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For Kliff Kingsbury, fortune still favors the bold

Texas Tech fans will cringe when they read this next line.

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Fortune still favors the bold, and always has.

 
Those of you already ripping this article may think this is a defense of Kliff Kingsbury. It’s not. Kliff is no longer bold. He’s done a complete 180 since his first season as head coach of Texas Tech. The perfect example of this came with 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of a 42-35 overtime loss to Kansas State.

Texas Tech could’ve attempted a drive down the field and at least given themselves a shot to win. Instead, Kingsbury decided to have his team take a knee and go to overtime. With such a high-powered offense, there is no telling what would have happened. Yes, there is always that chance of a bad snap or a pick-six. There’s an even better chance that Tech finds an open receiver against a prevent defense and the Red Raiders score a touchdown. Instead, Kingsbury assumed Tech would have to place the game on the shoulders of one of the kickers he’s completely lost faith in.

“Yeah, you know, 42 seconds left and only one timeout and really weren’t feeling confident in our kicking game at all,” Kingsbury told the media after the game. “After talking to our special teams coach and where we were at going that way, we didn’t feel like even an attempt. There was more negative that could have happened.”

 
Tech never scored in overtime. Kansas State scored on its fourth play. This is not the Kliff Kingsbury Tech hired in December 2012. After Tech pulled off an upset victory against West Virginia in Morgantown with a true freshman at quarterback, Kingsbury gave the media his most famous line as a head coach.

“We talk about it all the time. Fortune favors the bold. We’re not going to leave it up to anyone else.”

At that time, Tech was 7-0 and redshirt sophomore quarterback Michael Brewer had not taken a snap. Instead, the 7-0 start came with two quarterbacks you may have heard the names of. One is current NFL quarterback Davis Webb, who is patiently waiting his turn behind two-time Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning. The other, who was a walk-on at Texas Tech, is 2016 Heisman finalist Baker Mayfield.

Additionally, Kingsbury recruited as a bold man. He didn’t settle for the two-stars and three-stars the beloved Mike Leach did. He had the top two dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation clamoring to play for him. Jarrett Stidham and Kyler Murray both loved Kingsbury during the fall of 2013. After Stidham committed, Murray decided to go elsewhere instead of competing. Despite not going to Tech, Kingsbury still made an impact on Murray’s decision according to this excerpt from Corbett Smith of The Dallas Morning News.

“I’m not going to lie,” Murray said. “There was a one point where I went down and I came back – and I was sold. Me and Kliff … that’s my dude. We’re real tight. Like I said, I called him and asked him for his option on this. It was just whether or not I could get the dudes to come down with me. I was really enticed, intrigued by Texas Tech.”

 
Of course, Murray is now sitting out a year with the Oklahoma Sooners after transferring from Texas A&M. It goes to show you that highly-touted recruits wanted to play for Kingsbury. Some of the other big names who Kingsbury had committed include Kansas State’s Carlos Strickland and TCU’s Jalen Reagor. He scored five-star defensive end Breiden Fehoko out of Hawaii. Five-star recruit Mike Mitchell transferred from Ohio State to play linebacker for the Red Raiders. Current Texas Tech offensive lineman Jack Anderson was ranked No.42 on the ESPN 300 list. Of course, no one will ever forget Patrick Mahomes, who many thought would be starting over Alex Smith right now as quarterback of the Kansas City Chiefs. Mahomes probably would’ve won a Heisman Trophy at a bigger program. Instead, he chose Texas Tech with the belief that he could win it all in West Texas.

Kingsbury wanted the best recruits in the nation, and he scored some of the biggest names in Texas Tech history. He was bold. Kingsbury knew he appealed to the youngsters, and therefore went after recruits many felt were out of Tech’s league.

He also learned from one of the most optimistic figures in all of sports: Washington State head coach Mike Leach. When Kingsbury signed to play at Texas Tech, he played for an old-school, charming football coach named Spike Dykes. In 2000, Leach came in and pulled a 180 on the offense. Tech went from being a hard-nosed, pound the rock team who was known for its defense to becoming what is now known as Wide Receiver U. The Air Raid was implemented, and Kingsbury was who Leach inherited to operate his pass-heavy system. Leach was soon given the name, “The Mad Scientist” by ABC broadcaster Brent Musberger. In his book Swing Your Sword, Leach mentions that he would attempt to convert on 4th down approximately 40 times a year as offensive coordinator at Kentucky. The next sentence mentions that his team would convert or score a touchdown 2-3 times more often than fail. Leach is as bold as they come. It’s not just in his press conferences, but also in his play calling. He revolutionized college football with his style of the spread offense. This excerpt from the book explains why Leach is bold on 4th down attempts.

 
“The aggressive attitude you’re stoking within your players is key, especially if you’re coaching at a program where most of the recruits have repeatedly heard how they’re not as talented as their opponents. When we’re going for it, we’re making a statement: You have to stop us.”

As of November 5th, 76 teams at the FBS level have converted at least 50 percent of their 4th down attempts. Out of those, 66 teams have attempted at least one 4th down conversion per game played. Syracuse has attempted more 4th down conversions than anyone with 28. They’ve attempted more than three conversions per game, and have been successful 60.7 percent of the time with 17 total conversions. This is the same team that upset defending National Champion Clemson. During that game, Syracuse converted both of its 4th down attempts.

Meantime, out of 129 teams, Texas Tech is currently No.9 in total offense and No.17 in scoring offense. This is a team that averages over 500 yards per game. In the first half, Tech scored on a 75-yard, 1-play drive in 10 seconds.

Yet, Kingsbury was so worried about missing a field goal, he played it conservatively and took a knee. Kingsbury has lost his boldness. He’s lost his swagger. If he doesn’t gain it back this week, he’ll also lose to a 1-8 Baylor squad. A loss to Baylor likely prevents Tech from going to a bowl, and thus Kingsbury also loses his job.

If Texas Tech is going to a bowl game, they need to be fortunate. They must believe in themselves. It all starts with the man at top: Kliff Kingsbury. And he, himself, is the one that knows, fortune favors the bold.

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