It was a long month in between Texas Tech’s win over Kansas and their win in Fort Worth against TCU on Saturday. The honeymoon was declared over for Kliff Kingsbury, nicknamed “the king” by fans of his alma mater. According to many, he had been outcoached against Kansas State, he needed to bench Mahomes, he didn’t recruit defense, and he hadn’t improved Texas Tech in four years as its head coach.
Fans were so upset by the three game losing streak that the “fire Kingsbury” train left the station mid-season, gained steam with each loss, and didn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. Thankfully for those of us who believe he should remain the head coach, every single “fire Kingsbury” narrative died last week.
“Texas Tech can’t beat anyone in the Big 12 except Kansas and Iowa State.”
Kingsbury’s record against Power 5 teams not named Kansas or Iowa State is definitely not stellar. As soon as the Red Raiders fell to Kansas State in Manhattan, doubters were quick to bring this up, and said Tech would finish 4-8 this year with only wins over Kansas and Iowa State in Big 12 play. TCU is not the same team they were in 2014 and 2015. Still, they’re pretty good. Beating them on the road in ugly fashion (which we’ll get to later) is impressive considering where Tech has been recently as a program.
“The defense hasn’t improved in four years.”
First, the “four years” figure is irrelevant since the current defensive staff is only 1.5 years into its tenure. Going into Saturday’s contest, Texas Tech’s defense (not counting pick sixes and special teams scores) was surrendering 622.5 yards and 51.5 points per game to Power 5 competition this season. I excluded Kansas in this figure, just to play by the same rules as Kingsbury’s doubters, who don’t believe a game against Kansas means anything.
Against TCU, Texas Tech surrendered 17 points and 393 yards in regulation. Seven of those points were an absolute gift after a botched punt that gave TCU a first down in the red zone. Seven more points and 99 yards of that was on TCU’s first drive of the game. From the 4:40 mark in the 1st quarter until the end of regulation, except for the aforementioned result of the botched punt, Texas Tech gave up less than 300 yards and surrendered just 3 points.
TCU ranks 24th in the FBS for total yards and 35th in scoring offense, for some additional context.
That’s progress. That’s improvement. Yes, it needs to be sustained to mean anything. But the idea that the time between David Gibbs’ first game as defensive coordinator - in which the Tech defense surrendered 300+ yards rushing and 300+ yards passing to Sam Houston State - and his last game as defensive coordinator has yielded “no improvement” is absurd.
“Kingsbury is stubborn and refuses to change his game plan when it isn’t working.”
The Lubbock AJ’s Nicholas Talbot summed up this narrative very well on Saturday:
“After a 48-17 loss to West Virginia two weeks ago, Kingsbury was defiant. He wasn’t going to change philosophies.
The Air Raid offense was his baby, his way of life. And so it was also Texas Tech’s and it wasn’t going to change.
Fast forward two weeks and Kingsbury and the Red Raiders did what they had to do to survive — to win.”
Surely Kingsbury’s plan going into the game was not to give the ball to true freshman running back Da’Leon Ward 31 times. Many fans like to point out that when Kingsbury is down at halftime, he doesn’t win (which, by the way, is usually how it works). He went into halftime tied, changed the offensive game plan, and emerged victorious.
Say what you will about Texas Tech’s response to adversity in the past. They dealt with it – injury, questionable officiating, starters being left in Lubbock, special teams struggles, playing from behind in the 4th quarter and overtime, etc. – well enough to win on Saturday.
“Kingsbury doesn’t recruit defensive players, he only cares about offense.”
This one is my favorite from a timing standpoint. The day before the TCU game, Texas Tech landed a 3-star linebacker. Just one recruit, sure, but still ironic.
On Saturday, almost every single defensive player who stood out to me was either a freshman, sophomore, or first year transfer. Jordyn Brooks, Breiden Fehoko, Ondre Pipkins, Kolin Hill, Kevin Moore, and Douglas Coleman have all been in the program for less than two full years, and all exemplified what was going well for the defense Saturday.
For a coaching staff that refuses to recruit defense, there sure looked to be a lot of young and inexperienced impact players on that side of the ball helping the Red Raiders to a win on Saturday. Can you imagine if Texas Tech gets three or four straight recruiting classes of players who can make a similar impact? That’s a lot less likely to happen if everyone were to be fired.
“Kingsbury can’t coach a disciplined team.”
One penalty for five yards on Saturday speaks for itself. It can be done and needs to continue. In a game like Saturday’s with such a razor-thin margin of error, the lack of penalties was essential for the victory.
“Kingsbury can’t compete with experienced coaches like Bill Snyder, Dana Holgorsen, and Bob Stoops.”
Check out Gary Patterson’s credentials when you get the chance. According to Kingsbury, Patterson brought the best defensive scheme he’d ever seen on Saturday, and Kingsbury found a way to win anyway. He was not out-coached, not even by the likes of the more experienced Gary Patterson.
Now, one performance does not a turnaround make. But the old proverb says “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The Red Raiders took quite the leap on Saturday. Before you can consistently do something, you have to do it once.
“I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, ‘Come and see.’ And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Revelation 6:1-2
Coach Kingsbury mentioned the noise, which probably felt as loud as thunder among the calls for his job, surrounding his defense in a postgame interview, and how proud he was with how they responded. In their fourth victory of the season, Texas Tech answered the calls for improvement from their fans; “’Come and see.’ And I saw.” It was a rare defensive performance – a white horse, if you will – one that provided the blueprint for a path forward. The honeymoon might be over, but the king regained his crown on Saturday. He deserves to go forth and conquer with the support of the Texas Tech fan base.