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Should Donovan Smith Be Red Raiders Full-Time Starter at QB?

Crucial mistakes by Smith nearly put Tech's chances of a win Saturday to bed, but he bounced back in clutch-filled fashion.

A thrilling 33-30 double-overtime win for the Texas Tech Red Raiders over the No. 25 Houston Cougars in Lubbock Saturday ended with Tech quarterback Donovan Smith waltzing his way into the end zone for a nine-yard touchdown. 

But for a while there, it didn't look like he'd be getting the chance to play hero. 

Still, based on his clutch (though far from perfect) performance in the win for the second straight Saturday, Smith could be on his way to filling in long-term for injured Week 1 starter Tyler Shough, who exited during the Red Raiders' 63-10 win over the Murray State Racers on Sept. 3. 

Tech coach Joey McGuire said after Week 1 that Shough's absence could keep him out for at least until the matchup with the Texas Longhorns to begin Big 12 play on Sept. 24. 

"It probably will stretch into Texas," he said. "After that, we'll have to see where he's at," McGuire said. "If it goes longer, it is a good thing that we've got a bye after that Oklahoma State game, so it pushes you into where you've got anywhere between three and six weeks to recover."

Based on that timeline and the matchups Tech has ahead, maybe pulling Smith from the reins could be doing the team a disservice momentum-wise.

But in Saturday's win over Houston, Smith proved that his four-touchdown performance against the Racers wasn't a pressure-less fluke. Against the Cougars, he went 36 of 57 passing for 351 yards and two touchdowns.

He showed guts when McGuire needed it most despite late second-half mistakes and three interceptions in the game. 

But did he really have any other choice?

Initially, the game's final quarter didn't seem primed for Smith's successes. With a chance to build on a 17-10 lead, he tossed a pick-six that Jayce Rogers took back to the house to tie the game. 

The score remained that way when the Red Raiders got the ball back with a little over three minutes remaining and a game-winning drive on everyone's mind. 

These hopes ended swiftly with another critical interception by Smith, who forced a long pass down the field as the Red Raiders stood deep in their own territory. The Cougars ran the ball right into field goal range, nailing a 35-yarder to take a 20-17 lead with 37 seconds left.

If the results had stayed the same, a mistake like that could have all but doomed Tech's chance of a win and, potentially, Smith's chances as a continued starter. 

But the resiliency he showed in leading the team after this is what should be remembered. 

Smith started the potential game-tying drive with a quick 27-yard gain with his legs. After that, two big first-down completions to the sideline. The ensuing 47-yard field goal by Trey Wolff punctuated Smith's composure-filled drive, which he continued into overtime where Tech and Houston traded possessions with 25 yards of field. 

The overtime period brought a newfound sense of confidence in the air at Jones AT&T Stadium that wasn't present once Houston took the late lead in the fourth. 

But Smith seemingly rose from the purgatory that his fourth-quarter mistakes had caused. Once he was ignited with new life, it was too late for Houston. 

Untouched, his game-winning touchdown run was a fitting end. And, maybe, his resiliency to reel he and his offense back from the depths is the kind of guts McGuire and friends need for the rest of the season. 

We know this: Smith's toughest test takes place next week. His future at QB1 could all depends on how a road meeting with the No. 16 N.C. State Wolfpack will go on Sept. 17 followed by the visit from the Longhorns.

The Wolfpack remain a ranked ACC dark horse while the Longhorns took No. 1 Alabama to the brink Saturday in a 20-19 loss. 

These two road games will show what the Red Raiders are all about, though eyes are certain to be locked onto Smith's in what is fixing to be two prove-it games. 

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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