When the clock struck double zeros on Saturday night, the silence from moments before was still looming in the Austin night.
Texas Longhorns redshirt freshman quarterback Jerrod Heard had just led three touchdown drives in 12 minutes to tie up the game. Or so Longhorns fans believed.
The sideline was jumping, the fans were screaming, and Smokey the Cannon was shooting... prematurely. Senior place kicker Nick Rose went out for the game-tying extra point -- potentially his biggest at Texas -- and shanked it. Texas fans everywhere were shocked. In fact, just about everyone was shocked. In possibly the greatest statistical performance by a Texas quarterback ever, the Longhorns were going to lose.
This Texas loss wasn't a normal loss, though. There was something different. Texas fans finally saw something they hadn't seen since 2009 -- a quarterback capable of leading the program back to respectability.
Heard came out of high school as hyped as any quarterback in the nation, getting praise from coaches George Whitfield and Trent Dilfer. Although, when Heard wasn't named the starter and head coach Charlie Strong and the coaching staff said that he was behind, concern started to grow.
The Denton Guyer product made it through his first year on campus without seeing any playing time and not a lot of wins -- two things he's not used to. Heard made the battle throughout spring, summer and fall camp interesting until an "improved" Tyrone Swoopes was named the starter. While this moved brought some Texas fans some discomfort, others believed in the junior out of Whitewright.
The belief stopped early in the 2015 season. One half in and Texas was scoreless. One game in and all the Longhorns had under their belt, scoring wise, was a field goal. Fans wanted Swoopes out. Fans got what they wanted. Later that week, Shawn Watson, one of Swoopes biggest supporters, was demoted from his play calling duties and Jay Norvell was promoted. Norvell chose Heard to start.
While, the plan was for both to see the action, that plan was changed quickly into what started the Jerrod Heard era in Austin, Texas. Heard showed his pure talent in a 42-28 win versus Rice, but Texas fans needed to see him against a stiffer defense. The Cal defense looked like a reasonable test and he showed fans absolutely everything, and then some -- and then some more. Heard dropped over 250 total yards and 24 points in the first half.
While Heard did almost everything right, he did make a mistake. He had John Burt on a hitch pattern on the final drive. He failed to look off the outside linebacker and the defender just sat under the route and jumped it -- which led to a Cal field goal which tied the game at 24.
The second half was supposed to be his time, a half where he could continue to shine. The third quarter was the exact opposite of that. Heard struggled fumbling once and then punting two more times and seeing Texas fall down 21 points. At this point, many believed the game was all but over -- but not Heard.
Heard led a drive down to the 9-yard line, but a hold and two plays went by without a score, so the Texas quarterback took the reins and put it on his own two feet, running about 60 yards, bobbing and weaving for a 13-yard touchdown run.
After the score, Heard put the ball down, turned around and walked toward the sideline. He looked like he knew he was gonna get the touchdowns needed to get the game close. And that he did.
After two California punts and a Texas turnover on downs, which would have been a 46-yard field goal attempt and in retrospect could've won the game, he had the ball back in his hands.
Heard led an eight-play, 92-yard touchdown drive which brought Texas within a score. The defense got another stop and put the ball back into Heard's hands. He then led an 81-yard drive capped off by a 45-yard scramble. We all know what happened next and isn't needed to know that Jerrod Heard proved he is that guy. When he sets his mind to something will do it -- as he did in the fourth quarter. He proved that he can make any and every play the coaches will put on him this season.
Although, Texas fans and coaches love having found a quarterback this season it won't take them anywhere. Texas lost the battle Saturday night -- a tough game against Heard's first Power 5 opponent -- but with three more years of Heard, this is just the beginning. after this they are just gathering artillery.
The Texas running back, tight end, and wide receiver corps are already littered with tons of young talent and the 2016 class should add some more weapons after this season, especially at wide receiver. It's too early to tell for sure if this Longhorns team can get to the promised land in the coming years, but if the offense can continue to gather weaponry outside and put a stable line in front of Heard, there's suddenly some clear and apparent upside for the position.