Call it the system, or call it what you will, but Texas Tech hasn’t missed a beat.
B.J. Symons, the Red Raiders’ senior quarterback, has planted himself solidly in the Heisman Trophy debate, throwing for 2,467 yards and 24 touchdowns in just five games.
Despite losing Kliff Kingsbury, an All-Big 12 Conference quarterback last year, the Red Raiders are putting up even bigger passing numbers this season.
Texas Tech hasn’t launched any kind of Heisman campaign for Symons, though, as it did last season for Kingsbury.
The response to last year’s campaign has a lot to do with that, coach Mike Leach said.
“Kliff had more than enough material to justify it,” Leach said. “It was my opinion that people sort of heard what they wanted to hear, rather than base it on what I consider the facts.”
The Red Raiders are taking a different approach with Symons.
“We kind of let the numbers speak for themselves,” he said. “There’s no question in my mind that he’s the best player in the country.”
In a 59-28 win against Texas A&M on Saturday, he threw for 505 yards and a conference-record eight touchdowns, all before Leach took him out with about 11 minutes remaining.
“(Symons) looks like he’s played for several years,” Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said. “It’s an excellent offense. I believe it’s leading the nation, and it’s easy to see why.”
The Red Raiders are, in fact, tied for first in scoring with 45.8 points per game and lead the nation in passing at 516.8 yards per game. North Carolina State is second with just 362.5 yards per contest.
On Sept. 27, Symons set a Big 12 record with 661 passing yards in a 49-45 win against Mississippi.
“We’re protecting well and we’ve got some pretty experienced receivers doing some good things,” Leach said. “I think B.J. is producing more with what he has than anybody else is.”
Symons has used every bit of what he has, completing passes to 15 receivers, five of whom have 25 or more catches.
Iowa State, which plays Texas Tech on Saturday, appears to be the next defense Symons will shred.
“I haven’t seen anybody yet stop (the Red Raiders) or slow them down,” Cyclones’ coach Dan McCarney said. “They’re just hitting on all cylinders.”
DOORMATS NO MORE: Baylor coach Guy Morriss inherited a perennial loser when he took over the Bears, and it was apparent after starting 0-2, including a 52-14 loss to North Texas on Sept. 6, that it would take some time to turn it around.
Morriss has turned things around sooner than expected, though.
Baylor beat Colorado 42-30 on Saturday, giving it three straight wins for the first time since 1996.
“I wasn’t surprised that it came at about this time,” Morriss said. “I thought we had enough players here that if they would buy in, we’d have a chance to be competitive and have some success this year.”
The win against Colorado came in Morriss’ Big 12 opener. Baylor had lost 37 of its past 38 conference games before Saturday and had four wins in seven seasons in the Big 12.
“I think we’ll gain a lot of credibility from a win like that,” Morriss said. “I think anybody who saw the game will have to understand this was not a fluke.”
WEEKLY AWARDS: Symons, Texas safety Phillip Geiggar and Oklahoma State’s Darrent Williams are the Big 12 Players of the Week.
Geiggar, making his first start against Kansas State, is the Defensive Player of the Week. He made seven tackles and forced and recovered an Ell Roberson fumble at the Texas 12. The Longhorns drove to the winning touchdown after the fumble, beating the Wildcats 24-20.
Williams, the Special Teams Player of the Week, returned two punts for touchdowns, averaging 51 yards on three returns.
Williams’ touchdowns went for 59 and 78 yards and helped the Cowboys to a 56-3 win against Louisiana-Lafayette. Williams leads the NCAA with an average of 23.3 yards on 10 returns.