The Houston Cougars wrap up their 2022 season with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Friday in the Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.
Houston will send out starting quarterback Clayton Tune — an accomplished All-AAC gunslinger with nearly 12,000 career passing yards who started the last four seasons for the Cougars. When Tune walks off the field in Shreveport, LA on Friday evening, the Cougars were set to have minimal experience in the quarterback room headed into their 2023 inaugural Big 12 season.
That changed Thursday night when former Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith posted a video on his Instagram and Twitter announcing his commitment to Houston. Tune and star wide receiver Tank Dell — both playing their final game in Houston colors this Friday — make appearances in the video to welcome the successor to the offense.
Smith started four games for the Red Raiders this fall, and all four were against teams that were ranked at the time. The redshirt sophomore quarterback notably led an impressive double overtime comeback over Houston in Week 2, completing 36-of-50 passes for 350 yards. He guided the offense 46 yards in 37 seconds to set up the game-tying field goal in regulation, and in the overtime periods, he completed a 21-yard pass on a do-or-die 4th and 20 and later, scrambled for the walk-off game-winning touchdown.
Two weeks later, Smith conducted a 14-point comeback in the final 17 minutes of action against Texas. He accounted for 331 passing yards and three total touchdowns in the victory, consistently delivering in critical situations as the Red Raiders finished 6-of-8 on fourth down conversions. Smith started one additional game the following week against Kansas State, where he reset his career-high with 359 passing yards.
Smith finished the 2022 season with a stat-line featuring 1,505 passing yards on a 66.2 completion rate, 12 passing touchdowns, eight interceptions, 116 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns. His pre-2022 résumé includes winning MVP honors in Texas Tech’s 34-7 rout of Mississippi State in the 2021 AutoZone Liberty Bowl. In that contest, Smith accumulated 252 passing yards, 30 rushing yards, and contributed one touchdown each with his arm and his legs.
At the time of his commitment, the former Red Raider is by-far the most experienced quarterback on the 2023 Houston roster. With three passes and three rushes in his college career, Lucas Coley wields the most in-game action for any incumbent Cougar quarterback.
Smith’s ability to consistently rattle off 300-yard performances, combined with impressive mobility, makes him an ideal fit for Dana Holgorsen’s offense as Houston transitions to the Big 12 next season. Although the conference schedule has yet to be released, there are favorable odds Smith faces his former program in Texas Tech sometime in 2023.