12/27/2011 10:35 PM
Texas Longhorns And Cal Bears In Holiday Bowl
Have we seen the college coaching carousel finally stop spinning? Or might there be a few more moves and resultant dominoes to fall?
And could Texas coach Mack Brown still perhaps be in some trouble?
Remote as the possibility seems, we wouldn’t dismiss the idea. More on all of that in a moment.
We’re mentioning ’ol Mack because his Longhorns are going to be in action. The specifics tell us that Texas (7-5 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) will be meeting California (7-5 SU and ATS) in the Holiday Bowl at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium on Wednesday night, with kickoff time at 8:00 p.m. (ET). As usual, ESPN will provide the TV coverage.
A check of the Don Best odds screen notes that the Longhorns are 3-point favorites at the majority of Las Vegas wagering outlets, with a handful of sports books rating Texas a 3½-point choice. The total hovers between 47½-48 points, depending upon the outlet.
There’s also a little bit (though not much) history between these two programs, as well as a colorful history for this bowl game which had its inception in 1978.
As for the Golden Bears and Longhorns, they don’t run into one another too often. Indeed, they haven’t squared off in over 40 years, or since the early days of Darrell Royal’s wishbone era at Texas.
The September 20, 1969 meeting at Berkeley was a nationally-televised affair – a big deal in those days, since ABC’s featured game was the only one on live TV anywhere in the nation most weekends – dominated more by the Longhorn defense than the wishbone, which nonetheless pounded out 311 yards on the ground. Touchdowns in the first half by HB Jim Bertelsen and QB James Street staked the 'Horns to a 14-0 edge at intermission, and Texas would ease to a 17-0 win.
It was only the second national TV appearance for the wishbone, which was introduced midway through the previous 1968 campaign by Texas. The masses first got a look at the ’bone in the January 1, 1969 Cotton Bowl, when Lindsey Nelson described Texas’ 36-13 romp over Tennessee on CBS.
The rematch between Cal and Texas the following September 19, 1970 at Austin was even more lopsided. The 'Horns had replaced Street with Eddie Phillips at QB, but the wishbone was at its most dominating, running roughshod through the Bears while building a 21-0 first-quarter lead on three TD runs by punishing FB Steve Worster. The score ballooned to 49-0 in the second half before Cal got on the board on a TD pass to WR Isaac Curtis, who would eventually star for the Cincinnati Bengals.
The final score that night was 56-15, and no one could blame the Bears for not wanting anything to do with Texas in the 41 years since.
As for the Holiday Bowl, it dates to 1978, when, ironically, the need to feature the winner of the old WAC prompted its creation. WAC champs had been the host team in the Fiesta Bowl from 1971-77, but once Arizona State and Arizona moved to the newly-expanded Pac-10 in ‘78, the WAC sought a new venue for its bowl game. San Diego was the perfect fit, especially since the hometown SDSU Aztecs joined the WAC (replacing the Arizona schools) in ‘78.
The Holiday Bowl featured BYU often in its early years, with some great thrillers along the way. Indeed, BYU was featured in the first seven Holiday Bowls, although the Cougs blew leads when losing the first two to George Welsh’s Navy by a 23-16 count and Lee Corso’s Indiana by a 38-37 scoreline. BYU would finally get its win the following year vs. Eric Dickerson, Craig James and SMU, but it took three TDs in the final 2:33, including a Hail Mary from QB Jim McMahon to TE Clay Brown on the final play to tie the game before Kirk Gunther’s PAT won the battle for the Cougs, 46-45.
Fast-forward 31 years, and we arrive at Wednesday night for Texas-Cal, where we still believe Mack Brown could find himself in some trouble if the 'Horns lose, and look bad doing so. Remember, Brown’s Texas was only 5-7 last year, and at a school where the baseline is 8-9 wins, a second straight subpar campaign could spell big trouble. Brown’s goodwill from the 2005 BCS title is running low, and remember that predecessors such as Fred Akers and David McWilliams had been dismissed for less than Brown’s mark the past two years. Many southwest observers believe the game Brown really needed to be safe was the Texas A&M clash on Thanksgiving, won (barely) by the Longhorns on a last-second field goal, 27-25.
Still a loss to Cal puts Texas at 7-6, on the heels of a 5-7 mark. If nothing else, Brown will be squarely on the hot seat next fall.
Of these two, the Bears were certainly playing better down the stretch, covering their last four games, losing straight up only to highly-ranked Stanford in the process as Jeff Tedford’s team became bowl-eligible after it, too, missed the postseason a year ago.
Cal finally found some traction when Buffalo transfer QB Zach Maynard began to play with more consistency in the later stages of the season. The lefty was wildly erratic the first half of the campaign but began to eliminate mistakes by November, tossing just one pick in those last four games. Maynard’s half-brother Keenan Allen was a preferred receiving target, with a whopping 89 receptions, while Marvin Jones caught another 55.
Another key for the Bears down the stretch was the emergence of RB C.J. Anderson as a physical complement to undersized slasher Isi Sofele, who gained 1266 yards on the ground. Cal’s defense was also rarely overrun this season (only in the second half of an early October loss at Oregon), mostly keeping opposing rush games in check, allowing only 3.8 ypc, and generating 32 sacks. The strength of the stop unit’s 3-4 alignment is an active LB quartet featuring redshirt frosh David Wilkerson and 6-foot-6 true frosh Chris McCain.
As for the 'Horns, Brown was hoping to upgrade the offense by importing offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin from Boise State, though results were mixed. A re-emphasis of the ground game seemed to be paying dividends the first month of the season, but inconsistent QB work eventually proved problematic. Original starter Garrett Gilbert was so ineffective that he was pulled in September and eventually decided to transfer, leaving the offense to soph Case McCoy (Cleveland Browns’ QB Colt McCoy’s younger brother) and David Ash, one of many true freshmen who became key contributors as the season progressed.
The loss of explosive HB Fozzy Whittaker to a knee injury in early November was another blow to an offense that also dealt with absences of breakout freshmen such as RB Malcolm Brown and WR Jaxon Shipley (brother of Bengals WR Jordan). All of the youth, injuries and lineup juggling created a series of uneven performances as the Longhorns dropped five of their last eight.
Of more concern to Brown was a defense that often leaked (allowing 55 to Oklahoma and 48 to Baylor) despite the presence of several former blue-chip recruits. Which is another reason why some believe Brown isn’t out of the woods if the stop unit should collapse again vs. the Bears.
Note that Brown’s Texas is 7-3 straight up in its last 10 bowls, but only 3-7 vs. the number in those games (2-6 the last eight as a bowl favorite). Meanwhile, Tedford is 5-2 straight up in bowl games with the Bears since winning his first postseason try over Virginia Tech, 52-49, in the 2003 Insight Bowl.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs: