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Productive System

Texas Tech's Symons is putting up big numbers, but he's not getting much respect from NFL scouts

October 24, 2003|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

This isn't the first time Texas Tech quarterback B.J. Symons has posted impressive numbers.

A 1280 SAT score in high school earned him a call from Harvard, but one could argue then he was "just a product of the system" too, right?

Symons actually took the call from Harvard, listened politely, chuckled at the way the folks all sounded like Kennedys, but no way in Waco was he going to be part of a "Midnight Cowboy" remake.

"The Ivy League isn't really where I wanted to play football," Symons said.

Raised in Houston, Symons reasoned he would rather waste away on the bench for four years at a Big 12 Conference school, which, um, is exactly what he did.

After a redshirt season and three years in Lubbock, watching teammate Kliff Kingsbury break school passing records left and right, Symons would have one season of eligibility to make the most of his opportunity.

Few could have imagined Symons might make history, but his seven-game start to the 2003 season has been nothing short of stunning, dizzying and mind boggling.

The senior quarterback has already passed for 3,506 yards and 32 touchdowns -- with possibly seven games remaining if Texas Tech advances to the Big 12 title game and plays in a bowl game.

The NCAA record for single-season yards passing is 5,188 by former Brigham Young star Ty Detmer, meaning Symons needs to average 336.4 yards for his last five regular-season games to break the mark. He has averaged 500.9 yards through his first seven games.

Symons (pronounced Simmons) also has a shot at breaking David Klingler's season record of 54 touchdown passes.

You figure the only thing that might stop Symons now is some freak injury, such as falling awkwardly on his knee while celebrating one of his touchdown passes with a receiver.

In fact, that happened two weeks ago against Iowa State ... and Symons hasn't heard the end of it.

"There have been a few B.J. Gramatica jokes going around," Symons said, a reference to NFL kicker Bill Gramatica, who once tore knee ligaments while celebrating a field goal.

Symons' knee injury, however, did not prevent him throwing for 552 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-49 loss at Oklahoma State last weekend.

Saturday, Missouri steps into Symons' firing line.

"They put a remarkable amount of stress on your defense," Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said.

Texas Tech, though, also puts pressure on your offense.

"You have to score points if you want to compete with these guys," Pinkel added. Symons' season is starting to sound like a broken record.

On Sept. 20, he threw for 586 yards in a loss at North Carolina State.

A week later, he threw for 661 yards and six touchdowns against Mississippi, and followed with a 505-yard, eight-touchdown effort against Texas A&M.

Symons, at flipper controls, has turned football into pinball.

He is averaging 513 total yards a game, more than any team in the country except his own and Bowling Green.

And Symons is not doing it against Cub Scouts.

"It's not like there's a bunch of defenses around that don't know how to line up, or they're not sound, or they can't adjust," Iowa State Coach Dan McCarney said after his team gave up 487 passing yards to Symons on Oct. 11.

Symons leads the nation in yards passing, yards per game, completions, attempts, touchdown passes and total offense.

He says he's having too much fun to consider all the possible Heisman Trophy ramifications.

"I'm just happy to be on the field, after sitting on the bench for four years," he said in a phone interview from Lubbock. "I'm having the time of my life right now, to be honest with you, just being out there on the field and getting a chance to play."

It hasn't been all peaches and Peggy Sue, though. Symons and his coach, Mike Leach, are definitely irked at what they perceive as a lack of respect.

Although Symons has led Texas Tech to a 5-2 record, his exploits are seen by many as the product of a gimmicky, pass-happy offense.

In fact, the fighting words in Lubbock are "product of the system."

College football has been down this road before, probably starting with the gaudy numbers Coach Mouse Davis started putting up with his run-and-shoot offense at Portland State.

In the late 1980s, Houston, under John Jenkins, produced record-shattering numbers with quarterbacks Andre Ware and Klingler. Ware even won the Heisman Trophy, although neither player turned out to be a successful pro quarterback.

And although Leach's one-back, four receiver, spread-the-field system is definitely fueled with the same high-octane gas, he seethes when people try to diminish the statistics as they relate to his players.

He heard it for three years with Kingsbury, Symons' predecessor, who passed for 12,429 yards and 45 touchdowns in a career that was largely ignored by the national press.

And whereas Kingsbury ended up only a sixth-round draft pick, with New England, Leach is having none of it when it concerns Symons.

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