Redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard walked into the press room, his face red and blinking back tears. A furious fourth-quarter comeback had fallen one point short. Cal beat the Longhorns 45-44 on Saturday night.
Seven behind California with 1:51 remaining, Heard led the Texas offense down the field. With one last gallop and the sound of 91,568 fans anxiously hoping for an answered prayer, the redshirt freshman quarterback ran 45-yards for a Texas touchdown to bring it within one.
“I told [my teammates] we were going to get this ball into the endzone,” Heard said. “I had faith in them that we were going to. Coach called the play and I just relied on those guys and did my part.”
But what Heard nor his teammates expected was for senior kicker Nick Rose to miss the extra point wide right. Head coach Charlie Strong said he didn’t watch the kick, he called an extra-point by Rose “automatic.” He prepped his defense for a final stand, in hopes of forcing overtime. It was a far cry from Texas' 21-point deficit entering the fourth quarter.
But Strong’s defense never got its chance. An onside kick attempt went for naught and junior quarterback Jared Goff and the California offense knelt twice to end the game.
“This one hurts because you watch our team, and you watch Jerrod take off, and there’s a minute and 11, and we go and score,” Strong said. “Then I look up, and, all of a sudden, I see one of their players running down the field, and I was like, 'Oh, my God.'”
Strong said Heard brought juice to the Longhorns in last week’s win over Rice. He continued to provide a spark for Texas against California, running for 163 yards and three touchdowns and passing for 364 more. He is just the second player in Texas history to net both 300 passing and 100 rushing yards in a game.
Yet, Heard's two turnovers proved costly. An interception late in the second quarter and a fumble during Texas’ first possession of the second half swung momentum in the Golden Bears’ favor as they took the lead, 31-24.
A poor third quarter from Texas’ defense, which gave up 548 total yards, allowed California’s lead to extend to 45-24.
But the juice flowed through the Texas offense in the fourth quarter. Heard scored on a 13-yard run, followed by a 27-yard touchdown from sophomore running back D’Onta Foreman.
Texas reached its peak when Heard found the endzone and found its low when Rose’s kick missed the goal posts.
“When I saw the ball going right, I was confused,” freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson said. “It was a bad feeling. A nasty feeling when you see something like that occur.”
Heard wasn’t the only one with tears in his eyes. Wide receivers coach Jay Norvell was visibly rocked by the loss. Rose hung his head in disbelief as the Longhorns dutifully chanted “The Eyes of Texas.”
Strong said this is the first time he’s seen the seniors taking ownership after a loss. It was the first time he’d seen his guys hurting.
Heard’s 45-yard run was a highlight moment, but the game will be remembered as the night Texas fell one point short.
Correction: This article has been updated since publication with accurate scores throughout.