passing for 46 yards on his first series, the last pass a drop by Davis near the 10 that would have been a first down. Baker was sacked on the next play before Ryan Bustin kicked a 43-yard field goal.
The Mustangs then got to the 10 before Chase Hover’s 27-yard field goal. Hover also had kicks of 34 and 51 yards before halftime, but was wide right on a 27-yard attempt in the third quarter after the TD erased by a penalty.
"We had opportunities and had an unfortunate deal of taking that touchdown away. That was a 14-point swing," SMU coach June Jones said. "You just can’t let those things happen."