Only those outside the University of Tulsa locker room were surprised Friday night.
TU coach Philip Montgomery did not announce the Hurricane’s starting quarterback before the season opener kicked off against Michigan State. Instead, fans and media learned who TU’s starter was when Zach Smith trotted onto the field before the Hurricane’s first drive of the game. Smith earned the starting job over Seth Boomer and Davis Brin after a position battle that engulfed the entire offseason.
“We talked with our quarterbacks and our team and all of that about it during the week,” Montgomery said. “There were no surprises, obviously, going into the game of what was about to happen.”
Receiver Keylon Stokes wouldn’t say when he found out who was starting at quarterback, but, like he did all offseason, he said he didn’t care which QB got the nod.
“That’s just something that we just go with the flow,” Stokes said. “It really doesn’t matter who was starting. We all have great connections with the quarterbacks. They’re both great, so all in all, (Smith’s) a great player, so is (Boomer). We just love who’s back there.”
Smith completed 16-of-27 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown in the 28-7 loss to No. 18 Michigan State. He threw one interception in the second quarter. That quarter also included a fumble on a bad snap, a safety after another bad snap and a fumble by Smith on a sack that was returned for a touchdown.
“I thought Zach showed some real flashes of some things,” Montgomery said. “(He) handled some situations extremely well. That second quarter — with all the things that happened — I thought he bounced back and recovered from some of those things. Obviously, some of those are out of his control. He’s gotta do a better job of protecting the football. The pick was not a good throw or good read by him, but that’s right in the midst of all of that going on.”
Friday night was Smith’s first time playing in a game since Nov. 24, 2017. Although it was Smith’s Hurricane debut, he started 10 games at Baylor before transferring to TU after the 2017 season. He sat out last season because of transfer rules.
“It was good for him to kind of get back in the action,” Montgomery said. “That was the first hit he’s taken in a long time, as well.
“Getting used to being in the pocket, taking care of the football, all the little things like that, you’re trying to drill and work in practice, but until you get in the game and all those people are flying around you — and being able to manipulate the pocket and move around — there’s some things like that that I think from Week 1 to Week 2 will greatly improve. We’ll continue to keep drilling and working those things as we go through, but there’s nothing like game experience, and it was good for him to get back in the midst of it.”