As we sit here on a beautiful Saturday night in the remodeled Memorial Stadium with a nationally televised game, it’s hard not to wonder if this is what Sandy Barbour envisioned when hiring Sonny Dykes. The night featured an exciting, high-profile offense in one of the most thrilling victories in the past seven years. To say the least, it was a thing of beauty. The game certainly wasn’t absent of stressful moments as well as heart-wrenching plays and it made up one of the most fun games you can experience as a Cal fan. For all those out there desperate for a program-defining win, this will please the palate.
On a night dominated by the Cal passing attack, it was the running game that secured the victory in perhaps the most Cal way possible. With just over one minute remaining, Texas native Vic Enwere was called upon to finish off the Longhorns and help the Bears convert a final first down.
As fate would have it, Vic would burst through and see nothing but daylight ahead of him, seemingly sealing the victory with a touchdown for the Bears. Except wait, the play is under the review. But why? Why in the world is the play under the review? Did he pull a Desean Jackson, dropping the ball before the goal line? Well (expletive), what the (expletive) happens now? So now the play goes to review and who gets the ball? Texas or Cal?
Finally to the relief of every Cal fan out there and very much to the displeasure of Charlie Strong, it was not meant to be for Texas and the Longhorn faithful who represented their university extremely well. Officially, the refs blew the ball dead before the Texas player touched the ball and Cal was awarded the ball at the one-yard line—victory formation ensues!
Let’s head to the recap!
First Quarter: The fireworks begin
The first drive of the game, Cal wasted no time getting into the end zone. Stovall took an end-around for fifteen yards, Hansen had a 26-yard completion, which would be a small portion of yet another monster performance. Davis Webb capped off the drive on a beautiful ball to Jordan Veasy for a 29-yard touchdown. Webb on the first drive was 4–5 for 80 yards and the touchdown—not a bad way to start your day.
Texas would find a similar level of success on their opening drive. All night, Cal defended their kickoffs well and gave themselves solid field position. Texas would start their drive on their own 16 and march down the field with a combination of passing and rushing plays. Evan Weaver finally broke through the Longhorn offensive line and sacked Shane Buechele for a loss of six yards, bringing up a crucial third down. Buechele would end up throwing an incomplete pass, but Cal’s Marcus Manley was called for roughing the passer, which kept the drive alive. Chris Warren would eventually punch in the touchdown and the score moved to 7–7.
The second Cal drive sputtered quickly and in a very odd fashion. Khalfani Muhammad was stuffed on a short yardage play and Sonny challenged the spot, which failed and arguably put his team in a bad situation by wasting a challenge that early in the ball game. Cal would eventually go for it, but Vic Enwere could not convert the first down. Texas ball.
Texas would have a big first-down run, but their drive would then stall and they were forced to settle for a 38-yard field goal. 10–7, Texas. The following Cal drive would be ineffective with Chad Hansen dropping a ball and a potential first down negated by a holding call on Aaron Cochran. This was the moment where it felt as though the game could start getting out of hand if the Texas defense could contain the high octane Cal offense. Dylan Klumph had a nice 48-yard punt and Cam Walker finished it off with an excellent tackle. Longhorn ball at the Texas 36.
Texas would be without quarterback Shane Buechele for this drive and much of the rest of the half as he was taken to the locker room. Cal would commit a facemask penalty that put the Longhorns in an easier position on the field and Tyrone Swoopes would lead them to another Chris Warren touchdown. A perfect 3 of 3 (two touchdowns, one field goal) in their first three possessions and they were not done there. Texas led 17–7.
Cal got the ball back starting on their own 34 after another nice return by Khalfani. Webb immediately found Hansen on a beautiful misdirection screen for a 24-yard gain and Vic rumbled down field for another big 11-yard gain. Webb ended up targeting Hansen deep and the Bears benefited from a holding call on the Longhorns. On second down, Webb would hit Demetris Robertson who showed off THE QUICKNESS jetting to the 2-yard line. Officials would initially rule a fumble, but that play was overturned and luckily that early challenge didn’t come back to bite the Bears. After a couple of rush attempts, the Bears would find the end zone with Vic Enwere scoring the touchdown. 17–14 Texas.
Second quarter: The fireworks continue
Texas would start their drive at their own 14-yard line, continuing to highlight the Bears success all night on special teams and winning the battle for field position. The Longhorns had a big rushing play that took them to midfield and another big pass play down the left-hand side into Cal territory. Another penalty—this time a facemask on Darius Allensworth—would move the ball up further and the Longhorns would score on a run up the left side. 24–14, Texas up ten again and the Bears still didn’t have a single stop on defense.
Cal started their drive at their 26 and went three and out. This was when it really looked like the game, again, was going to get out of hand. Texas was staring at a seventeen-point lead unless Cal could find a stop.
The next Texas possession, a perfect pass to an open receiver would bounce of his hands and fall into the lap of Cal safety Chibuzo Nwokocha, who intercepted the ball and provided the first Cal stop against the Texas offense. The ensuing Cal drive would put the Bears right back into the game.
The first two plays led to nothing until Webb found Chad “so hot right now” Hansen wide-open down the sideline, which brought the ball inside the Texas 20. Enwere took the next two snaps and punched in the ball for his second touchdown on the evening. 24–21, Texas with the lead.
The next possession was again successful for the Longhorns. Buechele returned under center and used an end-around to get across the 50-yard line. Buechele would then hit Jacorey Warrick for a 41-yard touchdown. Texas put the lead to ten again, 31–21 and the Cal defense still had yet to force a single punt.
After Khalfani once again gave the Bears great field position at the 42-yard line, the Bears went to work. Webb quickly found Stovall and Singleton in the drive downfield. Webb would then find a wide-open Melquise Stovall having beat his defender on a nifty double move for the touchdown. 31–28 Texas with the lead.
