In Saturday’s 34-18 loss to TCU in Fort Worth, Texas Tech football head coach Matt Wells called one of the most moronic games by a Red Raider head coach in quite some time.
How many times during the brief Matt Wells era of Texas Tech football have we gathered together after a loss and asked, “What in the hell was Wells thinking?”? Far too often, that’s for certain.
Now, we have perhaps the greatest reason yet to ask those same questions again after the second-year coach called one of the most moronic games in the recent history of Texas Tech football.
The simple truth is that Tech didn’t play well enough on offense to win Saturday’s 34-18 loss to TCU. The Red Raiders were able to amass just 311 yards of total offense, went just 2-16 on 3rd down, and averaged only 5.7 yards per pass attempt.
But because of a strong defensive effort, they found themselves within striking distance in the fourth quarter. That’s when Wells made one of the most inexplicable decisions imaginable.
With Tech down 27-18 and the ball at the TCU 19, Wells decided to ask his kicker, Trey Wolff, to attempt a 37-yard field goal…on second down…to try to cut the deficit to six points with around 2:40 on the clock.
Of course, Wolff’s kick sailed wide left, and that ultimately sealed the loss to drop the Red Raiders to 2-5 on the year and guarantee that Matt Wells will not have a winning regular-season record for the fifth time in his last six years as a head coach. And there were several reasons that this decision to try the kick early was beyond ill-advised.
For starters, Wolff has been awful this year meaning that this was obviously a risky decision. After making 20-22 FG attempts last year, the sophomore is now just 1-5 on the year. One has to wonder if Wells was encouraged by the fact that Wolff finally got off the schneid earlier in the game by drilling a kick as time expired in the second quarter, his first made FG of the year.
But based on what we’ve seen from Wolff this year, that lone kick was no reason to trust him in such a critical moment. What’s more, if Wells was married to the idea of kicking the FG on that drive, he should have tried to make it a chip-shot attempt that would have had a greater likelihood of being successful, not a 37-yard attempt.
However, based on the way that drive was unfolding, Tech should have tried to find the endzone. Prior to the decision to kick the ball on 2nd-and-4, the offense had found its rhythm and picked up 47 yards on the previous five plays. Having momentum was a rarity for the Red Raider offense on Saturday so in one of the rare instances when Tech had something going, Wells should have ridden that to the endzone.
Of course, an earlier decision on Wells’ part was what put him in a position to have to make that ill-fated call in the first place. And again, it involved the kicking game.
With 5:57 to play in the second quarter, Tech trailed 10-0 but the offense had finally managed to put together a meaningful drive for the first time in the game. In fact, Henry Colombi had driven his team all the way to the TCU 7-yard line.
When that drive stalled out leaving Tech with a 4th-and-2, Wells decided to go for it rather than take the chip-shot FG. The result was that his team would turn the ball over on downs after a Colombi incompletion.
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If there was ever a time to take the three points, it was at that moment in the game. Prior to that drive, Tech had been abysmal on offense. The previous five drives (the first five drives of the game) had resulted in -28 yards of total offense and it was looking for a while as if Tech’s streak of 288 games without being shutout was in jeopardy of being snapped.
So when Colombi and his offensive mates finally found some success on the sixth drive of the game, it was imperative that they have something to show for their efforts. And they would have had Wells called on Wolff to make what would have amounted to a 24-yard kick, which is essentially an extra point. Though Wolff has been a disaster on field goals this year, he’s been fine when kicking extra points as he is 25 of 26 on the season.
That decision to pass up three points proved to haunt Tech as this game played out. Had Wells made the prudent decision and kicked the FG in the second quarter, his team would have trailed only 27-21 at the time that he made his foolish decision to kick the 37-yard FG on second down in the fourth quarter.
Obviously, had Tech been down just six points at that juncture, there would have been no decision for Wells to make. But because he yet again proved to be a dunce when it comes to in-game coaching decisions, he cost his team a shot at a victory.
Of course, the final margin in this game was 16 points. So technically, Wells’ failed gamble may not have lost the game in its entirety. But what we saw was a coach who once again hurt his team by making inexcusable decisions in the heat of battle, especially in the kicking game.
We all remember the decision to try the “sky kick” against Texas in Lubbock when Tech was up 15 points with just over three minutes to play. But don’t forget that he almost cost Tech the HBU game by passing up a late FG that would have extended the lead to eleven points with just minutes to play.
Outside of the kicking game, he also refused to insert Colombi into the Iowa State game until late in the fourth quarter despite the fact that Alan Bowman had played one of the worst games by a Tech QB in the modern era of the program up to that point.
Wells continues to build quite the resume of gaffes when it comes to his in-game calls and that’s concerning given that his team has such a razor-thin margin for error to begin with. And by making two palm-to-forehead decisions against TCU, he cost his team a chance at pulling out a win over a hated rival. In the process, he cemented his place as possibly the worst in-game Texas Tech head coach we’ve seen in our lifetimes and further showed why most of us don’t want him leading this program anymore.