He wasn't ready…
In the movie, "Remember the Titans," a young big-armed quarterback named Ronnie Bass moves to town during training camp. While the Titans had their starting QB that season, they weren't about to let a talent of that caliber go to a rival school. Sure enough the starting QB is injured during a game and it's time for young Ronnie Bass to take the field. When Bass is called over to Coach Herman Boone, played by Denzel Washington, the exchange went like this.
"I can't make that pitch, coach," said Bass.
"Yes, you can," said Boone." When I was 15 years old, I lost both my mother and my father in the same month, Ronnie, the same month. 12 brothers and sisters and I was the youngest one, but they were all looking up to me. I wasn't ready then, but they needed me. Your TEAM needs you tonight. You're the Colonial, you will lead your troops tonight."
Bass reluctantly nods his head, but then goes to the huddle and immediately takes charge. The rest, as they say is history, as Bass leads the Titans to the state title and earns a football scholarship to South Carolina.
It's time for Texas Tech fans to accept the real possibility that when the Red Raiders kickoff the season against SMU, true freshman Davis Webb may very well be the one taking snaps for Texas Tech. With the news coming out that Michael Brewer was held out of practice last week (and that Texas Tech has closed off all media availability until Friday), combined with Kingsbury wanting to name a starting QB a couple of weeks into fall camp, it's starting to add up.
Starting a true freshman would be difficult enough for an experienced head coach. Even Mack Brown won't throw a blue chip QB to the wolves immediately. But for a first time first year head coach, this could be the most difficult thing that Coach Kingsbury faces this season.
Davis Webb from all accounts, has everything you want in a quarterback. Physical talent has been evident from his first practice, and judging from the reports from the karaoke show at the first team meeting to the way he conducts himself in the film room, he's got the "it" factor that you want in a starting quarterback. Webb was the more talked about of the QBs when we visited with members of the team on Texas Tech media day. Older players raved about his leadership, his poise, and he has earned the respect of some of the veterans on the receiving corps.
A coach couldn't ask for much more in Webb if he were thrown into these circumstances. And Kliff has a little experience in being thrown into a game before he was probably ready.
In November of 1999, Texas Tech traveled down to Texas to take on a Longhorn team with a pretty stout defense. The gameplan for Texas was simple: hit starting QB Rob Peters early and often. Peters suffered a concussion in the second quarter and a lanky 6'4'' redshirt freshman came into the game. Kliff Kingsbury got roughed up pretty good and only finished 5-19 passing. The stats say he was sacked 4 times, but the only game I can remember Kliff getting hit harder and more often than that night against Texas is the Texas A&M game in 2000. Lubbock native DE Aaron Humphrey and DT Casey Hampton (who is still playing in the league) led the way for Texas that night.
That next week, Kingsbury took a lot of grief. On local call in shows, hosts and callers questioned whether or not he could be the quarterback of the future. Even in class, Kliff took grief from a business professor who was a Nebraska fan.
"Boy, I thought I had a bad weekend," said the professor after a Nebraska loss. "Then I saw the beating that Kingsbury took the other night and I didn't feel so bad."
Kliff just sat there and nodded. The class chuckles, but something tells me that Kliff didn't think that was very funny.
The next week, Kingsbury started his first of 40 straight games for the Red Raiders at quarterback. He beat Oklahoma 38-28 in a game that most knew the week going in would be Spike Dykes' last as head coach. That would be the last time Oklahoma would lose for nearly 2 years.
Kliff couldn't have been ready for the pressure of that game, nor known the significance of it when he took the field that day, but he handled the pressure and succeeded when most thought he couldn't.
In the next week or so, Kliff is going to have to make a similar call. And if the call is Davis Webb, I can imagine the conversation going something like this:
"Davis, in 1999 Coach Dykes called me to his office and told me he was retiring. Then he told me that I was starting that week. I wasn't ready then, but my team needed me. Your team needs you…"