All of the sudden, there's some energy and electricity surrounding the Texas Longhorns football program after a solid first half against the California Golden Bears resulted in a 24-24 tie heading into halftime in Austin.
Once again, it was redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard providing the spark for Texas, looking accurate once again on his downfield passes and creating plays with his feet in the running game, scoring his first touchdown on the run and changing field position with an explosive run to get Texas out of the shadow of its end zone.
A long pass to freshman wide receiver John Burt took the Horns down in the red zone to finish the play with a well-blocked touchdown run by senior running back Johnathan Gray to take a 17-14 late in the second quarter.
Heard finished the half 11-of-15 for 222 yards passing and seven carries for 42 yards and a touchdown. Overall, the Horns put up 317 total yards in the first half against a Cal defense that struggled mightily in pass defense, often letting Texas players run free down the sidelines.
But perhaps the biggest play came with the Golden Bears attempting to mount a late drive and senior defensive end Shiro Davis used a speed rush and rip move to hit Cal quarterback Jared Goff and force a fumble recovered by senior defensive tackle Desmond Jackson.
Texas took advantage on the next play when Gray went six yards for a big touchdown to seemingly provide even more momentum for the Longhorns heading into halftime. Unfortunately, the defense gave up two big plays to Cal and eventually allowed the Golden Bears to score in response after only four plays to reduce the deficit.
And then an interception by Heard, his first big mistake as the starter, allowed Cal to tie the game with a late field goal.
There were some struggles defensively, as the Longhorns defensive backs struggled to maintain contact with Golden Bears receivers and both starting safeties had to leave the game -- junior Dylan Haines got ejected for a targeting penalty and sophomore Jason Hall left the game with an injured shoulder.
However, junior Kevin Vaccaro stepped up in place of Haines, forcing a fumble near the Texas goal line that sophomore cornerback Antwuan Davis recovered to keep Cal off the board.
Another Golden Bears drive ended when a penalty on 4th and 1 forced a field-goal attempt that went wide right.
The Horns weren't able to take a lead into halftime and there were some long third-down conversions by the Golden Bears, but overall it was a much-improved effort from the first game.