Saturday night, the Texas Tech football program laid yet another humiliating egg under the guidance of head coach Matt Wells in a 52-31 loss to TCU at home, a loss that wasn’t as close as the final score might indicate. It was the team’s second inexcusable blowout to an in-state rival in three weeks following the 70-35 spanking in Austin that opened Big 12 play. But more significant than the mark in the loss column, something that we’ve grown accustomed to, was the fact that this game cemented the fan base’s apathy towards the program and its embattled leader.
Tech is now just 12-16 overall and 6-15 in Big 12 play during the Wells era. And after another public flogging, we’ve finally reached the point where even the most die-hard fans can no longer emotionally invest in Red Raider football.
Time and time again under Wells, this program has had an opportunity to take a step forward and it has failed to do so. There was the upset of No. 21 Oklahoma State in 2019 which was followed by three straight losses, the last of which came at the hands of lowly Kansas. Or how about last year’s game against then-No. 8 Texas that saw Tech blow a 15-point lead in the final five minutes of the game?
That brings us to Saturday night when Tech had every opportunity to capitalize on last week’s gritty last-minute victory at West Virginia. Coming home as conquering heroes, the Red Raiders were set up with a large homecoming crowd, the buzz created by wearing throwback uniforms, a blackout in the stands, and most importantly, a wobbly TCU team that was coming off of back-to-back home losses to its own in-state rivals, SMU and Texas.
But could Wells and Co. do anything to reward those that showed up to support them? Of course not. In fact, the Red Raiders didn’t even show up themselves as they fell into a 28-7 hole and never threatened for the remainder of the evening.
And by the time the second-half kickoff came around, an all too familiar sight was once again visible at Jones Stadium; rows and rows of unfilled bleachers. But who can blame those fans that left early? In fact, those that stayed to the bitter end deserve a congressional medal of honor.
That’s the problem. Wells has completely lost this fan base and that’s the worst indictment one can place on a head coach.
There’s simply no reason to care about Texas Tech football anymore; not as long as Matt Wells is in charge.
Wells has no track record of success that suggests he’s capable of building a winning program. He’s only produced one pair of consecutive winning seasons and those came in 2013 and 2014, the first two years he was head coach at Utah State when he was coaching a team largely assembled by his predecessor. Since then, he’s had one winning season in the last six full campaigns.
What’s more, the work he’s done at Tech isn’t showing any signs of progress. Sure, he’s 4-2 this year and will likely be 5-2 after next week’s trip to Lawrence to face the hapless Jayhawks.
But look at his four wins so far. While the victory over Houston appears to be a solid one given that the Cougars are undefeated since the opener, the rest of the wins this year have been shaky at best.
The next week Tech had to struggle to beat FCS opponent Stephen F. Austin in Lubbock. A week later, Wells’ team garnered no tangible goodwill by lifting its hind leg on a dreadful Florida International team that is now 1-5 on the season. And on Saturday, the other team Tech has beaten this year, West Virginia, showed us that it isn’t really all that formidable as it fell to just 2-4 on the year with a 25-point loss at Baylor.
So don’t give Texas Tech fans any lines about this team being better based on a hollow 4-2 record. Against the two teams that have mattered on the schedule so far, Tech has lost by an average of 28 points and that’s only because both Texas and TCU took their foot off the gas in the second half.
So why should we continue to give this coaching staff the benefit of the doubt? This is a program under Wells that doesn’t recruit at a high level (Tech currently has the second-worst recruiting class in the Big 12), it doesn’t develop nearly enough players into NFL prospects, and most of all, it doesn’t seem to be able to match strengths with any Big 12 team that has a pulse.
So is it any wonder that we are two-and-a-half years into the Wells era and we are still without consecutive Big 12 wins? No. But, what there is to wonder about is why we should care anymore. In fact, apathy is the best way for us to survive this mess.
Unfortunately, AD Kirby Hocutt isn’t the type of leader to have a quick trigger. He isn’t going to fire Wells mid-season (though a loss next week would test that theory).
In fact, he may not fire Wells after the year because, don’t forget, that Wells was Hocutt’s hand-picked head coach and Wells’ success (or lack thereof) is going to directly reflect on Hocutt. So all Texas Tech fans can do now is to protect themselves emotionally while hoping that someone over Hocutt’s head eventually forces his hand on Wells.
Stop thinking that the next win is going to be the turning point. It isn’t. Stop hoping that Wells’ malarky about a player-led program and “We, Us, Our” is going to translate to wins on Saturday. It won’t. Stop thinking that this program is going to take a step forward and get back to competing near the top of the Big 12 while Wells is the man in charge. It isn’t.
Rather, watch from a distance. Keep your eyes on what happens because, well, train wrecks are interesting to observe.
But don’t emotionally invest in this program anymore. It isn’t worth the pain and disappointment that you will endure. Nights like Saturday, when most thought Tech would put its best foot forward only to find out that this program is nowhere near having a best foot to put forth in any direction, aren’t worth the emotional equity that they take out of those of us who have always lived and died by Red Raider football.
Matt Wells is still the head coach of the Red Raiders and he will be for the next six games, if not longer. And if we are to call a spade a spade then we have to acknowledge that he is what he is, a failed Power 5 head coach who is in over his head and who is searching for answers in a sea of nothingness. Thus, emotionally investing in this sinking ship is a fool’s errand.
And though Texas Tech football fans may be stubborn, we aren’t stupid. At least not stupid enough to keep thinking that Matt Wells is the answer in Lubbock.