Texas Tech football: Joey McGuire’s decision-making dooms Red Raiders

LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Joey McGuire of the Texas Tech Red Raiders walks off the field after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Joey McGuire of the Texas Tech Red Raiders walks off the field after the game against the Oregon Ducks at Jones AT&T Stadium on September 09, 2023 in Lubbock, Texas. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images) /

Texas Tech head coach Joey McGuire is killing his team with risky and ill-advised decisions.  Perhaps that’s a product of his lack of experience as an FBS head coach or maybe that’s just part of his personality.  He got away with it more often than not in 2022 but whatever the reason, it has to stop in 2023.

McGuire’s poor decisions cost Texas Tech Saturday’s game against Oregon

There are some programs that have rosters talented enough to overcome terrible decisions from the head coach.  Georgia or Michigan could do that in about 11 of their games per year.  Texas Tech isn’t in that club, though and that was obvious in Saturday’s 38-30 loss to Oregon.

Instead, McGuire has to be nearly flawless when it comes to his in-game decisions.  He was anything but that on Saturday.

After Tech scored its second touchdown of the game, McGuire asked his team to attempt a two-point conversation to tie the game at 15 instead of settling for a 15-14 deficit.  It was a reactionary decision by the head coach, which is never what you want from the hand on the wheel of your ship.

On the previous drive, Oregon caught Tech sleeping and ran a trick play on their extra-point attempt to earn two points.  That shouldn’t have been enough to prompt McGuire to try to get that point back immediately.

You don’t take guaranteed points off of the scoreboard in the first quarter.  It is never wise to go for a straight-up two-point conversion (rather than using trickery as Oregon did) unless the game dictates that you absolutely have to.  I don’t care if that’s old-school thinking.  It’s also wise.

Had Tech decided to simply kick that extra point, the game would have been tied at 31 on the game-deciding drive.  Then, Tech would have been able to try to execute a more decisive drive in the last minute instead of scrambling around in desperation mode.

If the game had been tied at 31 on that ill-fated Red Raider drive, Oregon would not have been able to just pin its ears back and come after Shough without any fear of a surprise run from Shough or Brooks.

Also, offensive coordinator Zach Kittley would have been able to call a different set of plays in that situation.  He could have played it more cautiously knowing that he had overtime awaiting.

Instead, being down by a point put the Red Raiders in scramble mode.  It led to a frenetic desperation that ultimately ended in disaster.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t McGuire’s worst decision of the night.  In fact, it was far from it.

Throughout his brief tenure, McGuire has lived and died by analytics, and on Saturday, that philosophy cost his team the game.

Going for it on 4th-and-2 early in the 4th quarter from your own 33-yard line was simply idiotic, regardless of what the literal analytics book that McGuire seems beholden to may say.  McGuire is being paid millions of dollars to use the brain God gave him, not an analytics book.

Sure, that book paid dividends plenty of times last year, especially in the wins over Texas and OU.  However, books lack something that McGuire should possess, common sense.

If the head coach isn’t going to utilize that common sense, though, then why not just go to a book for literally every decision?

It doesn’t matter that you were facing a three-and-out right after your defense was abused on a 17-play TD drive.  You don’t risk giving the ball back to your opponent inside your own 40 when you are winning.  Period.

If Matt Wells would have made that decision, the people of Lubbock would have burned him alive at the stake.  Therefore, we have to also hold McGuire accountable for such a game-altering decision.

While no one is going to suggest he should be run out of town, we have to admit that McGuire, even as loveable as he is, is struggling as a decision-maker in ways more similar to his predecessor than anyone wants to admit.

To the credit of the defense, McGuire’s team almost bailed him out on the ensuing drive, though.  Had the official review on the potential Malik Dunlap interception in the end zone gone Tech’s way, Tech would have won the game and McGuire would have gotten away with another unnecessarily risky decision.

That didn’t turn out to be the case though and McGuire must bear the blame.  Coaching with reckless abandon is what one does when he believes his team is completely outmanned and must take wild and unpredictable risks to win.

We’ve seen other head coaches such as Wells and Kliff Kingsbury try that with little success.  However, McGuire’s team was playing Oregon straight-up.

Sure, it was clear that the Ducks had more overall speed and talent on the field but still, Tech was winning when McGuire went braindead on that 4th-and-two.  It was reminiscent of Wells’ decision to try an onside kick when leading 24-21 at Oklahoma State in the third quarter of the 2020 game in Stillwater.

That kick was returned for a TD completely changing the momentum of that game, one that Tech would eventually lose by six points, and McGuire’s fourth-down brain fart did the same on Saturday night.

Gifting a team as good as Oregon a free three points is how you lose a close game.  Of course, losing the turnover battle 4-0 is also a way to lose to a top-15 team.

In the end, though, turnovers happen.  They often come about as a result of plays made by the other team and some credit must go to Oregon for the plays they made, especially on the game-deciding drive.

Coaching decisions aren’t of the same nature.  No one is playing defense on McGuire’s mind and trying to force him into a brain lock.

However, McGuire was as flawed on Saturday as anyone in the stadium was.  He made two horrendous decisions and both came back to bite him in the backside.  When you are trying to upset the No. 13 team in the nation, the man in charge of your program has to be better than McGuire was against the Ducks.