Four questions facing Texas against Cal:
1. Will Kris Boyd continue to make an impact?
The freshman cornerback has made a loud introduction with several key hits. At Notre Dame, he forced a fumble on special teams. Against Rice, Malik Jefferson’s defensive touchdown would not have been possible if not for Boyd’s play on on the ball carrier. Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford says Boyd thinks he should be starting. It seems only a matter of time before he is.
2. Can the running game get going — finally?
And we’re talking about more than just quarterback Jerrod Heard, the backfield’s latest toy. Johnathan Gray has been a disappointment, totaling just 57 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. His bid to become Texas’ first 1000-yard rusher since 2008 is losing steam. But it’s early. Against Notre Dame, he didn’t get touches because of Shawn Watson’s peculiar play-calling and the need to throw in the second half. Against Rice, he carried only nine times, but Texas had just 38 snaps.
3. Will Cal punt to Daje Johnson?
Do so at your own risk. Johnson scored on an 85-yard return against Rice and set up another touchdown with a 31-yard return. He displayed the electricity that Texas lacked in special teams a year ago with Jaxon Shipley fielding punts. Cal has a strong counter to Johnson’s explosiveness with Cole Leininger, who has nine punts with seven touchbacks.
4. Will the defensive line show up?
Time is running out on the line, which was expected to be the team’s strength but has been a sore spot due in part to the health of tackles Hassan Ridgeway and Tank Jackson. Most troublesome was the ease with which Rice ran up the middle. And where is Shiro Davis? The senior end has been quiet.