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The Texas Tech Red Raiders left little doubt on the field at Jones AT&T Stadium Saturday, as coach Joey McGuire and the team picked up a dominant 63-10 win over the Murray State Racers in the head coach's debut. 

But as the team left the field with smiles, they also left without a healthy Tyler Shough. Tech's starting quarterback exited during the second quarter of Saturday's game with a shoulder injury and did not return. McGuire said Monday that the injury could keep him out until at least the start of Big 12 play on Sept. 24 against Texas.

"It probably will stretch into Texas. 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."

But in his place at quarterback stepped Donovan Smith, who looked quite comfortable as a pocket passer.

After Smith engineered his fifth-straight touchdown drive Saturday (six if you're counting the touchdown he threw right after the Shough injury), McGuire had seen enough and pulled him before the midway point of the third quarter. 

Smith finished 14 of 16 passing for 221 yards and four touchdowns. McGuire heaped praises on the maturity of his quarterback postgame.

“One of our big deals as a team is 'What’s next?'" McGuire said. "Everything in life, good things are going to happen. What’s next? Bad things are going to happen. What’s next? I think it shows a lot about his character because he didn’t win the job. He came in and was ready to play at an extremely high level. I was really proud of that.”

This maturity is needed now more than ever as the Red Raiders approach a difficult pair of non-conference tests. 

In front of Smith looms battles with the No. 24 Houston Cougars on Saturday and the No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack on Sept. 17, though their respective rankings could fluctuate in Week 2 after surviving nail-biting wins against unranked opponents.

Against Houston in particular, Smith and Tech should have an advantage. A week to prepare for a quarterback they weren't expecting after an emotional triple-overtime win over UTSA could make things challenging for the Cougars as they enter Lubbock.

As for the Wolfpack, they may not be the team the country thought they were entering the season. It took two miracle blunders by East Carolina on special teams for N.C. State to survive 21-20 over the Pirates. 

Even though it was against Murray State, Smith displayed excellent poise and touch on deep throws and looked like a starting quarterback. He played near-perfect football and looks more than capable of bringing Houston and N.C. State to the brink.

The stars may not have aligned for Tech with the Shough injury, but with a weapon like Smith in McGuire's back pocket, the Red Raiders have a major reason for hope as they aim for two signature wins to begin the McGuire era.

You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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