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THE MOST NERVE-RACKING MOMENTS OF SETH DOEGE'S TEXAS TECH FOOTBALL CAREER took place before he even stepped onto campus. A West Texas native, Doege (pronounced DAY-gee) went to many Red Raiders home games as a kid and idolized Tech quarterbacks such as Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie. When he verbally committed in the fall of 2006 to play in Lubbock, Doege was ready to live out a childhood dream.
Then that dream was interrupted. During two-a-days before his junior year at Frenship High in Wolfforth, less than 20 minutes outside of Lubbock, Doege tore his left ACL when he was dragged down on an incidental horse-collar tackle. After spending the year rehabbing, he tore his right ACL during two-a-days before his senior season—on a seemingly harmless quarterback sweep—and missed 2007 as well.
Following each injury Doege phoned the Texas Tech coaching staff, terrified at the thought that the team would withdraw its offer. "You hear stories all the time about guys who get hurt, and schools go in a different direction," he says. "But when I made the call, each time [I was told], 'You've been our guy since we offered you a scholarship, and we're going to stick with you.'"
After two years on the Frenship sideline Doege would have to wait three more before he could step into the spotlight for the Red Raiders. He was on the scout team during his first year on campus, started one game as a redshirt freshman (he was 38 of 61 in four appearances) and threw four passes as a sophomore. Five years would be too long to wait for some, but Doege—and his family—understood what he had signed up for.
"If you're going to Texas Tech, you know they're going to have quality quarterbacks," says Seth's father, Randy, of a school that ranked among the country's top 10 passing offenses in each of the last 11 years. "We knew that it was going to take some time, but we also realized that he was going to learn from the best."
Doege took those lessons to heart during the 2011 season. Last Sept. 17 against New Mexico, Doege, who is 6' 1", 205 pounds and is also mobile outside the pocket, hit 40 of 44 passes (90.9%), setting a single-game NCAA record for completion percentage. The man whose record he broke? None other than Kingsbury. "I had no idea," Doege says. "I think it was [former place-kicker] Donnie Carona who told me, 'You just broke the NCAA record,' and I thought, No way. I credit my teammates. There weren't any dropped balls."
One month later Doege torched No. 3 Oklahoma for 441 yards and four touchdowns (in addition to one on the ground) in a 41--38 shocker that ended the Sooners' 39-game home winning streak. By that time Texas Tech's receivers knew they had a quarterback they could count on. "It's great to catch a ball that you know is going to be right there," says wideout Eric Ward. "It takes trust to keep getting receivers the ball, and he's always on the same page as his receivers."
But both Doege and his coaches say that his work is far from finished. "I think Seth will be more improved than anyone else on the football team," says offensive coordinator Neal Brown. "He showed signs this spring of being better at the mental things and taking complete control."
Lifting the Red Raiders to a memorable season would be, for Doege, a kind of payback to the program for believing in him. "I'd love to see him lead his team to a championship," Randy says. "After what Texas Tech did for us, I'd love to see him give something back to Texas Tech."