An air of change swept through Texas when it beat Rice 42-28. An unfilled Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium crowd rose to its feet when redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard took the field for his first start. He threw for 120 yards, two touchdowns and added 96 yards on the ground. The same crowd cheered as senior wide receiver Daje Johnson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. After a disappointing 38-3 opening game loss to Notre Dame, momentum swung in the Longhorns’ favor with the win over the Owls, despite the narrow margin of victory.
“I think it gives us definitely a good momentum for the team,” Heard said. “It was good for both sides of the ball, too, and just for the team, period. It was a great feeling. I think the guys like that feeling. We’re going to try to get another one this weekend.”
Texas has a chance to build off its much-needed win when California and its highly touted quarterback Jared Goff come to Austin. Goff enters into the game with 630 passing yards and six touchdowns in two games. Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong said the team will have to be consistent on all facets of the game to stop Goff and the Golden Bears.
“What you have to look at, too, you can play a really good opponent and we have to be ready to go play,” Strong said. “Cal is a little different than Rice. They’re going to be up-tempo, they score a lot of points. If we do give up the points, can we go match the score? That’s going to be key. Offensively, can we go down and match it?”
Containing California’s offense will be difficult, as the Longhorns’ defense has struggled in their first two games. Texas’ defense has given up an average of 494.5 yards per game and is ranked No. 114 in total defense. The Golden Bears are the Longhorns’ final non-conference opponent, and freshman Malik Jefferson said he and his teammates want to make a statement before Big 12 play.
“This is going to be a challenge for us, especially as a defense,” Jefferson said. “This team likes to throw the ball. They’re very different than most teams we played so far. Now we really have to focus this week on the passing game, linebackers being ready for running, the O-line getting sacks.”
Although California provides a difficult challenge, the Longhorns are riding on their momentum and believe Saturday’s game is a golden opportunity to keep their season moving in a positive direction.
“The biggest thing, like I said, we have a lot of talented guys and we have a lot of potential,” junior offensive tackle Kent Perkins said. “When everyone is on the same page, good things happen. If we stay on the same page, if the offense stays on the field, a lot of good things are going to happen this year.”