A wild first half went against the Texas Longhorns in the final moments, as freshman quarterback Shane Buechele threw an interception and the California Golden Bears quickly responded with another big-time throw from Davis Webb; this time a 23-yard touchdown to favored target Chad Hansen.
With the score, Cal took a 35-33 lead over Texas on one of several instances in which the Golden Bears victimized sixth-year cornerback Sheroid Evans. Throw in a few more coverage mistakes and third-down conversions by Cal and the home team threw for 245 yards on 9.8 yards per attempt in the first half.
As in the season opener against Notre Dame, Cal struck first with a six-play, 84-yard drive that took only 2:07 and ended with a perfectly-placed placed 29-yard touchdown pass from Webb to Jordan Veasy that beat Texas cornerback Davante Davis in solid coverage.
It was truly a sign of things to come.
After struggling to pick up yardage in the red zone last week against UTEP, the Tyrone Swoopes-Chris Warren combo in the 18-Wheeler package helped finish the first Texas drive.
Once again starting in place of D’Onta Foreman, Warren’s efforts and some typically sharp passing from Shane Buechele moved the football into Golden Bears territory. He finished with 12 carries for 66 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, while Foreman returned with 11 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown.
A roughing-the-passer penalty on third down extended the drive and 18 Wheeler found the end zone with a four-yard touchdown run from Warren, the sophomore running back.
Cal head coach Sonny Dykes took a risk on the ensuing drive attempting to convert on 4th and 1 inside Golden Bears territory, but a big play for the Longhorns defense gave the ball back to the offense.
The potentially pivotal moment came when Buechele took a big hit on an attempted screen pass and headed to the locker room following the possession to receive evaluation for a chest injury.
The freshman completed 9-of-19 passes for for 110 yards and that costly interception after returning. However, Buechele did hit Jacorey Warrick with a 41-yard touchdown pass was the longest of Warrick’s career and provided more evidence of Buechele’s superior touch.
Swoopes and Warren responded to Buechele’s absence with a seven-play drive that included two completions by the senior quarterback. A physical 12-yard run by Warren found the end zone, but the characteristic inaccuracy of Swoopes led to a tipped-ball interception that set up Cal in Texas territory.
With a chance to get off the field on 3rd and 7, Evans got lost in zone coverage against Webb’s preferred target, Chad Hansen, for a 38-yard gain that set up a short touchdown run to cut the Longhorns lead to 24-21.
By the end of the half, the Golden Bears had capitalized on shaky play from the Longhorns secondary and the two turnovers.