The debate after the mess Saturday will go on for awhile. With a bye week on deck, the Red Raiders and the fans will stew over this game for weeks. How to feel, who to blame, and what does the program do now are all hot topics. For reference, the other writers and I had an argument ourselves about how we all view the situation.
With all of this going on among the fans, I figured I would try to jot down my process for understanding what happened and where we go from here.
First and foremost, I will say anyone out there trying to tell other fans how to handle the loss are all off base with a few limited exceptions. It is okay to be mad, disappointed, done with the season, supportive, etc. All these feelings are valid, this was rough there is no wrong answer for where you are this season. The exceptions are basically just don’t tweet at players, and especially don’t tweet at Coleman or about him in a harsh manner.
Coleman has been the only bright spot of the secondary, and he does not deserve the blame for what happened. It was one bad play, one play does not cost you a game. I shouldn’t have to say that, but apparently it needs to be said. These kids are unpaid athletes for our entertainment, they can be held accountable by their coaches without us fans being assholes about it. Trust me, they are hurting worse than any of the fans.
Now, how bad of a loss actually is this? The short answer is bad, the long answer is it could be complicated. Do I believe Kansas has actually turned the boat around? Not really, that is a bad football team. The reality is they played the two worst secondaries in the conference back-to-back and exploited both. I believe they will get hammered by every remaining team on their schedule. They play zero defense, and besides Pooka Williams no one on their team would play on another conference squad.
But, the caveat to the losses severity is if I am wrong there. If Kansas goes out and beats someone else this loss will lose a significant amount of the sting. At least the sting of losing to Kansas in the greater context of bad losses, losing this game in this way will never really fade. I would love to be wrong here, of all the takes I have ever made if Les Miles has righted that program and goes out and sneaks into a bowl I will be absolutely ecstatic because we won’t have to hear the jokes for an entire off-season.
The bigger question to me is not how bad of a loss this is, but who do we blame for what has been happening? Do we blame Kingsbury for recruiting, do we blame Wells and Co. for their in-game efforts, or is it the players fault for just not executing?
The answer to me is all of the above. Kingsbury was not a lazy recruiter, anyone who believes that is grasping at straws. But Kingsbury consistently made the wrong assistant hires which hurt his recruiting effort severely on top of his losses derailing any momentum. As a result, especially on defense, there is virtually no depth.
The front seven is extremely talented at the starter level, but there is almost no depth behind them. The secondary has Coleman and a bunch of guys who have not shown the ability to compete at this level right now. Frye has regressed mightily further killing depth there. All this means that Patterson has to blitz to cover for the secondary, but the blitzing wears out the starters quickly meaning they get gashed on critical late drives.
Offensively, Kingsbury will get the blame for the quarterback room but it is not remotely his fault. No one could have predicted Duffey to struggle like this after his high school career, but also we are two quarterbacks down. Bowman and Mclovr, the two best quarterbacks, being hurt at the same time has left you with Mr. High School football at the three spot.
Being down two quarterbacks was never going to leave you with a comfortable quarterback room, no coach has really ever recruited more depth than three starter level quarterbacks. Yes, Duffey has struggled to live up to his hype but the depth in the room is not on Kingsbury.
Enough about Kingsbury, how much can we blame Wells and his staff? I believe they deserve a lot of the blame. But again, some of that blame is offset. They haven’t had a recruiting class and they have dealt with some terrible injuries. But I will evaluate coaches how I always do, are they good at what they can control?
Yost falls firmly on the no side of that equation. The offensive line is banged up and he is left with Duffey at quarterback so I won’t weigh the overall offensive production. What I will look at is the baffling decisions he makes basically every game. For instance, forfeiting Oklahoma by starting Tyner for two series, passing on 4th and short at Baylor when the ground game was rolling, formulaic/predictable series in games, and consistently being unable to check into successful plays.
With Duffey at the helm this offense is handicapped (though as I will discuss later Duffey was balling out on Saturday), and the offensive line is not performing at all but Yost continues to make bad decisions. He doesn’t trust his guys clearly, and he continues to lose to defensive coordinators. Those hurry-up and stop checks usually result in defenses realigning themselves to stuffing our plays. And could this offense be any more predictable and boring?
Do I believe Yost should be fired? No, because I know offenses are extremely hard to install and with injuries hampering him we are not getting a good look at his abilities. But facts are facts, in game decision making has been awful.
