We noted at halftime that a plethora of mistakes was the only thing keeping California from holding a substantial lead over Texas. But it was one crucial mistake that cost Texas, as a Nick Rose missed PAT prematurely ended a three-touchdown rally and allowed California to hold on for a 45-44 win in Austin.
First, how they got there. Thanks to an offside penalty that cost them a fresh possession deep inside Texas territory, a fumble at the Longhorns goal line and another one near their own and, finally, a procedure penalty that led to a missed field goal, Cal – a touchdown favorite in most books – found itself down 24-14 with 1:32 to go in the first half after Johnathan Gray charged in for a six-yard touchdown run, his second of the half. But the Bears immediately marched 75 yards in four plays, capped by a one-yard Vic Enwere run, to pull within 24-21, and Jalen Jefferson stepped in front of a Jerrod Heard and raced it back to the Texas 30, leading to a 34-yard Matt Anderson field goal that knotted the game at 24-24 at the half.
Cal opened the second half by scoring touchdowns on all three of its third quarter possessions: a 42-yard march punctuated by another one-yard Enwere plunge, a three-yard Jared Goff pass to Kenny Lawler, and a 74-yard Khalfani Muhammad dash, to grab a 45-24 lead.
It was a 21-0 quarter and, in total, a 31-0 run dating back to the end of the first half that put the game completely out of reach… until it wasn’t.
Texas rallied in the fourth quarter, getting a 13-yard Heard run to pull within two scores with 13:24 to go, then a 27-yard D’Onta Foreman dash to pull within one touchdown at the three minute mark. Facing a potential game-ending 3rd-and-7 at the Texas 44, a Goff pass was dropped deep in Texas territory and the Longhorns stayed alive. Heard moved the Longhorns 81 yards in six plays, dashing 45 yards for his third score of the day, seemingly tying the game with 1:11 to go. And then Rose missed the extra point.
California recovered the onside kick and, with Texas out of timeouts, that was that. The Bears (3-0) held on for an important non-conference win, and Texas (1-2) found another way to lose a game in a half-decade full of them.
Goff completed 27-of-37 passes for 268 yards with three touchdowns and one fumble, hitting nine different receivers on the night. Lawler was his top target on the night, snaring six passes for 79 yards and two scores. The Bears rushed for a combined 280 yards and three scores; Muhammad racked up 164 yards on 10 carries, and Enwere notched 73 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.
In just his second start, Heard flummoxed California on the air and the ground. The redshirt freshman connected on 20-of-31 passes for 364 yards with one interception and rushed 24 times for 163 yards and three scores with one fumble. Two weeks after Texas posted 163 yards – total – in a blowout loss at Notre Dame, Heard racked up 527 by himself. Daje Johnson grabbed five receptions for 145 yards, and Gray posted four grabs for 71 yards to go with 11 carries for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
In all, Texas outgained Cal 650-548 and held a 28-26 first downs advantage.
California visits Washington next week, while Texas hosts No. 25 Oklahoma State.