Following the Texas Tech football team’s 33-31 loss to TCU on Saturday, head coach Matt Wells discussed why his team was again unable to prevail in a close game.
It has to be getting tough for Matt Wells to continually have to speak to the media following close losses. On Saturday, for the third time this year, he saw his Texas Tech football team lose a Big 12 game by three points or fewer.
Though his body language indicated that he was rather dejected and frustrated after his team fell to 4-6 on the year, he still did his best to try and put a positive spin on the Red Raiders’ 6th loss in their last eight games.
“That’s a tough, competitive football game,” Wells said of the 33-31 TCU win. “Learned one thing about our guys today, they’re gonna fight; never going to give up. Wasn’t pretty at the beginning and I thought they fought their butt back into it.”
Down 17-0 and 24-3 in the first half, this was the second time in as many home games that Wells’ team fell behind its opponent by three scores before halftime. Last month, Iowa State jumped on Tech 21-0 before the Red Raiders began to fight back in a 34-24 Cyclone win.
Wells was right to appreciate his team’s effort. Playing without several of the roster’s best players including LB Jordyn Brooks, WR T.J. Vasher, OL Jack Anderson, IR Dalton Rigdon, and others, there was every opportunity for the Red Raiders to simply give up but they gave themselves a shot to win, even taking a 28-27 4th-quarter lead, meaning that in three of this year’s losses, Tech has had a lead at some point in the final quarter.
“It’s another 4th quarter loss,” Wells said. “And I promise you, we’re gonna keep knocking on that door. We’re going to keep knocking on that door and we’re going to knock it in. And when we get to that point where you learn how to finish a game, this program’s going to win a lot of games.”
For Tech fans, that moment can’t come soon enough because simply knocking on the door is not good enough. The moral victory has far too often been the only solace fans have been able to turn to after numerous gutting and disappointing losses such as this one or the overtime loss to Baylor in Waco.
If moral victories carried any significant weight, this program would be in much better shape. That’s because the list of almost-wins continues to grow with losses to Baylor in 2013, TCU in 2015, Oklahoma State in 2016, and OU and Texas last year all fitting into that category.
Of course, that’s not good enough. Wells knows that and he promised to keep fighting and trying to recruit in order to take Tech football beyond the land of the close call.
The head coach then spoke about individual players, specifically two key contributors who were not on the field for most of, if not the entire game, Jordyn Brooks and T.J. Vasher. The situation surrounding each player could not be more different.
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Brooks tried to play but left the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter. That problem has been nagging him in recent weeks but he tried to give it a go knowing that his team needed its best player against the Horned Frogs. Without Brooks, TCU was able to run the ball for 226 yards, proving how invaluable he is.
“I got a lotta respect for No. 1,” Wells said. “He cares about Texas Tech. I hope the fans see that and see the passion that he plays with. He wasn’t able to practice until extremely late in the week and gave it a go but it just wasn’t there.”
With Brooks out, junior Riko Jeffers had to play his role while redshirt freshman Xavier Benson moved from the Raider position to middle LB. With grad transfer Evan Rambo also out, safety Adam Beck had to play out of position at a hybrid LB/safety spot, which was far from ideal.
The lack of depth on this roster has been a problem all year. But when the best player on the team is out of action, there’s no way to replace him.
One player that has been easier to replace is Vasher. Suspended for the second-straight game, he is quickly falling out of favor with his coaches and the fan base. He should also be concerned because the offense has not missed a beat in his absence as Tech passed for 333 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday.
Wells confirmed that Vasher is still part of the team but it seems like his situation is tenuous at best. In his place, grad transfer R.J. Turner made his second-straight start and played well. Though he caught only three passes, he had two touchdowns and a team-high 116 yards. However, his efforts were in vain and he pointed out that his team can’t afford to fall into such a huge hole in the first quarter.
“First off, we can’t afford to start that slow,” Turner said. “But just about the team, we can play with anybody in the league. It’s as simple as that.”
The problem for this team is not to simply play with any team in the league but to start beating more teams in the league. Playing close games is the rallying cry of bad teams. Of course, until Texas Tech starts to figure out a way to win close games, that’s what it will continue to be…a bad team.