Patterson is the only coach on staff I believe cannot be blamed much for this team’s woes. I know he is getting heat for risky blitzes, but have you seen our secondary? We absolutely have to blitz. He’s tried sitting back, and Carter Stanley (!) picked us apart. The pressures he called just did not get home, if they do this a completely different article. Patterson will get the defense going once there is some actual talent in the secondary besides Coleman.
Wells, the big cahoona himself, deserves a lot of blame for what is happening because at the end of the day this is his ship to steer. Again, the depth and injuries are things he cannot control. He is not playing with the best hand by any means. But for all the talk of discipline and culture, is anyone seeing that? We consistently do dumb things, and get ill advised penalties. The false starts in particular are a pure discipline/mental issue.
And the in-game management has been horrendous. I won’t fault the decision to kick a field goal deep in Kansas territory, because I actually agree with taking the points. But the clock management at the end of game was a joke. Why were we putting all our money on a block with a minute left and Kansas well within range? Did saving those timeouts until they were worthless give us extra points I don’t know about?
Blowing a massive lead, and several smaller leads, is on the head-man. His job is to manage those leads and get the win. He failed on Saturday. All of this could change with time, but right now Wells is letting the program down. Call it the process if you want, but I am looking at what we have seen so far not what we might see.
The last piece of this puzzle is how the players are executing. I love the guys on this team, and as much as some are struggling the problem is not lack of effort. I want to talk about Duffey’s performance before I get into the negative. Duffey played his ass off Saturday and he did his job. His QBR was solid, and he made big plays down the field for the first time all season. This was probably his best performance of the year, and maybe the best of his career. Props to him for doing all he can to win the game, maybe if he was being asked to do more his efforts might have been enough.
Back to the bad news. Execution is the issue, not effort with this team. Blown coverage, bad decisions, lackluster tackling, and a lack of push in critical situations up front are all examples of the execution just not happening. That boils down to just not making the play, and can’t be explained by coaching issues entirely.
And again, I want to emphasize my criticism of the execution is not meant to attack these kids personally. These guys sell out their bodies for the love of the game and I respect the hell out of how hard they battle. But if we want to be accurate, at some point X’s and O’s are over and it is time to make a play. So far this year, we have come short in that department.
To sum up this rambling analysis, what should happen now? A harsh reality is a coaching staff that is doing their job does not lose this game. You were clearly more talented than Kansas, and you were racing to victory before crumbling. The best you can hope for is this gets chalked up into the staff’s learning curve and we see improvement.
To me, the big three of this staff obviously will not be fired. But someone cashing a check from where I sit, should be fired. The secondary coach is one I would target, and the offensive line coach as well.
That seems like scapegoating but this program is in dire straights. We are racing to the bottom of the conference. While the big guys are not going anywhere till next year, people are making money to lose. A change seems extremely necessary. The degree of change can be as simple as waiting and seeing how Wells develops his identity for some of you, but I think this performance warrants more than that. So if you can’t/shouldn’t fire Wells or his coordinators, Wells has to shake up his staff somehow.
This show is not working. I don’t want to hear about attendance for the rest of the year. You have to put on a decent product for people to watch, especially if you want students to invest. I don’t know if just getting Bowman back is going to be enough to turn the tide and position the program for the future.
Maybe you want the staff to stay intact, and you’re willing to wash this year however it ends up. I respect that, I tend to disagree that more time is going to be the answer but I know why fans on that side feel that way. These are my positions alone, so don’t tweet at anyone but me if you think I am out of line.
Lastly, I will forever support these guys. I am going to watch every game for the rest of the year and root for them wholeheartedly. This is a rebuild and much to my disappointment, and we are further behind then I expected.
But anyone bailing entirely on the program’s future is wrong. You can win in Lubbock, and I truly believe it will happen within the next five years. Do I think Wells is the guy to do it? Maybe not, but I sure as hell hope he can. Keep the faith, process this loss and all it means, and realize we have winnable games left. If you play like this you won’t win them, but the bye week could not have come at a better time. Everyone is going to be waiting to see what the staff can do in a critical stretch for the heart and soul of the program. I have lost a lot of my hope, but I am always gonna be rooting for the best. Wreck Em forever, and thank god we don’t have to worry about the next two big sports like this.