When a top player makes a mistake...
In case you didn't get to watch the fourth quarter of last night's Texas Tech-TCU game, here was the situation. With under five minutes remaining in a 10-10 game, Texas Tech backup quarterback Davis Webb threw a swing pass to running back DeAndre Washington, who galloped down the sideline for what was originally ruled a 48-yard touchdown. Only, video review showed, Washington inadvertently dropped the ball at the one-yard line. Six points were taken off the board and, coupled with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct flag on the Texas Tech bench, the Red Raiders were pushed back to the 16-yard line.
It was a boneheaded play that could have cost his team a win. Everyone watching the game knew it, most of all Washington himself. And here's where Kliff Kingsbury showed exactly why players enjoy playing for him so much. Knowing that Washington knew he screwed up, Kingsbury stayed composed and lifted Washington up.
As ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder noted, Kingsbury walked over and told Washington, "Hey, you've got to score again. You dropped it early."
That's it. No berating, no overkill and no vengeful benching. He knew there would be plenty of time to coach Washington up at practice and provide a valuable teaching moment for the rest of the team, but not in that moment. With five minutes to play you need everyone focused on the next play and working towards a win. There's no point in embarrassing a kid for something he already knows he did wrong, and there's no reason to call further attention to something the other 120-plus guys are already thinking about. None of that will help Tech beat TCU. Kingsbury knew he'd need Washington to perform the rest of the game at his best and crushing his confidence would have him thinking too much. Kingsbury needs guys playing on instinct and how they have been taught, not worrying about if they are going to make a mistake. So he moved on to the next play. Most importantly, so did the rest of the team.
Washington rushed for five yards on the very next play, then for two more on second down. Webb hit Bradley Marquez for a beautiful 19-yard touchdown pass on third down to put Texas Tech up for good. The Red Raiders won, 20-10.
More than 12 hours after the incident, we know two things. First, Washington will never make that mistake again. And second, there's much more to Kliff Kingsbury's coaching ability than being a creative play-caller.