Program turnarounds have to start somewhere.
For Texas Tech and second-year coach Matt Wells, Saturday’s 23-21 win over Baylor and the storybook way it occurred and the momentum it might generate could be that springboard.
The ingredients certainly are there if Wells, his staff and players are to change the trajectory and the narrative around Tech.
Or it could be just a nice win that makes a bye week feel that much better ahead of a Nov. 28 trip to Oklahoma State. The win over West Virginia was a welcome surprise and immediately was followed by losses to Oklahoma and TCU.
“I’ll say this — it’s the biggest win of the year,” Wells said in his post-game Zoom call. “I know that. We needed it, our players needed it, our coaches needed it.”
Things had not gone according to plan at Tech (3-5, 2-5 Big 12), even by the world-upside-down standards of 2020.
Coming off a 4-8 finish in Wells’ debut, Tech had hopes for improvement. Quarterback Alan Bowman, who was injured three games into the 2019 season, was healthy. The receiver corps was deep, and Wells had filled gaps with what seemed to be some intriguing transfers, something he had used successfully at Utah State.
Tech sputtered pretty much from the start. There was a narrow escape against Houston Baptist and a blown 15-point lead to Texas in the final 3:13 that led to a 63-56 loss. After being ineffective against Iowa State, Bowman was replaced by Utah State transfer Henry Colombi.
Fan patience might have been stretched to the limit when Wells opted for a field goal on second down trailing TCU by nine with three minutes to go under the assumption that Tech would need two scores anyway. It was a defensible decision except Trey Wolff missed a 37-yard attempt.
Yes, the message board response was predictable.
So the Baylor game was more than welcome, especially given how it unfolded:
Bowman led a game-winning drive late with Colombi sidelined with an elbow injury. While Bowman had a pick-six in the first half, he looked more like his old self on the final drive, going 5 of 7 for 58 yards.
Asked about his starting quarterback status, Wells said the situation would be talked about by the staff early this week then noted the remaining part of the schedule. “Probably going to need both of those quarterbacks,” Wells said.
But certainly Bowman is back in the picture.
Colin Schooner, one of Tech’s high-profile transfers, was a standout linebacker at Arizona. He probably had his best game at Tech with 11 tackles, including a massive but legal hit on quarterback Charlie Brewer to deny Baylor a touchdown and force a field goal.
“It fired me up,” Well said. “It fired the crowd up. I think it fired the whole team up.”
Newly promoted kicker Jonathan Garibay delivered the game-winning 25-yard field goal, his fourth of the game. He also punted five times for a 49.5-yard average.
Not bad for the first time out.
After the game, Wells said the result didn’t increase the buy-in, and that the players’ effort showed they were committed.
“I would say what it does is it reinforces the trust in the processes and our coaches and the schemes that we’re doing,” Wells said. “But it also reinforces our trust in each other.”
Here are three takeaways/lookaheads from the past week in college football:
— Will No. 5 Texas A&M be able to play at home against Mississippi? The SEC postponed the game with Tennessee because of COVID-19 positive tests and contact tracing at A&M. Because of mandatory quarantine, will A&M have enough players and practice time for this week’s game? We should know fairly early in the week.
— The Big 12 race may get a lot clearer after the weekend with four contenders squaring off. Oklahoma State travels to Oklahoma and K-State goes to Iowa State.
— With the Texas defense showing improvement, will a week off help the offense at Kansas? Playing hurt, quarterback Sam Ehlinger has completed 54.8% of his passes in the last four games.
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