Texas freshman quarterback David Ash led the Longhorns in a turnover free performance that produced a 21-10 win over California in the Bridgeport Holiday Bowl. (AP Photo)
Final Score: Texas 21 California 10
The Pac-12's bowl season continued in San Diego, with the Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl from Snapdragon Stadium (formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium), the home of the NFL's San Diego Chargers and the Mt. West's San Diego St. Aztecs.
The first half was the battle of ineffective offenses, and Texas took only a 7-3 lead to the locker room, after wide receiver Jackson Shipley threw his 4th touchdown pass of the year on 4 tries.
But that changed briefly as soon as halftime was over, as both teams scored on their first second half possessions, trading the lead twice.
After that, it was all Texas, sort of. California managed only 8 net yards on their next 5 possessions, and fumbled twice in their last 4 possessions. 3 consecutive Bears possessions lost yards.
Texas freshman quarterback David Ash completed 14 of 23 passes, for just 142 yards, and 1 touchdown, a 47 yarder to Marquise Goodwin that accounted for a third of his production on one play in the third quarter. But he led a Longhorn offense that didn't turn the ball over, and that was the key to the win, as the Golden Bears suffered 5 turnovers.
The Old Blues, and the middle aged ones, for that matter, came into the game looking for a measure of revenge against Texas, and Longhorn coach Mack Brown in particular, for being bumped out of the Rose Bowl by Brown's politicking following the 2004 season, but those hopes were wiped out by the continuing accuracy and ball security issues of their quarterback Zach Maynard.
Maynard was wildly inaccurate all season, completing only 57% of his passes, and he maintained that consistent inconsistency against Texas, completing only 19 of 33 passes, 57%, for no touchdowns, and an interception. Maynard completed only 3 passes in the 4th quarter.
Maynard also had a hand in 3 of the 4 Cal fumbles, messing up a handoff and failing to cover an errant snap.
The Bears' defense generally played well enough to win, and by making stands, and even achieving push back, prevented the Longhorns from scoring off any of those first 3 turnovers. But while no harm came directly from them, the turnovers did prevent any good from coming Cal's way, ending 3 first half possessions prematurely, and costing considerable chunks of field possession.
But the ball security bug finally bit the Bears, when Maynard suffered a sack and fumbled the ball away late in the third quarter, setting up Texas' touchdown by 252 lb. fullback Cody Johnson on the first play of the fourth quarter that opened a 2 score lead, which was monumental given the inept California offense. It was Johnson's 6th touchdown of the season on 8 carries from inside the opponent's 5 yard line.
And it wasted what had been a pretty good effort by the Bear defense, which had forced the Longhorns to be 0 for 9 on third downs to that point, mostly because 7 of them were cases where Texas needed 10 or more yards for the first down.
The Bear's Isi Sofele was the game's leading rusher, but he only got 52 yards and a single 6 yard touchdown run on 20 carries.
Once Maynard's 6 sacks, a season worst for Cal, and a season high for the Texas defense, were subtracted, the Bears finished with 7 net yards on the ground.
Texas wasn't great rushing either, with 109 total yards, led by freshman Malcolm Brown, who had 35 yards on 13 carries.
The defenses get part of the credit for the terrible offensive performances, but much of it was just plain poor offense.
In the first quarter, Maynard completed only 4 of 9 passes, and had the interception, for just 25 yards. Ash completed only 3 of 7 passes, for 7 yards.
By halftime, it wasn't much better, as Maynard was only up to 9 of 18 (50%), for 67 yards, and though Ash was 7 of 8 in the second quarter, it only yielded 79 more yards.
Sofele was the leading rusher at halftime, but with only 39 yards on 9 carries. Ash led the Longhorns, with 10 yards on 4 carries, as his sacks hadn't started to mount yet.
Despite Texas running out almost 3 and a half minutes of the game after Marvin Jones fumbled on California's last possession, California still had the ball over 2 and a half minutes more than the Longhorns, but was outgained by 60 yards despite allowing only 4 conversions of 15 3rd and 4th down situations.
California's 195 net yards was a season low.
Texas, out of the Big XII, who counts 33 sophomores and freshmen in their 44 player 2 deep, finished the season with an 8-5 record, including 2 wins over the Pac-12, having also beaten UCLA 49-20 in week 3.
California fell to 7-6 for the season. The Bear's loss leaves the Pac-12 0-2 for the post season, both double digit losses, after Arizona St. was mauled 56-24 by Boise St. The Bears are also now 0-5 all-time against Texas.
Washington (7-5) is up next, against Baylor (9-3), another Big XII team, and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, tomorrow night in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.