Texas Tech football fans may have moved on from Saturday’s 16-13 victory over No. 16 Kansas in Lawrence. However, the dramatic win could be one of the turning points in Joey McGuire’s tenure as head coach.
Picking up a rare Big 12 road win over a ranked team, only the program’s fourth since 2009, the Red Raiders moved only one win away from bowl eligibility. While that might seem like a rather low bar to clear given the massive expectations this program had entering the season, a third-straight bowl game appearance would be the first time Tech has managed such a feat in 14 years.
Also, it appears that Tech is on the verge of having another strong November. After beating TCU to open the month, McGuire’s team is 2-0 in November after going 3-1 in the regular season’s final month a year ago.
Many people believe that November success is a reflection of the head coach’s ability to get the most out of his team as injuries mount, games take on greater significance, and the season hangs in the balance. That’s why it’s encouraging to see Tech once again playing good football down the stretch.
On Monday, McGuire was named one of the top-performing coaches in the nation in week 11 by ESPN College Football analyst Kirk Herbstreit. Along with several other coaches who picked up big wins this weekend, Hebrstreit honored McGuire for his nearly flawless game against Kansas and that was a well-deserved honor for the Red Raider boss.
To say that McGuire coached his best game of the year on Saturday isn’t a stretch. First of all, he guided Tech to a win over a winning team for the first time this season.
Second, he and his coaching staff managed to cobble together enough offense to win the game despite the limitations of QB Behren Morton, who struggled for most of the day to throw the ball down the field with any authority given the sprained right shoulder he continues to play through.
Finally, McGuire was essentially flawless over the course of the game. That’s because he went against his usual tendencies and coached a rather conservative game.
Knowing that Kansas was also limited offensively with their starting QB, Jason Bean, out of the game with an injury, McGuire denied his analytical tendencies and gambled on only two fourth-down opportunities, both of which were successful.
Instead, he leaned more heavily on his kicking game and he was rewarded. Gino Garcia nailed three of his four field-goal tries while punter Austin McNamara averaged 46.4 yards per punt and downed two balls inside the 20.
With all that said, though, McGuire’s greatest moment from Saturday’s win was a strategic timeout he called at a rather unusual time. In fact, that move was the best in-game decision McGuire has made in his nearly two seasons as a Red Raider.
Late in the 4th quarter, Kansas faced a 2nd-and-goal at the Tech 7 needing just a FG to tie the game and hoping for a TD to take the lead. After the Jayhawks ran the ball for four yards, McGuire made the call to stop the clock with a time-out.
That decision was not what most coaches in his position would have made. Most would have let the clock run to try to put Kansas in a time crunch or make the Jayhawks use up their remaining timeouts.
However, McGuire was already thinking about the next drive and he wanted to preserve time for his team to answer. It wasn’t the type of call that is going to revolutionize the way football is coached but it was an outside-the-box move that helped turn the game.
After an incomplete pass on third down and a KU field goal to tie the game at 13, Tech would get the ball back with 26 seconds to play and a pair of timeouts to use. That was just enough time for Morton to move the offense into field-goal range leading to Garcia’s game-winning kick.
For much of the year, McGuire has been heavily criticized for his in-game moves. His propensity for making questionable 4th-down decisions has cost his team points in multiple close games.
Through it all, he’s been unapologetic, though as he’s held steadfast to his belief in what the analytics dictate. That’s opened him up to plenty of criticism, and rightly so.
However, if we are going to bash him for his failed 4th-down gambles, we must also praise him for his brilliant time out against Kansas. Going against the conventional grain, he saved his team an opportunity to win the game before overtime and it resulted in a win that few believed Tech could get.
McGuire is far from a perfect in-game coach. In fact, many have theorized that the first-time college head coach is still learning how to manage games at this level of the sport.
On Saturday, though, he proved to be capable of being a crafty and shrewd game manager. That’s why he was recognized by Herbstreit and why he deserved heaps of praise for the way he managed the end of a game that his team had to win if it wanted to have any realistic hopes of reaching the postseason.