Sallisaw native Matt Wells, named head coach at Texas Tech

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Sallisaw native Matt Wells was hired by Texas Tech as its new football coach last Thursday night after he was part of an impressive turnaround at Utah State, his alma mater.

The 1992 Sallisaw High alum, was an all-State selection in 1991 during his junior year with the Black Diamonds.

Wells had a 44-34 record in six seasons as coach of the Aggies, who are 10-2 this year and headed to their fifth bowl in that span. He was an assistant at Utah State the previous two years, going to bowls both times, including a school-record 11 wins in 2012 when he was offensive coordinator.

"Quickly in the interview process, it became clear Matt Wells and his leadership style were a perfect fit to lead our football program," athletic director Kirby Hocutt said. "We have a great future in store under Coach Wells, and I firmly believe he is the right coach to take us to an elite level."

Wells, 45, replaces Kliff Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech quarterback who was fired after his third consecutive losing season and a 35-40 overall record in six seasons as head coach.

The Red Raiders were 5-7 this year, losing their finale 35-24 to Baylor last Saturday with a chance to become bowl eligible.

"My family and I are excited to join the Red Raider family," Wells said. "I am excited to meet the team and get to work on building an elite program that Red Raider fans will enjoy every Saturday."

Texas Tech said Wells is bringing offensive coordinator David Yost and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson with him from Utah State.

Virgil Terry, who was Wells' offensive coordinator at Sallisaw, could not be happier for him.

“Yes he is a very successful football coach but it is my firm belief that whatever he decided to do he was going to be really good at it,” Terry said. “As a quarterback in high school we were getting ready for a game against Okmulgee which was a big district game back in the day and I gave Matt maybe half a dozen plays. I think he ran four or five plays in a game we won 15-14. If we had 50 snaps he called probably 45 plays at the line of scrimmage.”

Back in the early 1990s high school quarterbacks weren't typically given that kind of freedom to call plays and make audibles at the line of scrimmage they are today.

“He was like having a coach on the field,” Terry said. “As far as reading things option-wise or pass-wise he made the right decision.”

Terry still communicates often with Wells and says he's now a Red Raiders fan now with Wells taking over Texas Tech.

“I've never been to Lubbock so now's a good time to go,” Terry said. “When you go see Matt's team play he takes real good care of you. I'm extremely happy for him, he's a great family guy and I'm sure it was decision he wouldn't have made if it wasn't OK with his mom and the kids.”

Wells' mom Suzi still lives in Sallisaw.

For Texas Tech fans used to big-scoring offenses, the Aggies this season are third nationally with 47.2 points a game to trail only Oklahoma and Alabama. They have an NCAA-best 24 scoring drives of less than a minute.

Utah State also is solid on defense, allowing only 23 points a game. The Aggies have allowed at least 30 points only three times, including their losses to then-No. 11 Michigan State in the season opener and 33-24 at then-No. 21 Boise State last week in a game for a spot in the Mountain West Conference championship game. That ended the Aggies' 10-game winning streak.

The Aggies have an NCAA-best 18 interceptions, six of them returned for touchdowns. They have also recovered 10 fumbles, and their plus-11 turnover margin is among the best in the country.

Current Sallisaw football coach Randon Lowe, who just wrapped up his first-year as head coach goes way back with Wells and his younger brother Luke.

Lowe feels Matt made the best decision for himself and his family.

“Utah State is a Group of 5 job, Texas Tech is a Power 5 job,” Lowe said. “Anytime you can better your position and it's position that's better for you and your family. At Texas Tech he's going to make more money playing in a Power 5 Conference and be closer to home. He can be at his mom's house in six hours. It's just a better job in the Big 12.”

Last week, Wells was voted Mountain West Conference coach of the year for the second time.

Wells has been a player (1993) or coach (2012-14) for all four of Utah State's bowl wins. He was a Utah State quarterback from 1993-96.

His coaching career started at Navy from 1997-01, before he went to Tulsa (2002-06), New Mexico (2007-08, 2010) and Louisville (2009). He joined former head coach Gary Andersen's staff at Utah State in 2011.

The Assoicated Press contributed to this story.

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