AUSTIN - - Longhorns quarterback Jerrod Heard looked like a man that had just wiped away tears before taking a seat in front of the media shortly after Texas’ gut-wrenching 45-44 loss to Cal on Saturday.
Could you blame him?
His eyes were red, a tad watery, mystified at the mystery that had just unraveled minutes before, only seconds after he’d just scampered 45 yards for a touchdown to set Nick Rose up for a potential game-tying extra point.
The kick was pushed wide right but Heard’s place among a program/fan base starving for stability at quarterback – a game-changer not seen since Colt McCoy – now stands front and center.
When the final second evaporated, however excruciatingly it may have been for those with burnt orange in their hearts, Heard had set a single-game school record for total offense with 527 yards, breaking Vince Young’s mark of 506 set against Oklahoma State in 2005.
Heard passed for 364 yards and ran for 163 yards and three scores (2, 13, 45 yards).
This was his second-ever game as Texas’ starter.
“I thought Jerrod was fabulous,” Longhorns play-caller Jay Norvell said. “He’s grown so much in just a very short time. The big thing we wanted to do today was make them defend the whole field. I just think it’s his ability as a thrower that really separates him because now everyone has to defend the field, and he can really attack people with his athletic ability. But what he did with his arm was really special I thought. We’ve got to keep building on that.”
The 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing effort also marked the first for Texas since Colt McCoy threw for 304 and rushed for 175 against Texas A&M on Nov. 26, 2009.
There he was, watery eyes and all, with a chance to boost his moral a bit in the postgame presser. Heard wanted none of it. Like a seasoned vet he deflected all praise toward his teammates.
“Right now I’m still thinking about the stuff that we could have done. At the end of the night, we still rallied and fought for the team.”
He continued: “It’s just the faith that I have in my guys. I know that Taylor [Doyle] and the whole O-Line is going to do the blocking for me. I had faith in those guys to let me sit in the pocket and make my reads and distribute the ball to the great athletes I’ve got.”
That selfless style of play was something Norvell stressed to the Longhorns before the game.
“We really challenged the players this week to play selflessly,” he said. “We really felt like we had a bunch of kids that were still individuals the first two weeks of the season. But this week we challenged them. Today we challenged them to play for somebody you love, for somebody besides yourself. Try to pour your whole self into the game and see how good we can play.”
Norvell said he watched Cal’s overtime game against Colorado when he got to the stadium today. It was tied 56-56 in the extra period.
“I told the team this could be a wild shootout where we have to outscore them in the end and whatever we have to do offensively, we have to do,” he said. “At the end of the day we didn’t do enough. We had too many penalties. We had two turnovers that didn’t help the defense. It’s our job to score more than they have and we fell short.
We have to build on the positives. I think we grew as a team and we have to learn from the mistakes we made so they won’t happen again.”
Heard’s mistakes were costly. He threw an interception toward the end of the first half that Cal turned into a 34-yard field goal to tie the game at 24-24. He then fumbled on Texas’ first possession of the second half, which led to a Bears touchdown.
“You know, when you are playing a team that is good on offense like this you can’t waste a possession. We tried to score,” Norvell said. “We needed to score at the end of the half. We had an outside lane throw and just missed it inside. You just can’t miss an outside lane throw inside. He’s got to learn from that.
“He had a run-pass option and got stuck, held the ball and got it knocked out on the second turnover. Those are things he has to learn from.”
What Norvell saw next, though, really gives him hope for the future.
“He’s a fabulous competitor,” Norvell said of Heard. “Just the way that he battled back, never stopped, kept believing and showed leadership. The players believe in him because of what he’s done. They know we have a chance with his hands on the ball.”
Heard ended up throwing for 96 yards more than highly-touted Cal QB Jared Goff, and he did it with seven fewer completions and six fewer attempts.
The redshirt freshman, of course, didn’t direct any attention toward himself when asked about his performance.
“That’s the whole team, execution,” he said. “When we execute and have faith in each other stuff like that happens. Now it’s about getting the W.
“Cal is a great team. We won’t be surprised to see them in a big bowl game or even in the playoffs. They are going to be something very special in the Pac 12. Us getting to play teams like that is good for us. We need to take this loss and grow from it.”
SOME MORE QUOTES:
Norvell on Heard:
“He spread the ball really well. We wanted these guys to defend us sideline-to-sideline and vertically. We did a good job of that. We’re still not good enough at third down. We have to find ways to stay on the field.”
Norvell on offensive line:
“We have to play better. We had some pressures and some sacks versus four-man rushes and we can’t have that. We have to play better. We had some drops there. We had some critical drops.”
Norvell on Nick Rose:
“My heart breaks for Nick Rose. He’s a great kid. This game is not on him. Our field goal kicker didn’t lose the game for us. One guy doesn’t lose the game for you and he certainly didn’t.”
Norvell on how tough it was evaluating Heard during practice:
“It’s just a difficult evaluation. Jerrod’s skills show up in the game. They don’t necessarily show up in practice and in controlled situations. He likes to play. He’s not afraid of the spotlight.”
“I’m really proud of my team. What we showed tonight is not what a lot of people would do.”
Did he watch extra point?
“I did watch it. We still love Nick. Stuff like that happens. We still going to ride for him. No hard feelings for him. He’s going to bounce back. He can’t let that get to his head. He’s going to be alright.”
“Execution. The strength of this team is that we can fight all the way until the end.”
On how this loss will impact team going forward:
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s going to build this team.”
On what he told team before last drive:
“I told them that we were going to get this ball in the end zone, and I had faith that we were going to. I just keep talking to them, be that motivator, try to be relaxed and just have faith. I really have faith in all those guys. “
“What we showed tonight will be great for us in the long run.”
On if the game is slowing down for him:
“A little bit. But that’s my O-line making it slow down for me.”