"What we were really good at for the majority of the season was I loved our fight," Diaz said. "That sounds hokey, but I love the spirit of our defense. I felt like we never flinched throughout the entire year. I felt like we battled through adversity about as well as a coach would have liked, and that goes to the credit of the individuals that we have on our defense. We had a group that, no matter where the ball was set down, they felt like they could go out there and could find a way to get it stopped.
"I would say for about every minute of the 12 games we played, we were close to that," Diaz said. "That is the first thing as a coach you are proud of. You want a defense that doesn't blink, and what we talked about is being a servant's defense. We want to be a defense that served our football team. Our disappointment is that in the grand scheme of things, we let the football team down five times through the course of the year. No matter what we think of ourselves, that is how we judge ourselves is by being a winning defense. That is where we know we have to push on in the future."
Diaz conceded that the Longhorns weren't a winning defense against Baylor.
"We know what wins and we know what loses," Diaz said. "We knew going into that game that defending them was going to be easier said than done. Like I told you, 11 [teams] said the same thing before playing them, so some of the credit goes to who they had and what they did. At the same time in this game, and I have said it a million times is, all we do is go back and fix what we made mistakes on. We are in a constant fight to battle to improve. That is really all we are trying to do.
"That is why getting the bowl bid the next day was a quick way to refocus us," Diaz said. "Then when you play an offense as dynamic as what Cal has, that is an easy way to get yourself excited to go out and finish the year the way we want to finish it. I always look at bowl games as the bridge to next year's football team. We have some guys who are trying to make a statement about who we want to be in the future, and we have a great opportunity to do that on national TV."
Diaz said the Cal offense presented a major challenge, in large part thanks to receiver Keenan Allen.
"To me, he would be right up there with some of the top guys we have defended," Diaz said. "He has size, which is always an issue. He is going to be taller than anyone we have covering him. He has great hands and a great ability to run after the catch. They do a really good job scheme-wise. They will line him up all over the field. They will motion him out of the backfield and do all different types of things to get him the football. He is without a doubt one of the premier wide receivers in the country."
Diaz said a great effort against Cal could set up the Longhorns for a strong spring, especially with more experience in his defense.
"When we get to the spring, now you are not teaching the 'what,'" Diaz said. "Last year, we had to teach the 'what.' There are three things you teach, the 'what,' the 'how' and the 'why.' Great players get to the third of those and they understand why you do something. [LB] Emmanuel Acho knows why we run a certain coverage. The younger guys kind of have the 'what' down. Once they get the 'what' you can teach them the 'how.'
"That will still go on this spring, but for sure we are passed the 'what do I do,'" Diaz said. "They say now, 'I know what to do but how do I do it, Coach? I understand how to do it, now why do we do this instead of that or why do we do this on first down and this on second down?' We will be ahead of ourselves without a doubt, ahead of where we were a spring ago. Another thing that is great is, in the spots where guys are leaving is we have competition. The best coaches have competition. I can sit there and all I do is keep score. I can let them battle it out, let them fight and let them determine playing time, not us."