Football: Young Gun

Losing a starting quarterback is bad. Losing a starting quarterback who helped lead a team to a 19-2 record during his tenure as a starter is worse.Head coach Gary Patterson saw this situation develop with the graduation of Jeff Ballard.

After an open competition that spanned from spring practices up until a couple of weeks ago, Patterson named redshirt freshman Andy Dalton as the starter for Saturday’s season opener against Baylor University. The thought of Dalton not having taken a snap at the college level isn’t forcing Patterson to lose sleep, he said.

Patterson said the coaching staff has had experience with young quarterbacks who have little to no experience. He gave the example of former Horned Frogs quarterback Tye Gunn, who won the first 10 games he started, albeit those games were spread out during a three-year span due to injury.

“We ask guys to manage games and don’t make the big mistakes,” Patterson said. “We tell them to just put points on the board; it doesn’t have to be flashy.”

Dalton said he was excited to be given the opportunity to start and is looking forward to growing as the season continues.

Before he can grow, though, the redshirt freshman knows he has to get comfortable in a real, in-game environment.

“I have to take my first snap and get in a groove with the guys,” Dalton said.

Dalton said he recognized there will be ups and downs and that as the quarterback, he is looked to as a leader and has to respond to adversity.

Patterson said he sees both Dalton and sophomore Marcus Jackson as first-string quarterbacks and said both are students of the game.

Dalton’s ability to manage the offense a little better than Jackson’s was one of the key ingredients to him winning the starting job, Patterson said. When he received the news, Dalton said he was relieved.

“I was excited,” Dalton said. “It’s a great opportunity and I was relieved I wouldn’t have to worry about going from the first huddle to the second huddle and not know what’s going on.