This was the season that almost wasn’t. The scheduling was a mess, and the constant changes to the depth chart were tough to process. Despite everything COVID threw at this season, somehow it was mostly able to trudge along. For Tech, this season was full of ups and downs (mostly downs) but it was played all the way through.
This part one of a four part series this offseason reviewing the season and looking ahead to what comes next. Hopefully by the time I get to the end of this series we will have the entire coaching situation settled.
Setting the stage
Tech entered year two under Wells with low expectations. Matt Wells, being unpopular from the start, was not getting any benefit of the doubt after a rough first year. The pandemic looming, no one was expecting miracles in year two.
The sea of discontent was brewing, would Wells be able to guide the ship safely?
Game one: HBU
- Game grade: 1/10, sucked worse than a root canal
Holy mother of nature did this first view of the season suck. Baile Zappe was the quarterback for the Huskies, and he absolutely murdered the Red Raider defense. 567 yards and 4 touchdowns is not a stat-line a FCS quarterback should put up against a Power 5 program. Keith Patterson refused to use more than a 3-man pressure scheme, and Zappe picked apart a secondary that allowed receivers to run free all game. Truthfully, if it was not for the mistakes of the HBU coaching staff in a few critical situations they would have upset the Red Raiders.
This was an embarrassment, that saw Alan Bowman forced either to throw screens or overthrow wide open receivers deep. The offense looked pedestrian, the coaching even worse, and the fan base was left with a stink that lasted the entire season.
It cannot be understated how bad of a start this was to the season. Already, the fan base was starting to turn on Wells. After HBU, their worst fears had been confirmed. But there would be a bye week to prepare for Texas, and Wells being tone deaf about how bad this “win” aside the Red Raiders were 1-0.
Game two: Texas
- Game Grade: 7/10, this game hurt worse than your first relationship ending in flames
Texas looked like they were in control of this game early. But Tech kept fighting to hang around, as the offense managed to keep up despite going three-and-out far too often. Patterson dialed up a blitzes package that rattled Ehlinger and with just a few minutes to go Tech was one first down away from seemingly sealing the victory. When Thompson broke through for the long scored, everyone called game. But, disaster quickly followed.
In a series of coaching decisions only described as idiotic the team imploded. First, a sky kick went nowhere and allowed Texas a short field. Then, Keith Patterson abandoned his defense that had contained Ehlinger and went full prevent. The result was predictable and infuriating, a Texas touchdown. Despite having a bye week to prep, the team somehow decided a defensive back should be on the hands team. We all know the saying about defensive backs not being able to catch, and once again predictably, this decision was spectacularly awful as Texas would recover the onside kick.
Texas would force overtime and close out the game, and all the momentum that was so close to being in Tech’s grasp was gone. Matt Wells would still be left searching for a signature win, and his coaching style would be hammered even harder. The season was starting to look like a blackhole, and next came Kansas State.
Game three: Kansas State
- Game Grade: 3/10, the Deuce was loose in the Little Apple
Following the demoralizing battle with Texas, the Red Raiders tried to regroup. Road wins under Wells had not exactly been plentiful, and Kansas State looked fully recovered from their early failure against Arkansas State.
Early on, it was all Kansas State. Both starting quarterbacks would be knocked out of this game and KSU would take a 14 point lead heading into halftime. This is where the story of the season got interesting, as Henry Colombi appears on the scene. His first half was brutal, but the second half was a different story. Colombi would march the offense down the field far smoother than Bowman had managed all year, and he avoided costly three-and-outs. However, spotting Kansas State 14 points proved to be fatal and the Red Raiders would fall 31-21.
The quarterback controversy was born, and it would have far ranging and damaging implications for the rest of the season. David Yost would completely mismanage this situation, and leave little doubt he was not the guy to run this offense.
The season was off to a brutal start. After embarrassing themselves against HBU and Texas, the defense looked like they were in total disarray. The offense continued the trend of poor play calling and stupid decisions, and now a quarterback controversy would be dropped like a bomb onto the squad.
Wells, who came into the season touting new transfers and a renewed focus on discipline, continued to look completely out of his depth at building a team and managing a game.
Iowa State was next, in a game that would shake the program for the rest of the year.