Texas Tech football: Head coach not calling plays could be refreshing change

EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 31: Head coach Matt Wells of the Utah State Aggies celebrates with Jordan Love #10 after he scored a first half touchdown against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on August 31, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI - AUGUST 31: Head coach Matt Wells of the Utah State Aggies celebrates with Jordan Love #10 after he scored a first half touchdown against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on August 31, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

For the first time in quite a while, the Texas Tech football team will not have its head coach calling plays this fall and that could be a refreshing change.

While looking through videos of new Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells and Utah State online, I came across a short clip that fascinated me.  It was a moment that ultimately had no impact on the outcome of the game but it provided a glimpse into the man that has been tasked with turning around the direction of Red Raider football.

Back in 2013, Matt Wells did not have the luxury of easing into his career as a college head coach.  That’s because, in his first game in charge at Utah State, Wells had to take his team on the road to face Utah in a night game.

Because they play in the Mountain time zone and are in the PAC 12, the Utes’ success over the last two decades has gone unnoticed by many college football fans who probably don’t realize that Utah has been to a bowl game in 14 of the past 16 seasons.  And Rice-Eccles Stadium is one of the toughest and loudest 45,000-seat stadiums in the nation.

Still, the underdog Aggies kept the game close throughout and trailed by just one point 27-26 in the final minute of the game.  Trying to run out the clock, Utah ran a second-down play at the end of which the ball carrier’s helmet came off stopping the clock with.

When the game clock was restarted, the officials put the play clock at 40 seconds, rather than 25 as it should have been by rule, allowing the Utes to drain an extra 15 seconds off the clock before taking another snap.  But Wells caught the error and was able to point it out to the officials who corrected their mistake and added the extra time back to the game clock.

The Utes hit a field goal on that drive and won the game 30-26 meaning that the officiating mistake that Wells caught did not play a role in the outcome of the game.  However, this moment reveals quite a bit about what the man that will be roaming the sidelines for the Red Raiders this year and the biggest takeaway is that there could be some benefits from having a head coach who does not act as an offensive coordinator in addition to all of his other gameday responsibilities.

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This isn’t a shot at Kingsbury.  Plenty of head coaches, especially in the college game, also call the plays for their offense.  In fact, the most successful head coach in Texas Tech history, Mike Leach, did the same.

But the pace at which the game moves today makes it incredibly difficult for head coaches to manage the game and call plays.  The mistake that Wells caught against the Utes did come with his team playing defense so in theory, a head coach like Leach or Kingsbury who calls plays could have caught that error.

Imagine though that the next time an error of a similar nature occurs, it is when Tech has the football and is trying to drive for a game-winning score.  Would a coach who is having to think about getting the next call to the QB and everything else that comes with calling plays have caught a similar officiating gaffe?  After all, the mistake the officials made was not egregious and almost no fan would have picked up on it.  It is safe to assume that many head coaches would not have caught it as well.

One of the many criticisms Texas Tech fans levied against Kingsbury was that it seemed like he rarely worked the officials as hard as most other college head coaches do.  Some wanted to see the naturally docile coach give the officials the occasional tongue-lashing but he rarely did that.

It just didn’t seem in Kingsbury’s nature to spend too much time sparring with the officials, especially when arguing a call and that is fine.  Coaches have to stay true to their own personality.

But it often seemed like there was too much going on during a game for Kingsbury to manage his team, work the officials, and call plays.  Again, some coaches can do that but most are veterans not first-time head coaches with only five years of coaching experience at any level as was the case with Kingsbury when he was hired at Tech.

Wells is a program builder and more of a traditional head coach in that he will let his coordinators call the plays while he manages the game.  That will be a refreshing approach to Red Raider fans, many of whom have grown tired of the game management mistakes, mental lapses, and undisciplined play that has been a staple of this program for far too long.

This fall, when Matt Wells needs to be in the official’s face, motivating his team, deciding when to call critical timeouts, or handling any number of other circumstance that may pop up in the heat of battle, he will be able to give those crucial tasks his full attention and effort because he will not be burdened by the task of also having to call plays.  And given that he wants his offense to run a play no less than 15 seconds from the previous play’s end, it would seem impossible for him to even consider calling plays.

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Every coach is different and has their own style and to Kingsbury’s credit, he knew that he was hired to sustain the program’s offensive identity so that remained his primary focus even when that task consumed too much of him.  But now, Texas Tech will have a head coach that can focus on the officiating, the clock, his timeout situation, and everything else that may occur during a game while not having to also worry about calling plays.  It will be interesting to see if that leads to a decrease in sloppiness from the Red Raider sideline and an increase in wins.