CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Injuries to starting quarterbacks are creeping up in the Big 12, highlighting the need for backups to be prepared for significant playing time.
Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said Monday that the status of FBS total offense leader Patrick Mahomes is day-to-day. Mahomes left last week’s game against Kansas after going down hard on his right (throwing) shoulder and he didn’t return.
If Mahomes isn’t ready, junior Nic Shimonek would get his first career start Saturday for Texas Tech (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) at Kansas State (2-2, 0-1).
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield tweaked his right ankle when he was sacked by TCU’s Josh Carraway and fumbled in the second quarter Saturday. Mayfield’s ankle was heavily taped at halftime and he returned to the field. Coach Bob Stoops said Mayfield is “a little bit sore but he’ll be ready to go” when the 20th-ranked Sooners (2-2, 1-0) play Texas (2-2, 0-1) in their annual rivalry game Saturday in Dallas.
The injuries are a wakeup call not only for the need to having reserves ready, but for opposing teams to prepare to face them.
Just in case, Oklahoma has freshman Austin Kendall, who threw two touchdown passes against Louisiana-Monroe earlier this season. And Shimonek completed 15 of 21 passes with four TDs in the 55-19 win Saturday over Kansas State. He also got extensive work in Texas Tech’s season opener against Stephen F. Austin.
“I was excited to see him get his opportunity,” Kingsbury said. “It was fun for me to get to see him do it out under the lights and I thought he handled himself very well.”
Kingsbury said Shimonek “just showed up” at Texas Tech two summers ago as a walk-on transfer from Iowa. He had to work his way up the depth chart, playing behind Mahomes and Davis Webb in 2015.
“We could tell he could throw pretty well, we didn’t know what we had on our hands,” Kingsbury said. “What jumped out to me was his work ethic. He made himself the player that he is. I’ve got to give him all the credit.”
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was impressed by Shimonek’s accuracy and confidence.
“It didn’t look to me like there was any drop off” from Mahomes, Snyder said. “Obviously Texas Tech is doing it the right way because that youngster came in and played so very well.”
Teams like Texas, Iowa State and Kansas use their backup quarterbacks regularly. For other teams that don’t, “you’ve got to keep them sharp, give them reps, continue to remind them that they’re one play away,” said West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen.
West Virginia got a scare in its season opener when Skyler Howard hurt his ribs against Missouri and sat out a few series. Two backups had turnovers during brief stints, and Holgorsen said that was an eye opener for them.
“Our backup quarterbacks weren’t ready to go in there,” Holgorsen said. Since that game, “I thought they’ve been more engaged and practiced better to the point to where if that happens again, they’re going to be more ready to play.”
Other news from the Big 12 coaches’ teleconference:
—No. 13 Baylor (5-0, 2-0) hasn’t allowed a point in the fourth quarter all season, and interim coach Jim Grobe attributes that in part to conditioning and becoming familiar with the opponents’ offense. But after a nail-biting 45-42 win over Iowa State, Grobe said his team needs to correct its mistakes during a bye week, particularly on defense.
“We’ve got to get back to being a better fundamental football team,” Grobe said.
—TCU coach Gary Patterson said he doesn’t believe the winner of the Big 12 race will come out unscathed in league play. Baylor, No. 22 West Virginia, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are the remaining teams that haven’t lost in Big 12 games.
“There’s a chance, because where everybody has to go to, that the winner of this league may have two losses. It could be one,” Patterson said. “For me there’s a lot of parity in it.”
—After Texas got three extra points blocked at Oklahoma State, one of which was returned for two points, Longhorns coach Charlie Strong promised that the problem will be fixed.
“We didn’t do a good job of reacting to it,” he said.