After yet another great job by the Cal special teams unit, the Texas offense would finally fail. The Longhorns were averaging at the time of their ninth possession 5.8 yards per carry...including a 6-yard sack. Generally, you win ball games with those types of numbers. Texas would commit their first offensive penalty—a false start and faced a third and long. Khari Vanderbilt made a huge play, sacking Buechele and finally forcing Texas to punt the ball.
Cal would take the ball and hand it right back—or at least try their best to accomplish that. After a near interception by a Texas corner on Webb, the Bears were forced to punt. Klumph would have his kick blocked, but luckily the ball trailed out of the end zone for a safety. 33–28 Texas.
The Bears would kickoff (in college they kickoff rather than punt after a safety) from their own 20 and the Longhorns would take over at the 34. On the first play of the drive, Luke “Skywalker” Rubenzer—former quarterback—would make an incredible read on Buechele and intercept the ball, taking it down to the Texas 24. After an Enwere 1-yard gain, Webb found who else but Chad “so hot right now” Hansen for a 23-yard strike. Touchdown Cal and the Bears had the lead for the second time of the game, 35–33!
Texas would get the ball back and put together one of the more confusing drives of the game. They quickly moved the ball to midfield after yet another Cal penalty, this one on Devante Wilson for unsportsmanlike conduct. Then, Texas made a series of strange short plays while refusing to call timeout and letting precious seconds run off the clock. They then chose to attempt a 53-yard field goal instead of testing a secondary that had stopped them all of two times all night. It was the beginning of a rather conservative game plan that would reveal itself in the second half as well.
At the end of one thrilling half of football, the Cal Bears had the lead and Memorial Stadium was loving it.
Third Quarter: What is this strange thing called defense?
It’s hard to imagine halftime adjustments having a bigger impact on any game than perhaps they did on this one. Both offenses, which bordered on elite level execution in the first half, were held silent in the third quarter. The Bears hadn’t been held without points in a quarter since Oregon in 2015—a span of 28 quarters of football—but yet the Texas defense held strong.
On the flip side, Cal completely bottled up Texas and held them scoreless. Klumph played an integral role in helping pin Texas deep with many booming punts on the night and Art Kaufman’s squad played excellent. Outside of a missed field goal, the unit didn’t allow Texas an opportunity to score and the storyline of the game started to shift.
Fourth Quarter: It’s finally ours
After nearly fumbling on a broken play, Cal punted away the ball and gave Texas possession. They didn’t waste anytime scoring with D’Onta Foreman breaking a 47-yard for a touchdown and Texas reclaiming the lead, 40–35.
The ensuing Cal possession would be a telling one. Hansen took a screen pass to midfield and then made one of the most ridiculous catches you will see down the sideline. How he caught that ball and got a foot inbounds is beyond comprehension. (He didn’t. He bobbled the ball and it should have been ruled an incompletion. Ed.) Vic continued to rumble downfield and Cal would get the ball to the 2-yard line on a pass play to Veasy. Webb faked the ball to Vic, the whole Texas defense bit, and into the end zone went Davis Webb. 41–40 Cal.
Cal decided it was the right time to go for two and drew up an awesome reverse that who else but Hansen took in for the score. The score stood at 43–40 with Cal riding the momentum and home-field advantage.
The next Texas possession would see the Longhorns take advantage of a bad missed tackle by Marloshawn Franklin that led to a 19-yard gain. Cameron Saffle stepped up to make a great tackle for loss and put the Longhorns in a third-down situation. Texas would initially be ruled short of the first down, but were overruled in perhaps the oddest referee moment of the evening. A key holding call would push Texas back and James Looney nearly forced and recovered a fumble for the Bears. Texas opted to go for the field goal to tie the game and the kick was true. Tie ball game, 43–43.
Cal received the kickoff and Khalfani ran up the left side for a good gain, but fumbled the ball! Luckily, Cal jumped back on the ball to avoid near catastrophe and Memorial Stadium collectively let out a sigh of relief. Webb would connect with Veasy over the middle for a big gain and the Bears were rolling. Vic again would rattle off a nice run and Patrick Worstell would gain a first down to the 15-yard line. Webb would find no other than Chad “so hot right now” Hansen for another touchdown and the Bears would go up seven with just 4:06 remaining in the game. 50–43, Bears with the lead. Interesting side note: the Bears at this time in the game had called 40 pass plays and 35 rushing plays, in direct contrast to their heavy pass approach against San Diego State.
Texas would receive the ball and Memorial Stadium was LIT. All of the feels of previous big match-up home games were tangible in that wonderful moment. The Cal kickoff coverage was once again lockdown and the Longhorns started from their own 21-yard line. Devante Downs had a big hit on quarterback Shane Buechele and Marloshawn Franklin would make a big tackle to force Texas into a fourth-down situation. Charlie Strong, to the surprise of perhaps everyone in the stadium, would send his punter onto the field.
Cal received the ball with roughly 1:41 remaining in the fourth quarter and needed just one first down to win the football game as Texas had two timeouts left. Cal picked up a solid 6 yards on the first play, forcing Texas to burn a timeout. Cal would rush again to force Texas to use their final timeout and set up a third and short to win the game.
At this point in time, in came the one and only Texas native Vic Enwere. Vic then took the ball up the middle and broke loose—gone to the house. Memorial started celebrating, the sideline started celebrating, but then shock—perhaps even some horror. The play was reviewed and determined to be a fumble at the 1-yard line. How typically Cal can you possibly get?
After long last, Cal received possession, entered victory formation, and put the final touches on one of the most fun football games of the young college season. What a night to be in Berkeley and what a night to be a Cal fan.
Cal beat #11 Texas and swept the home and home series. The fans stormed on the field and it just felt so good.