AUSTIN, Tex. -- The story this week in Berkeley was how will California's special teams -- which gave up over 30 yards per kickoff return against San Diego State, and over 20 against Grabling State, missed a field goal and had to take two time outs surrounding punts was going to hold Daje Johnson down in Saturday's narrow 45-44 win over Texas.
Johnson had his way with the defense -- hauling in five passes for 145 yards -- but while he was completely taken out of the return game by a unique punting strategy, Cal special teams came up big in two other key situations.
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1589039-first-half-texas-f... Receiver Stephen Anderson recovered an onside kick by Texas with 2:59 left, after the Longhorns had scored with 2:59 left in the game, but the Bears went three-and-out, putting the ball back in the hands of redshirt redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard.
"We could have made some first downs," said head coach Sonny Dykes. "That was the biggest thing we didn't do. We needed one first down to win the ballgame, and we didn't do it. We dropped a pass."
That pass was dropped by Anderson, who finished with six catches for 56 yards.
Texas marched right down under Heard, who completed three straight passes for 36 yards and then serpentined his way through the Bears' defense for a 45-yard rushing score of his own. All that was left was the perfunctory extra point. Cornerback Darius White -- who was burned once on one of the two first-half, 40-plus-yard wheel routes to Johnson -- came up with the first blocked extra point of his career -- high school and junior college included -- to seal the win for the Bears.
"I was just lined up in field goal block left, it was my goal to block, I went 100 percent like I do every play, and I got a tip on it," White said. "We were watching them on film, and their edges weren't as strong as some others we've seen, so if we rushed really hard, we could tell we got a tip on it. We trusted our technique, and I did what my coach told me to do."
"We told our guys before the game, we said, 'Every play in this game is going to matter,'" Dykes said. "An extra point is a pretty insignificant play unless something like that happens."
Cal quarterback Jared Goff -- who, by going 27-for-37 for 268 yards, set Cal career records for total offense (8,266), passing yards (8,379) and completions (704) -- would have been the headline, were it not for White. He was just fine with that.
"It was literally the same thing as Washington State -- there's no way that happened," Goff said. "I still don't believe it. Unbelievable."
Last year, the Bears won in Pullman, Wash., when the Cougars missed a would-be game-winning field goal.
This time, though, on the road, against a traditional power -- albeit one that's having a down season -- it's easy to call this a signature win for the Bears, but Dykes was having none of it.
"I don't even know what that means," Dykes said. "We're 3-0, I know that."
Goff immediately trotted back onto the field after the block, and kneeled down twice to run out the clock. On the previous Cal series, Goff was nearly sacked, but got the ball out in time. Unfortunately for him, he was rolled up by a Texas defensive linemen, and was limping severely, even as he completed a third-and-eight conversion by hitting Trevor Davis at the first-down sticks. He said after the game that it was likely a mild ankle sprain. Dykes said he'd be sore in the morning, but he was able to move.
Goff's foot was key in the plan to stop Johnson on special teams, as the Cal quarterback set a career-high with four punts on the day for 132 yards -- all short-field punts, all with no returns.
After watching what Heard was able to do on his final four drives -- scoring three times, rushing for 80 yards and passing for 135 yards -- Goff was in awe of the Longhorns signal-caller.
"He's a hell of a player," Goff said. "I think he's going to be a really good player. He's just a freshman, right? He's got wheels. He can fly, and throws the ball pretty well. I talked to him briefly after the game, and he's going to be a hell of a player, I think, in the next few years."
Goff also crept closer to the career touchdown record, held by Kyle Boller, with three TD tosses (he's two behind Boller's 64). Goff got things going in the first quarter with a six-yard strike to Maurice Harris with 8:49 left in the first quarter.
"What were they?" Goff asked, when told about the records. "Awesome. I mean, if you would have told me that and we lost, I probably wouldn't be too stoked about it, but it's cool to put my name in history there. I'm 100 times more happy about winning."
Feeling pressure from the right side by Hassan Ridgeway -- who even got a hand on Goff's back -- the junior signal-caller slid left and found Harris for the 60th touchdown pass of his career.
