Football

Cal 45, Texas 44: Rose's miss was big, but other mistakes hurt, too

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Posted September 20th, 2015

Kickers are automatic, usually.

Extra-point attempts are easy, right?

The first two weeks of the season, 89 kickers across the country were perfect drilling what are essentially 20-yard field goals.

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When it came time for Nick Rose to boot an extra point and tie things up against California, Texas coach Charlie Strong said, “I didn’t even look.” Figured he didn’t need to.

Turns out, it was excruciating to watch. Rose shanked a critical point-after try with 1:11 remaining, and the Longhorns had to swallow a 45-44 loss at Royal-Memorial Stadium.

UT assitant coach Jay Norvell cheers as UT quarterback Jerrod Heard makes a touchdown against Cal late in the fourth quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT assitant coach Jay Norvell cheers as UT quarterback Jerrod Heard makes a touchdown against Cal late in the fourth quarter at Royal-Memorial Stadium on Saturday September 19, 2015. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

In one of the most entertaining games in recent memory, Texas had 650 total yards, the eighth-highest total in school history. And lost.

“Close is not on the board,” left guard Sedrick Flowers said. “It’s not L-W-Close. It’s just Ls and Ws. It’s nice knowing we’re close. We’re right there, we’re at the door. But at the end of the day, we lost.”

It’s easy to pin the heart-breaker solely on Rose. But the reality is Texas (1-2) isn’t talented enough to overcome a multitude of mistakes, no matter how electric quarterback Jerrod Heard may be.

Oh, and he is electric. Heard’s 527 total yards was a school record. With that performance, Vince Young’s 2005 showcase performance against Oklahoma State (506 yards) was bumped to No. 2 in the record books.

Still, why did senior Johnathan Gray return a kickoff out of the end zone, only to get tackled at the 5-yard line? And Flowers picked up another personal foul penalty, his second 15-yarder in three games. Senior center Taylor Doyle got flagged for holding twice. Senior Daje Johnson dropped two passes on consecutive plays early in the fourth quarter, too.

Yes, Rose’s missed kick was big. But there were plenty of other things that went wrong leading up to that fateful moment.

“Right now, I’m still thinking about the stuff I could have done,” said Heard, now 1-1 as a starter. He ran for 163 yards, passed for 364 more and accounted for three touchdowns. He also had two turnovers. “But at the end of the night, we rallied back, fought for our team and fought for the Longhorns tonight.”

Most of the announced crowd of 91,568 probably went home shaking their heads about the defense, which got shredded on the ground by a pass-oriented Cal squad.

Khalfani Muhammad had 164 yards on 10 carries. His big runs helped set up Jared Goff’s three touchdown throws. Goff completed 27 of 37 passes, which was to be expected by someone who holds a litany of school passing records.

Few expected the Longhorns to look this bad defensively for three straight games this season, though. Strong’s defense is now allowing 240.7 rushing yards per game. When the national stats are updated Sunday, Texas will drop closer to the bottom nationally.

“It’s a major concern right now,” Strong said. “What we’ve not been able to do is make a team one-dimensional.”

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Texas’ defensive performance was a big reason why a 10-point lead disappeared early. Gray’s two touchdown runs (4 and 6 yards) gave Texas a 24-14 lead. But then Cal moved 75 yards in four plays for a score. Heard threw his first career interception, and the Bears got a field goal.

In the third quarter, Cal’s offensive onslaught continued. Heard fumbled on UT’s opening drive of the second half. Goff quickly found Kenny Lawler for a 22-yard gain, setting up Vic Enwere’s 1-yard TD run. Lawler caught a 3-yard pass for another score, and Muhammad raced 74 yards straight up the gut to give Cal a 45-24 lead.

Normally, Texas folds up in these moments. Not these Longhorns. Not with the guy who won back-to-back state championships in high school.

Heard scored from 13 yards out on a dazzling run where he raced all over the north end zone. D’Onta Foreman made things interesting with a 27-yard run with 3 minutes left.

Cal went three-and-out when backup safety Kevin Vaccaro broke up a completion to  Stephen Anderson. Heard and the offense took over at the Texas 19 with 1:51 left, down by 7 and with no time outs.

Gray caught a 17-yard swing pass and went out of bounds. Armani Foreman went 13 yards on a dump-off and went out of bounds. Three plays later, Heard broke free and raced 45 yards to the end zone, cutting the deficit to one point.

All Rose had to do was drill the kick, and Texas could’ve been looking at overtime.

“When I saw the ball going right, I was confused,” UT linebacker Malik Jefferson said.

Strong was the one who looked confused afterward. He can’t put his finger on why the defense is struggling. Is it the scheme? It is just too many missed tackles? Does Texas simply need better players?

Big 12 play opens next week against Oklahoma State. There’s not much time to retool.

“I’m excited about our offense,” Strong said, “but it’s negated by how poorly we’re playing right now on defense.”

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