Saturday in Lubbock, the Texas Tech football team managed to somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. On a day that saw the Red Raiders jump out to a 24-10 halftime lead and also saw Kansas State commit a whopping 12 penalties while also turning the ball over twice, Matt Wells’ team was unable to come away with a much-needed Big 12 home win as Tech was shut out in the second half en route to a 25-24 loss.
Now, it is fair to wonder if this was the beginning of the end of the Wells era for the program. The loss keeps Tech from reaching bowl eligibility for at least another week, a must for Wells if he hopes to retain his job, and with four games remaining against what are arguably the top four teams in the conference, the future looks awfully bleak for the man in charge in Lubbock.
The difference in this game was the play of the two quarterbacks. Tech’s Henry Colombi was woefully inept as he completed just 10-17 passes for 148 yards and no TDs while being picked off once. On the flip side, KSU’s Skylar Thompson, who is now 5-0 as a starter against the Red Raiders, was nearly flawless. The senior was 24-30 for 296 yards and the game-winning 22-yard TD pass to RB Deuce Vaughn with approximately six minutes to play in the contest.
It is beginning to feel like Colombi should lose his starting job to freshman Donovan Smith who continues to be used in spots where he’s asked primarily to run the ball. Colombi has now gone two straight games without surpassing the 150-yard mark despite facing two of the worst defenses in the Big 12 over that span, Kansas and Kansas State. In those two games, he has thrown just one total TD while being intercepted twice.
That type of play isn’t going to lift the Red Raiders to where they need to be in order to compete with Oklahoma, Iowa State, Oklahoma State, or Baylor, the four remaining teams on the schedule. But the bigger story is the fate of Wells, which is now in serious doubt.
Cries for his outsing have been rising in recent weeks after blowout losses to Texas and Texas Christian. Now, after this come-from-ahead loss to a team that the fan base absolutely expected to beat, the chorus of people clambering for Wells’ head will be deafening on the South Plains this week and likely for the remainder of the year.
Wells’ record at Tech now sits at 13-17 overall and just 7-16 in conference games. What’s more, with this loss, he keeps alive his streak of being unable to put together back-to-back Big 12 wins as the Red Raider head coach.
Now, we must wonder if his team will win another game this year. If that fails to happen, Wells will be gone after this season and the program will be looking for its fourth different head coach since the start of the 2010 season.
Should that likelihood become a reality, many will point to Saturday’s inexplicable loss to KSU as the moment that doomed Wells. After all, Tech jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead and looked to be in total control of the game for the first 30 minutes of play. In fact, KSU was so bad in the first half that it was almost comical as turnovers, penalties, and unforced mistakes plagued the Wildcats leading to Tech’s 14-point halftime edge.
But the game would turn on a safety early in the third quarter. After a strange bounce that saw a KSU punt hit at the Tech 30 and then roll down to the two-yard line, Tech was backed up against its own goal line to start its first drive of the third quarter.
On the first snap, the Red Raiders handed the ball to SaRodorick Thompson who was swallowed up in the backfield by a KSU defender who simply abused Tech left tackle T.J. Storment on the play. Though that play netted KSU only two points, it was a huge momentum swing in the contest. The Wildcats would then score on their ensuing possession to cut the Tech lead to 24-19 and the crumbling of the Red Raider lead was in full effect.
There’s no reason to think that the Red Raiders will make any drastic coaching moves in-season meaning that Wells still has four opportunities to salvage his job. But given what we saw his team put forth against one of the worst teams in the Big 12 on Saturday (one that had lost eight consecutive conference games dating back to last year) there’s no reason to have much faith in this program or this head coach moving forward.