Football

California 50, Texas 43: Complete defensive meltdown stops UT's momentum

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Story highlights
  • Longhorns piled up 307 rushing yards as Foreman, Warren both score twice.
  • Strong on Cal fumble: “They thought it was a touchdown, so they blew the whistle.”
  • Texas now 2-1 with one week off before opening Big 12 play at Oklahoma State.

Posted September 18th, 2016

BERKELEY, Calif. — Night owls back in Austin probably had bleary vision and sore throats from yelling at the Texas defense all night long through their television sets.

The Longhorns suffered through one of the worst defensive performances under third-year coach Charlie Strong — and that’s saying something for this bunch. Yet they still had a chance. Or so it appeared anyway when California running back Vic Enwere fumbled the ball on a possible game-clinching touchdown run.

Thousands of Texas fans at California Memorial Stadium roared to life once UT’s Dylan Haines picked up the loose ball in the end zone. Instead, Big 12 referee Mike Defee said his crew blew the play dead.

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And thus, so were the 11th-ranked Longhorns in a disappointing 50-43 heartbreaker Saturday night. Cal fans rushed, er, trickled onto the field while the Longhorns shuffled off with a 2-1 record.

“I thought we’d have another chance to get out there to try to make something happen,” right guard Kent Perkins said. “The refs made the decision. We can’t really do nothing about that.”

Officials told an apoplectic Strong there had been a certain “time lapse,” even though replays show Haines grabbing the ball while it was still moving. Trailing by seven, Texas could’ve gotten the ball back with more than a minute left at the 20-yard line after the touchback.

“They thought it was a touchdown, so they blew the whistle,” Strong said. “That meant the ball was dead before Haines picked it up. I didn’t think that. But that wasn’t the play that got us.”

No, it wasn’t. Not by a long shot.

Texas Longhorns running back D'Onta Foreman runs ahead of the pack during the second half of a NCAA college football game against California Golden Bears , Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns running back D’Onta Foreman runs ahead of the pack during the second half of a NCAA college football game against California Golden Bears , Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Texas piled up 307 rushing yards. Chris Warren III scored from 4 and 12 yards out. D’Onta Foreman had a 4-yard score and a dazzling 47-yard scamper that gave Texas a 40-35 lead. Quarterback Shane Buechele wasn’t perfect, but he threw for 196 yards and a beautiful 41-yard scoring strike to Jacorey Warrick. Buechele gave way to Tyrone Swoopes and the 18-Wheeler when necessary, and it all worked according to plan.

Texas had 568 total yards in a losing effort because its defense couldn’t stop Cal’s Davis Webb and his dynamo target Chad Hansen. The secondary play was atrocious. Hansen had 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns, and it felt like he could’ve had even more.

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Defensive coordinator Vance Bedford does not speak to reporters after games. He talks only to the Longhorn Network. “I need to do a better job getting these guys ready to play to go out there and win ballgames the remainder of the season,” he said.

Strong demoted former offensive coordinator Shawn Watson after the 2015 season opener because the offense couldn’t perform. Bedford oversaw the 2015 defense, statistically one of the worst in school history. This season, his unit gave up 47 points to Notre Dame and now half a hundred 13 days later.

“There’s no need in pointing fingers right now,” Strong said. “We should be able to play better, and there’s no need that we’re not playing better.”

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Senior cornerback Sheroid Evans said, “Today, the secondary didn’t hold up their part. I feel like everybody else did a pretty good job except the secondary, so we’ve got to get that straightened out.”

It’s not that Texas’ defense is giving up plays. It’s how bad they look doing it. Hansen got behind Evans for a 38-yard gain to the Texas 5. That set up an easy touchdown. Melquise Stovall ran right past Holton Hill, who appeared to be expecting safety help, and hauled in a 29-yard touchdown pass.

Hansen got behind Evans again late in the second quarter and reeled in a 23-yard score, giving the Golden Bears a 35-33 lead.

“We did a horrible job. We didn’t execute. Plain and simple,” defensive end Breckyn Hager said.

Along the way, Webb had constant success with swing passes and dump-offs into the flat. He completed 27 of 40 passes and still got sacked three times.

Texas Longhorns freshman Malcolm Roach (32) takes down Cal quarterback Davis Webb for a lost during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Texas Longhorns freshman Malcolm Roach (32) takes down Cal quarterback Davis Webb for a lost during the first half of a NCAA college football game, Saturday, September 17, 2016 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

“It’s not a thing about talent or scheme issue,” defensive tackle Paul Boyette Jr. said. “It’s just people gotta know your assignments at the end of the day. Just know your assignments.”

Pressed to explain more, Boyette seemed exasperated. “We underachieved tonight,” he said.

RELATED COVERAGE: Decision to punt late in game backfires on Texas in loss to Cal

Thanks to the overall outcome, people will forget that Hager and freshman Malcolm Roach both had sacks. Freshman Brandon Jones blocked another punt for a safety. Freshman Devin Duvernay got plenty of chances on kickoff return and had a key 10-yard catch, his first of the season.

Instead, all Texas fans who trekked out to California will remember is their Horns let a winnable game slip away.

“Basically, I say you can’t go back and play the game again,” Perkins said. “The best thing you can do is learn from your mistakes. Get better as an individual to help the team.”

Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email bdavis@statesman.com.

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