Much was made in the days leading up to the game about how Cal and Texas were almost mirror images of each other.
Those comparisons proved to be prophetic during the 1st half where the two teams appeared to be taking turns trying to one-up the other with giving the game away.
After Cal started strong by stuffing the Texas offense, they appeared to make a horrible mistake when Marvin Jones attempted to field a bouncing punt which was subsequently recovered by the Longhorns.
But for some strange reason, the refs were asleep at the wheel and ruled that Texas had illegally touched the ball prior to the scrum. Cal ball...really?
The Bears then rode a mix of runs and Maynard's clutch passing down the field. Their drive stalled in the red zone, however, when a well-thrown slant route was deflected by Texas frosh-phenom Quandre Diggs.
Despite an illegal formation that negated a made kick and moved it back to 47 yards, Giorgio Tavecchio was unfazed and gave the Bears a 3-0 lead.
And that's when the game got more than a little sloppy. A Maynard interception on an ill-advised 3rd and long pass gave Texas all the momentum it needed to go 3 and out in style. Then, a fumbled exchange on the zone-read between CJ Anderson and Zach Maynard was turned into a missed 37-yard field goal by their 80+% kicker.
The next Cal drive was killed by a low snap that created 3rd and forever. Then, Texas executed a brilliant fake punt conversion on 4th down...only to have the play called back due to illegal formation.
"A beautiful game" this wasn't. With seven minutes and change to go, it was still just a 3-0 Cal advantage. Bear fans everywhere were holding their breath. Surely Texas wouldn't continue to struggle? And they didn't. Although the Bear defenders continued to shut down the run, Texas dialed up back-to-back mis-direction plays. First, it was a play-action lob to their wide-open TE to get them in business at the goal line. Then, a throw-back pass to their QB from Shipley resulted in a walk-in touchdown. Just like that, it was 7-3 Texas.
How would the Bears respond? Could Tedford, Maynard, and company find an answer to the Longhorn's speed on defense? Unfortunately, a tough run back by Mike Manuel to the 42 yard line was wasted with a 3 and out.
Texas squandered another opportunity of its own by negating a 3rd down conversion on a quarterback keeper with a holding call.
With three minutes to play late in the 1st half, the Cal offense went back to work. And promptly moved backwards with a false start. But a 10 yard run by Isi Sofele followed by a PI call drawn by Keenan Allen gave the Bears a little momentum. Unfortunately, poor clock management and another botched snap doomed this drive to triage and sent the teams stumbling into the locker room, 7-3 Texas.
Wrap your head around this stat: At half, both teams had combined for 10 total rushing yards on 29 carries. With penalties, turnovers, botched snaps, and overall sloppiness setting the bar lower than low, the 2nd half had to be better...right?
The Bears received the opening kickoff and promptly put themselves in long yardage with a hold on 1st down. But then Maynard dialed up his inner Honey Badger and converted fourc consecutive third down completions to Keenan Allen. A well-timed sweep play with great blocking out front allowed Sofele to finally outflank the stout Texas run D and he managed to dive his way for the go-ahead score. 10-7, Bears!
Texas struck back quickly, however, gashing the Bears with several effective runs before dialing up the play-action deep ball to their speedster Goodwin. What had previously looked to be defensive trench warfare was now a barn-burner at 14-10, Longhorns.
Cal looked to counter-punch, using consecutive passes to Jones to move steadily down the field. But then a Sofele run turned disastrous as Isi had the ball stripped in the backfield and the ensuing recovery went to Texas.
Once again, the Bear defense stepped up and salvaged momentum with consecutive three and outs, including driving the Longhorns back to their own goal line with a near-safety sack by Trevor Guyton.
After a great return by Jones, it looked like Cal was in business with the ball on the Texas 32. But a personal foul on Anthony Miller knocked the Bears out of field goal range and set up a backside blitz on 3rd and 27 that resulted in another Maynard fumble.
This time, Texas used the turnover to good advantage using an end-around by Goodwin to run all the way to 1st and goal. Two plays later, converted fullback Cody Johnson lumbered in to make it 21-10 Longhorns.
By now, the Texas defense could smell blood in the water. Their relentless pressure confused our Oline and clearly started to rattle Maynard. It looked bad as they rung up their sixth sack with just minutes to play. When they punched the ball away from Jones for the 5th Cal turnover of the game, it was all she wrote. Cal had their chance to mess with Texas and fell far short, 21-10.
Give all credit to the Texas Longhorns defense. They were fast, nasty, aggressive, and absolutely swarmed the ball. It would have taken a Cal offense firing on all cylinders to make this one a contest. Instead, we had the equivalent of a burning jalopy on cinder blocks. Too many blown opportunities with penalties, botched snaps, missed blocks, and gut-wrenching turnovers.
It was another fine effort by the defense that went to waste. One could quibble over a few blown coverages, particularly on trick plays, but make no mistake; the Bear defenders more than held their own and played well enough for this to be a winnable game.
Sadly enough, this disappointing performance leaves more questions than answers headed into the long off-season. With so much time to prepare, why was the execution so sloppy? Is the shotgun snap really such an impossible task to master? Will there be another quarterback competition?
We'd be remiss without a final tip of the cap to so many great senior players. No more Anger smashes or Tavecchio torso-twists. We've seen the last of Jones tiptoeing the sidelines, or Guyton bursting into the backfield. Kendricks won't be flying around the field next year, and Holt won't be in the thick of things exactly when we need him. After rehabbing from countless injuries, Michael Calvin will finally be moving on.
In his words:
Mike_Calvin11 Michael CalvinThank you to you all for the years of support. It's been a pleasure playing for the Golden Bears. I love you all. Signing out. Mike Calvin
There are too many others to list here, but they will be missed. Gentlemen, thanks for representing our school, and best of luck to all of you in the future.
It's a bitter pill to swallow, but Cal fans just need to shake this one off and look ahead to The Return to Memorial. We'll get our shot at Texas again in a few years. Clearly, we have to get a whole lot better between then and now.
Is anyone else ready for spring ball?