Texas vs Cal Game Breakdown
By Nolen Lake
The Temptations used to sing a song, “What a Difference a Day Makes.” And for Charlie Strong, the changes made in the UT administration may have him singing the same song. I don’t know that I would necessarily call the upcoming game against Cal a must win as far as his career goes, but this game could be huge in the setting the table for the Longhorn conference games and getting some confidence back from the top.
The struggles so far for the Texas offense aren’t that surprising as they were up and down last season, but what should be concerning is the struggle of the Texas defense. Last week’s 462 yards yielded to Rice after giving up 527 the week before to ND is something I didn’t see coming.
Cal on the other hand has shown what you would want to see in really what necessitates to a couple of warm up games. After 2 sub .500 seasons, Sonny Dykes has probably seen the oven has been pre-heated to cook his coach’s seat. Jared Goff has picked up where he left off last season spreading the ball around with his quick over-the-top release. Daniel Lasco had a nice game last week running the ball which makes any Air Raid team more dangerous if that element is working as well.
The Cal defense through 2 games looks much improved over the 2014 rendition. Of course, they gave up the most passing yards in FBS last season so there is only one direction to go. Sophomore corner Darius Allensworth has looked more physical in coverage and in run support early.
How does Texas win?
1. Special Teams. Senior Daje Johnson took a punt 85 yards to the house last week and his spark will be key to Texas winning. When an offense and defense are struggling, special teams must be the difference maker. Big returns on kickoffs and punts are absolutely necessary for Texas to win.
2. Texas QB Jerrod Heard. The red-shirt freshman will have to attempt more than the 7 passes he did last week to keep the Cal defense honest. Heard showed what he can do with his feet last week, but he is going to have to stay in the pocket and give his receivers opportunities to make plays.
3. Turnovers and points. The good news for Texas is that Cal runs a brand of offense that the Longhorns see week in and out during conference play. I can’t see Texas forcing 3 and outs on the Bear offense, so turnovers at any place on the field will be imperative. Getting points off of those turnovers like the fumble TD return Malik Jefferson had last week can keep them competitive even when they are giving up acreage on defense.
How does Cal win?
1. Running game. I was just going to mention Daniel Lasco, but he is questionable for the game with a hip injury. Lasco, a texas native who wasn’t offered by Texas, has plenty of motivation to show up big against this Longhorn run defense which has been a surprising weakness. If Lasco can’t go, backup Vic Enswere is also a texas native who is a big (6’1″ 230) back learning to be a more physical runner.
2. Cal QB Jared Goff. Goff won’t have to play over his head for Cal to win. Texas has displayed little to no pass rush through 2 games, so a Jared Goff with a clean pocket can dissect as good as anyone in the country. If Texas does manage to give birth to a pass rush, Goff will have to show improvement on accuracy outside of the pocket.
3. Secondary run support. The Cal secondary that was much maligned last season has been much more physical so far in run support. Longhorn QB Jarrod Heard is in run first, pass second mode so keeping him bottled would turn this game into a blowout.
Texas Impact Player: Senior WR Daje Johnson
Cal Impact Player: Junior QB Jared Goff
My prediction: Texas has to play perfect to win, Cal does not.