Texas Tech had just dominated Stephen F. Austin in the opening game of the season. The final score was 69-17 and quarterback Patrick Mahomes had amassed nearly 550 yards of total offense and six touchdowns in a little more than two quarters of action, but head coach Kliff Kingsbury was mad.
He didn't care that Mahomes' stats were nearly flawless or that a whopping 17 different Red Raiders caught passes. Even the fact that Tech racked up 758 yards of total offense didn't mean that the 37-year-old coach was going to praise his star pupil after the game.
"I thought he was a little loose, kind of doing his own thing a few times," Kingsbury said of Mahomes. "When things are there within the system, let's take it. And then when it's not, get out and work your magic.
"I just didn't think offensively we played very technical -- kind of some streetball going on early."
When the expectations are so high that even after such a statistically superb night the coach still has his critiques, that's when you know greatness is on the horizon.
Or, in Mahomes' case, greatness is already taking place. You might not know too much about him since he plays out on the South Plains in Lubbock, Texas, or because his team likely won't be in the National Championship conversation because it can't play defense, but that should in no way diminish his excellence.
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Last weekend, Mahomes played another outstanding game, this one against Arizona State. The junior gunslinger from Whitehouse completed 38-of-53 passes for 540 yards and five touchdowns and also ran for 44 yards and another score. The Red Raiders ultimately lost a 68-55 shootout to the Sun Devils, but it wasn't Mahomes' fault.
All he did was repeatedly carve up the ASU defense, finding open receivers all over the field and scrambling for extra yardage when he had to. He led scoring drives on almost every drive of the game and looked like an elite, dynamic signal-caller.
For the season, he is leading the nation in total offense with 562 yards per game. Lamar Jackson has gotten all the hype to this point, but Mahomes has accounted for nearly 60 more yards per game.
"We did play better on the road [than we did last year] but we didn't win, so I'm not particularly pleased with how we played," Mahomes said in Monday's press conference. "I think we could have scored more points."
As crazy as scoring more points sounds, he's exactly right. The offense appeared to tighten up in the second half and didn't look nearly as efficient as they did in the first. Mahomes admitted that he started trying to pick up big yardage on every play instead of going through his reads and taking what the defense gave him.
Mahomes could be Kingsbury's most talented quarterback yet.
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But that was likely just a byproduct of a porous Tech defense that let Arizona State score at will all night long. Nonetheless, Mahomes is a special talent. He possesses an uncanny ability to extend plays and a cannon of an arm that allows him to find open receivers no matter where they are on the field.
Mahomes exhibits this improvisation with regularity, and it forced Arizona State defensive coordinator Keith Patterson to make some flattering comparisons.
“The thing that’s different is this guy is kind of a Brett Favre-type quarterback," he said of Mahomes, via Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He has just an uncanny ability to get outside the pocket. He will run to one side and throw back to the middle of the field. It’s a cardinal sin to do that. He does it with regularity. The other night he throws a no-look pass. I mean, he’s looking out here and throws the ball to a guy in the middle of the field, so he’s extremely talented.
“He just has a sense; he has that quarterback-sense that he just feels that pressure and has a unique ability to get back outside of containment and when he does, boy, hold onto your hat.”
But Brett Favre wasn't enough for Patterson, as he went to another legend later on in the session.
Mahomes' elusiveness inside and outside the pocket is a big part of his success.
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“He kind of plays football like Magic Johnson played point guard,” he said, per Grialou. “He’s big. He’ll run up in there (in the pocket) and all of a sudden you’ve got guys converging on him and whoever you left in coverage, he’ll just dump it right over your head. We have a plan to try and cast a net and keep him in, like everyone else does, but that’s easier said than done sometimes with a guy of his ability.”
How many current college quarterbacks can say that they've been compared to both Brett Favre and Magic Johnson? I don't think many, if any, can claim that.
The fact of the matter is that there are very few quarterbacks more talented than Mahomes. DeShaun Watson comes to mind, but he hasn't looked in sync through two close wins. Chad Kelly and Baker Mayfield are both excellent as well, but their numbers are not even on the same page as Mahomes.
Watson became the first player in NCAA history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season. That is great, but Mahomes could easily surpass that in 2016. At this rate, it's not even that big of a stretch to say he could go 5,000-1,000. Kingsbury understands Mahomes' immense ability, which is why he puts the ball in his quarterback's hands almost every play. Instead of traditional running plays, the Red Raiders are throwing swing passes and check down throws to the running backs. The result is more mind-boggling video game-like numbers from Mahomes.
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Kingsbury has coached several record-breaking QBs in his coaching career, most notably Case Keenum at Houston and Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. Mahomes has the potential to be better than both. He's not quite as quick as Manziel was, but he has a much stronger and more accurate throwing arm and possesses the same type of escapability that is so hard to defend.
Again, stats aren't everything, but Mahomes has been too productive through two games to go unnoticed in the Heisman picture. I don't care that he plays in Lubbock or that his defense will likely keep his team from double-digit wins.
He has a bevy of speedy and athletic skill players around him, and Mahomes distributes the rock beautifully. He is an absolute nightmare for opposing defenses because of his arm strength, high football IQ and improvisation skills and he very well might go down as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in college football history.