BERKELEY, California – Longhorn nation traveled well to California Memorial Stadium for Saturday night’s shootout between California and Texas.
Many of the 50,448 in attendance sported burnt orange and avidly cheered their Longhorns on throughout the contest.
But each cry of “Texas! Fight!” that echoed throughout the rolling California hills received a more thunderous scream of “Go! Bears!” The war of chants embodied the game itself:California responded to each Texas attack with a more powerful answer of its own on its way to an exhilarating 50-43 victory.
“This is a tough and disappointing loss,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “In our first road game, we expected to play better, we have to play better, knowing our whole attitude when you’re on the road and your preparation has to be [different].”
California got on the board first, and it did it in a hurry. Senior quarterback Davis Webb marched his team 84 yards down the field, only needing six plays and 2:07 of game time to do it.
The Longhorns didn’t get off to the start they were looking for, giving up a quick touchdown — just as they did in week one against Notre Dame. But similar to that game, the Texas offense fought back and scored on its opening possession as well. Freshman quarterback Shane Buechele led Texas on an 84-yard touchdown drive of its own to knot the score at 7-7.
The Texas offense went to work effectively for the entire first half. The Longhorns held a double-digit lead on three separate occasions in the first half after scoring points on four of their first five possessions.
“We knew we were going to have an opportunity to run the ball and run the ball downhill,” offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert said.
But Texas lost its offensive momentum in the third quarter. The Longhorns were held scoreless throughout the period, trailing California 35-33. The Texas defense didn’t budge in the third either, but that changed in the fourth.
California scored two touchdowns in the final frame, both accounted for by Webb. The Texas native threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night early in the period and ran in the game-winning score with 3:41 remaining.
“I had a lot of motivation for this game,” Webb said. “And we out-toughed them. They did a great job executing their game plan, but all we wanted [was] to be the tougher team and get more effort, and I think we did that tonight.”
The Golden Bears delivered the final blow to the Longhorns when junior running back Vic Enwere ripped off a 54-yard run, leading 50-43 with less than two minutes left. But it didn’t come without controversy.
The officials originally ruled his rush a touchdown, which would have put California up by two touchdowns with less than 1:30 remaining and Texas out of timeouts.
However, they determined after review Enwere dropped the ball prior to crossing the goal line as part of a premature celebration. Texas senior safety Dylan Haines picked the ball up off the turf — but not quick enough, according to the officials. Haines’ act did not resemble “an immediate recovery,” and California retained possession at the Texas one-yard line.
The Longhorns ran out of chances, but there were plenty to be had throughout the night. Strong was well aware of what could have been and gave no interest in entertaining a potential officiating blunder.
“I don’t think that hurt us,” Strong said. “Number one, the ball shouldn’t have gotten down there. We had too many opportunities before that play.”