Quarterback issues, rivalry’s uncertain future shrouds Texas-Texas Tech in mystery

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For the second straight week, Texas coach Steve Sarkisian is getting a little mysterious about his quarterback situation.

With starter Quinn Ewers still nursing a clavicle sprain and backup Hudson Card playing through an ankle sprain, Sarkisian is playing poker with four of a kind.

Yep, that’s the number of quarterbacks who are making the 70-man travel squad to Lubbock for Saturday’s Big 12 opener with Texas Tech (2-1). In addition to Ewers and Card, Charles Wright and Maalik Murphy are also aboard.

For the second straight week, Card is the very likely option to start.

Don’t expect any confusion on the part of Tech. With an encyclopedic knowledge of all thinks Texas high school football, new coach Joey McGuire already has a handle on the situation. He was fully aware of Card when he was an assistant at Baylor and tried to lure Ewers to Tech after his offseason transfer from Ohio State.

“I guess Quinn had more stars or a higher rating, but you’re talking about four- and five-star guys,” McGuire said this week. “They’re going to run the same offense.”

Plus, McGuire has quarterback issues of his own. Since a collarbone injury to starter Tyler Shough, backup Donovan Smith has thrown seven touchdown passes but also five interceptions. McGuire said both Smith and redshirt freshman Behren Morton would play against Texas.

Regardless of how the quarterback situation sorts itself for each team, the one guarantee is a big-time atmosphere. Jones AT&T Stadium is sold out for the first time since 2018.

Former Tech men’s basketball coach Chris Beard, now at Texas, phoned Sarkisian with a primer of what to expect.

“Definitely going to be a hostile environment for us,” Texas running back Roschon Johnson said. “Everybody knows Tech doesn’t like us, so that’s OK because we don’t like them either.”

Texas (2-1) is trying to prove it can survive the road woes that bothered it last year. Tech is trying to bounce back from a road loss to No. 12 North Carolina State.

There’s also the matter of Texas’ pending move to the SEC and its major effect on the rivalry. The Longhorns are scheduled to switch conferences in 2025, which would make this Texas’ next-to-last trip to the South Plains. If the date somehow moves to 2024, then this could be the farewell to Lubbock for the foreseeable future. For Tech, the every-other-year visits from Texas are huge for the image of the university and the economics of local businesses.

Tech athletic director Kirby Hocutt had originally suggested Texas counterpart Chris Del Conte had agreed to continue the series on a long-term basis.

Now that has apparently changed.

“As I’ve talked to my counterpart at the University of Texas,” Hocutt told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. “While all the right things have been communicated to me, it’s concerning that in the last couple of weeks I’ve heard from individuals in Dallas, in Fort Worth and in Midland that there’s different things being said from those folks representing the University of Texas and that a scheduling alliance against Texas Tech is not going to happen.”

Del Conte has cited the uncertain scheduling model awaiting Texas in the SEC, where the debate is about eight conference games vs. nine.

Twitter: @ChuckCarltonDMN

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