Kliff Kingsbury’s not the same as a lot of coaches who claim to ignore the work of the media and stay oblivious to what’s said and written about their teams.
The Texas Tech coach is willing to work any angle to give his team an edge, including dumping fuel on their fire from outside sources. After the Red Raiders beat West Virginia 37-27 Saturday, Kingsbury acknowledged noticing that ESPN Game Day analyst Kirk Herbstreit “and a couple of others” had picked the Red Raiders to lose that morning.
Kingsbury added his players are “very aware” of their skeptics, dating to when they were picked seventh in the Big 12 preseason media poll in July. That’s helping them to enjoy their 7-0 start and top-10 national ranking even more.
“He tells us every day how many times people are doubting us, that we have something to prove every single day in walk-throughs and meetings,” tight end Jace Amaro said Monday. “And it just helps everyone focus a little more, and it makes us a little more mad and angry that people picked us 10th, ninth, eighth in the Big 12 and right now we’re sitting at number one. That’s where we want to be and where we plan on staying.”
Hey, go with what works.
“It was very similar to the situation we had last year at Texas A&M with where they picked us,” Kingsbury said. “You know you have a good team and you have to have good things happen. But when you can continue to prove people wrong, it’s great for a team’s psyche.”
In the summer of 2012, with soon-to-be hotshot quarterback Johnny Manziel still mostly unknown, the Aggies were picked to finish fifth of seven teams in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. Eight of the SEC’s 14 teams received at least one first-place vote, but A&M didn’t get one from any in the panel of 222 voters.
Although the Aggies didn’t win the league or their division, they contended and finished 11-2.
Kingsbury was that team’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Early in his career, Kingsbury’s getting a reputation for connecting with his players — seniors such as Eric Ward and Kerry Hyder have referred to him recently as “Kliff” in interviews — and getting them to play hard for him.
Hyder said the smaller-than-usual age gap between Kingsbury and his team “makes him almost like another player on our team.”
“He’s a great leader for us,” Hyder said. “He brings a lot of fire to our team and a lot of energy. It helps that we know he’s been here just a (few) years ago. He knows how hard it is out here, the hard practices and stuff like that, and he really takes care of us.”
So when Kingsbury plays the football-world’s-against-us card, the Red Raiders are all ears.
Asked his favorite motivational tool that Kingsbury employs, Amaro said, “I think when he talks about game-day predictions and stuff and he tells us before the game how many people are telling us we’re not going to win this game. I think the past three weeks, they had us on upset alert. It just really helps us pull through on those times we’re struggling through the game.”
Amaro doesn’t get the impression that Kingsbury’s acting to achieve the desired effect.
“I know he takes it personally,” the Raiders’ leading receiver said. “You can see it in his eyes. He gets mad like he’s actually a player with us, and he just brings a lot of fire and energy to our team. I know it means a lot to him, just like it means a lot to all of us.”
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