Protect the pass
Last week, Cal graduate transfer quarterback Davis Webb threw 522 aerial yards and five touchdowns in the team’s 45-40 loss to San Diego State, completing 41 passes on a staggering 72 attempts. As a result, the Golden Bears are ranked second in the country in pass offense and tied for third in total offense.
While the Golden Bears have faced average defenses in their first two games against Hawai’i and San Diego State, they have excelled at the passing game. Texas needs to put pressure on Webb in the pocket and force him to scramble. Texas’ secondary also needs to be sharp and look out for deep throws down the field. Cal receiver Chad Hansen leads the country in receiving after two weeks of play. The junior has accrued 350 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.
Turn road woes into road wins
This is the first road test for the young 2016 Longhorn squad. The freshmen, including quarterback Shane Buechele, are not accustomed to playing in opposing territory, especially on the west coast. The environment in the Longhorns’ first two games was heavily in their favor and the team fed off the energy and raucous of the home crowd in Austin. This is the Golden Bears’ home opener after playing in Australia and San Diego for the first two games. Come Saturday, California Memorial Stadium will to be loud, hostile and filled with blue and gold. The veterans need to lead the way and keep the team calm and collected.
Excluding the victory over Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl, Texas’ sole road win in 2015 came against Baylor in the season finale. The Longhorns need to avoid the same road woes that plagued them last season. If the team comes out and performs with the same energy and leadership displayed at home, they should have enough to hold off the Bears.
In this last year’s matchup, then-quarterback Jerrod Heard led a huge comeback after Texas fell into an early hole. Late in the fourth quarter, Heard scored what was thought to be the game-tying touchdown, but a missed extra point shattered the Longhorns’ chances. In many situations for the Longhorns last season, games slipped away because of trivial errors — missed extra points, botched punts and costly penalties. If the Longhorns focus on the details and limit mistakes, they can ride the power of their offense and avoid a nail-biting situation in the final minutes.
The Longhorns also need to limit costly penalties. Last week against UTEP, Texas committed 10 penalties and cost itself 115 yards. Head coach Charlie Strong said in his Monday press conference that the team needs to be “more disciplined” and avoid “silly fouls.” In a rematch of a game that came down to the final extra point last year, the Longhorns will need every point and yard they can get in order to come out on the winning side in 2016.