Symons emerges from big shadow

Saturday, October 4, 2003

LUBBOCK, Texas -- For three years, B.J. Symons swallowed hard and paced the Texas Tech sidelines.

There was never a competition or debate over who would start at quarterback for the Red Raiders. Kliff Kingsbury was it. Case closed.

Maybe it shouldn't have been.

Symons has made only four starts and already has set the Big 12 single-game passing record, then broken it again. Only two Division I-A quarterbacks have ever had bigger games, and neither is named Kingsbury.

"I'm not going to lie, it feels good to see," Symons said. "I've waited my time and worked hard to get to this point. I'm just glad to see that it's paid off."

Although Symons accepted the backup role the past three seasons, plus a redshirt year, he considers his 586-yard performance in a loss to North Carolina State and the 661 yards in a win over Mississippi proof that he could've done the job sooner.

"Obviously, you want to be on the field," he said. "It was hard not to play for four years. But I think it's made it more sweet."

The sweetness includes calls from friends about seeing his performance mentioned on national sports shows, leading the nation in several statistical categories and having the Red Raiders (3-1) clicking heading into the conference opener at home against rival Texas A&M (2-2) tonight.

Leading the nation

While Symons leads the nation in total offense (509 yards per game) and passing yards (1,962), he's quick to share the credit with his receivers -- four of whom are among the top 50 in the nation in receiving yards per game. Carlos Francis leads the way at No. 12, followed by Mickey Peters (33), Nehemiah Glover (47) and Wes Welker (50).

"It's a huge advantage for me and it's a huge advantage for our offense to have those playmakers out there," Symons said. "They make my job easy. Those guys get open and I really have just got to deliver that ball."

The big numbers by Symons and Kingsbury are byproducts of the quick-passing system taught by Tech coach Mike Leach. While Leach touted Kingsbury for the Heisman Trophy last season, when he threw for more than 5,000 yards and 45 touchdowns, critics said he was a product of the system.

Now the same might be said of Symons, who came into this season with 545 career yards passing and seven touchdowns. He threw for six against Ole Miss, two in the final eight minutes to erase an 11-point deficit, and he ran for another.

Leach said Symons' experience in the system is paying off, as is his familiarity with the receivers.

"I guess the most pleasant surprise is he got warmed up pretty quickly and stepped in pretty quickly," Leach said. "I thought he might, but this was quicker than I expected, really."

After his first big game, Symons said 600 yards was possible. Now he's eyeing the NCAA Division I-A record of 716 yards, set by Houston's David Klingler in 1990.

"We still haven't even put a full game together," he said.

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