Cal Hands Texas First Loss of Season in 50-43 Shootout

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There was a lot of waiting for Texas fans last night. Waiting for the Texas A&M vs. Auburn game to end so ESPN would flip over to the main event. Waiting to see if Shane Buechele’s first-quarter injury was serious or not. And eventually, waiting for sleep to finally come so a new day could wash away the sting of scoring 43 and still losing.

The story of last night’s (this morning’s?) loss to Cal will concern Texas Coach Charlie Strong’s decision to punt on 4th and long deep in Longhorn territory with under two minutes to play and down a touchdown. But for viewers who made it to 2 a.m. CST—or really anyone who checks out the box score—it’s immediately apparent that the third-year coach never should have been in that position.

Throughout the night, the Longhorn defense was torched by a duo of Golden Bears, on the ground by Vic Enware (18-110-2 TDs) and through the air by new Texas villain Chad Hansen (12-196-2 TDs-half a dozen horns down signs).

Of the seemingly always-open Hansen, senior Texas cornerback Sheroid Evans said, “We knew he was the go-to-guy and we prepared for him but we just didn’t execute as a secondary.”

Enware’s stats were bolstered by a late 54-yard run, one in which he dropped the ball just before crossing the goal line, a recent trend among young football players that continues to bewilder this old writer. But instead of awarding the ball to Texas at its own 1-yard-line, officials determined that Dylan Haines didn’t make “immediate recovery” (whatever that means) and gave it back to the Golden Bears. Cal quarterback Davis Webb—made to look like the second coming of Aaron Rodgers with a stat line of 26-40-296-4 TDs-0 INT—took a knee, and like that, the fairytale beginning to Texas’ season took a turn.

“Number one, the ball shouldn’t have gotten down there,” Strong said after the game. “We had too many opportunities before that play.”

Simply put, Texas’ defense, considered to be a tough, deep unit, didn’t perform as advertised. Even worse, Notre Dame, who put up 47 on Texas in the season opener, scored just seven first-half points in a loss to Michigan State earlier on Saturday. Defensive Coordinator Vance Bedford will have to go back to the drawing board to get his young defense on track before Big 12 Conference play begins on October 1. Too many times communication mixups and busted coverages led to wide open Cal receivers for big gains and touchdowns.

“[There was] the one that [Cal] threw in the corner against us, the corner route against our defensive backs,” Strong said. “You have to challenge guys and you can’t be afraid to walk up on them.”

There were some bright spots, however, because whenever your offense can score five touchdowns on the road, you’re doing something right. Chris Warren III and D’Onta Foreman are a dynamic combination of running backs, perfectly complementing each other as Texas’ new “smash ‘n dash.” Both backs went well over 100 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns apiece. Eight Texas receivers had a reception, with once-forgotten senior Jacorey Warrick again coming up big, scoring the lone touchdown among the wideouts.

One concern is for the health of Shane Buechele. The freshman quarterback took a pounding early, and headed to the locker room with a chest injury midway through the first quarter. He returned, and showed flashes of brilliance once again, including dropping a perfect dime in to Warrick, but after coming back from the locker room, couldn’t seem to get into the rhythm and poise that had previously earned him consecutive Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards.

The good news? That was Buechele’s first-ever road game as a college quarterback, and there’s a ton of room to grow for the freshman from Arlington. In the meantime, the Longhorns might look to the Man in Black for some inspirational quotes as they prepare for Oklahoma State in Stillwater on the first of the month.

“Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it,” Johnny Cash once said in an interview. “If you analyze it as you’re moving forward, you’ll never fall in the same trap twice.”

And now, Texas fans will wait again, a full two-weeks off to think about what could have been and what shall be.

Image via Texas Athletics.

 

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