The Longhorns came right back, though, thanks to Heard, who had a coming-out game, going 20-for-31 for 364 yards and rushing 24 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns. Heard was sacked three times -- once by Mustafa Jalil (his rear end forced a fumble, which Cal recovered, turning it into a touchdown to start the third quarter), and on back-to-back plays by Tony Mekari and Puka Lopa to end a fourth-quarter Texas drive.
Heard was at his best on the wheel routes, which Dykes called "concerning," after three went for 26, 45 and 54 yards in the first half.
After a tackle for loss by Cameron Walker and Damariay Drew, and a false start on freshman Patrick Vahe, Texas faced third-and-20 from its own 25 in the first quarter, but Caleb Coleman got completely turned around and loss Johnson on the wheel, and despite the fact that Cal had dropped eight into coverage, Heard found Johnson for 45 yards. Two plays later, running back Johnathan Gray shook free on another wheel route for a 26-yard gain. Heard then tied things up by juking Hardy Nickerson for a two-yard touchdown scamper off the zone read.
The Longhorns started the second quarter with a 27-yard field goal, but then Goff, on fourth-and-three from the Texas 17, threw a back-shoulder fade to Kenny Lawler in the face of a six-man blitz to put the Bears up, 14-10, putting the ball where only Lawler could get it, on a leaping, turn-around effort. Two Gray touchdown runs of four and six yards put the Longhorns on top, 24-14, but the Bears then scored 31 straight points, including two runs by Vic Enwere, who, like Khalfani Muhammad, set a career-high in rushing yards, starting in place of the injured Daniel Lasco.
"There aren't enough words in the English dictionary to say about the offensive line," said the Texas-born Enwere.
Enwere rushed 16 times for 73 yards, while Muhammad rushed 10 times for 164 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown run that capped off Cal's 31 straight points between 52 seconds left in the second quarter, and 1:16 left in the third.
"A team like Texas, which is traditionally really good, to get a win like this is huge," said Goff. "I think we played ourselves into that one-point win. I think if we played as well as we should have, and as we normally play, it probably should have been a 21-point win, offensively and defensively, at least. At the end of the day, that missed field goal [sic], that was a lucky way to end it, but at the end of the day, we deserved to win."
10 of those 21 points came off of turnovers, but one of those turnovers also took seven points off the board for the Bears.
After Texas tied the Bears 7-7, Cal took eight plays to march down to the Longhorns 10-yard line. Muhammad got up a head of steam, but backup safety Kevin Vaccaro laid the big wood on the junior tailback, forcing a fumble into the end zone, which was recovered by Antwuan Davis. The ensuing drive led to a 27-yard field goal by Texas.
Late in the second quarter, with 1:42 left in the half, Cal wilted under a simple stunt with a four-man rush, and Goff was sacked on his blind side by Shiro Davis. Goff fumbled, allowing Desmond "Tank" Jackson to recover, and on the very first play of the Longhorns' next drive, Johnathan Gray ran untouched on the zone read into the end zone to give Texas the 24-14 lead.
"We were our own worst enemy in the first half," Dykes said. "It was a frustrating first half, but Jared keeps believing."
Cal needed just 40 seconds on the next drive -- thanks to a 49-yard scamper by Muhammad over right tackle, and a 22-yard seed from Goff to Lawler -- to move 75 yards, finishing off with a one-yard Enwere touchdown run.
Jalen Jefferson ended the ensuing Texas drive with his third career pick, which he returned for 22 yards. Anderson hammered home a 34-yard field goal, tying the game at 24-24.
After the break, Jalil forced the Heard fumble, leading to Enwere's second scoring run on a drive that saw a nine-yard pass to Anderson and another 22-yard strike to Lawler from Goff. That drive also saw five rushing plays as the Bears continued to grind on the Longhorns.
With corner and nickel blitzes already starting to work, Cal defensive coordinator Art Kaufman dialed up some more blitz packages, with Jonathan Johnson and Todd Barr notching QB hurries on the next drive, as Heard turned to his legs to make some hay.
Cal got the ball back with 8:02 left in the third quarter, and after Goff stepped up for a 16-yard run up the middle, he got a pair of runs from Tre Watson, before Lawler drew a personal foul on newly-re-entered linebacker Malik Jefferson. Goff then found Harris for 13, and then handed the ball off twice to Watson for a total of 14 yards. Lawler hauled in his second TD pass with just under four and a half minutes to go in the quarter to put the Bears up, 38-24.