With the score tied 10-10 late in the fourth quarter, and Texas Tech struggling to move the ball all night against a tough TCU defense, things get a little interesting.
Backup quarterback Davis Webb comes into the game after starter Baker Mayfield went down with an injury and manages to get the Red Raiders to their own 49-yard-line. On the next play, Webb’s pass, intended for running back DeAndre Washington in the flat, is tipped at the line of scrimmage. As the crowd holds its collective breath, hoping the ball won’t be intercepted, Washington snags it right out of the air and goes flying down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. Naturally, the stadium goes bananas.
Upon further review, officials determine Washington accidentally dropped the ball just short of the goal-line. Fortunately, a ref. called the play dead by signaling a touchdown, which by rule gives Tech the ball at the half-yard-line. However, an unsportsmanlike celebration penalty moves the ball back 15 yards to make scoring decidedly more difficult.
Most head coaches, especially young, inexperienced ones, would blow a gasket after a series of bone-headed mistakes like this. Not Tech’s first-year, 34-year-old Kliff Kingsbury.
“That can be one of those things that goes the other way if you don’t handle it correctly,” Kingsbury told the media on the Big 12 weekly conference call. “I just wanted to let him (Washington) know it’s not a big deal. Let’s get it back and score, like we always do. I thought, at that time in the game, that less was more.”
Tech would score three plays later on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Webb to wide receiver Bradley Marquez, the eventual game winner. Ultimately, Washington’s mistake caused no harm, but it still acts as a great learning opportunity for both players and coaches.
Contrast Kingsbury’s calm, cool and collected attitude with fifth-year Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. Known as a hot-head, Pelini’s reputation took another hit Monday afternoon when Deadspin released a recording (NSFW) of him cursing fans and media after a game in 2011.
In 2010, Pelini drew criticism for the way he handled freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez during a loss to Texas A&M. Pelini drew a penalty in that game for his sideline antics and Martinez later threatened to quit the team.
Pelini is a dying breed in football. Like some of the great names in coaching from decades ago, and even today, he commands his team with yelling, cursing and tantrum throwing. He demands respect and can lose his cool when respect isn’t given.
Kingsbury is the new generation. He understands his players didn’t sign up for a military academy, and he knows how to handle situations like the one on Thursday night. If you want your players to stay cool in the face of adversity, you need to be cool yourself.
“Less is more at that point. You know it’s going to be replayed everywhere in the country. ESPN, college football Thursday, everybody watching,” Kingsbury said. “If you jump a kid, to me, it doesn’t do much good.
“Just let him know, ‘You dropped it earlier. Let’s get it back, and next time you touch it, make up for it.’ That’s basically all we had to say.”
Kingsbury is cool.