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Texas vs. Cal post-game thoughts: The issues on defense are clear

The ‘Horns have a major coverage problem.

NCAA Football: Texas at California John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The offense wasn’t perfect but this loss falls on the defense. The California Golden Bears do one thing really well and the Texas Longhorns let them do that one thing all night long until they literally weren’t in the stadium anymore.

Texas had no answers for Cal’s passing attack, specifically the Davis Webb-to-Chad Hansen connection. Those two connected 12 times (TWELVE) for 196 yards and two touchdowns.

Let’s work through his goop of a game.

— The blame should fall on nearly everyone involved on defense. It falls on the players for poor play, it falls on Bedford for poor preparation, and it falls on Strong for letting this team get away with this for too long.

— I can sum up the issues from this game like this: Texas lost the turnover battle, they were on the wrong end of penalties too often (whether each was deserved or not), the defense missed way too many tackles, coverage was blown by nearly every defensive back, Texas couldn’t get consistent pressure on Webb, and it had no plan for Chad Hansen.

The defense was a pile of mush full of bad decisions. And finding bright spots on that side of the ball in this game, especially in the second and third levels, is hard to come by.

-- Basically, Texas either got caught in no-man’s land, had its players’ bad decisions exposed for big plays, or both.

The Longhorns couldn’t get consistent pressure on Webb, a quarterback who hasn’t played well under pressure. Too many times, it looked like Texas used delayed blitzes or pressure that came from too far off the line of scrimmage and took too long to be effective.

When the pressure couldn’t get there on passing plays, then there basically was an extra defender hanging around the line of scrimmage. Instead, you’d like to see him working his way past an offensive lineman by that time or back in coverage instead.

On top of that, Texas trusted its defensive backs to win a lot of one-on-one match-ups on the outside. And the defensive backs consistently got beat, especially by Chad Hansen time and time again.

And on the back end, Texas often had just one safety deep. And it wasn’t until later in the game that you saw the defense finally start running looks with two safeties deep, having one over the top on Hansen.

But by then, it was too late or the safeties just didn’t make a play.

Funny enough, Cal scored it’s second to last touchdown on a play in the red zone that started with two safeties deep. Pre-snap, a defensive back moved off his receiver to blitz, moving one of the two deep safeties up into coverage on a receiver which left a one-on-one match-up on the outside with just one safety playing center field.

The defensive back on the outside got beat and the safety wasn’t close enough to making any sort of play. You could use that last sentence for a handful of Cal’s touchdowns.

— The defense also allowed too many chunks of yards to be given up by the different screens Cal continued to run all night. Expect opposing offenses to run more screens against this defense in conference play.

— The main issue is that the players, especially when in coverage, continue to make mistakes. So then you have to ask “Why?” Why are these players consistently making mistakes in coverage?

I don’t know what’s happening in practice or in the film room, but time and time again, a defensive back will make a bad decision, take a step in the wrong direction, and leave his receiver open going down the field.

And the lack of safety help in coverage has been glaring as well.

— The lack of range by the Texas’ starting safeties makes my head hurt. I can’t help but think Brandon Jones would bring speed and a better ability to close on a pass than what we’ve seen so far.

And if you don’t know what I mean by “range”, go watch the interception Cal’s safety had on Buechele. That type of range is something this Texas defense has been lacking for the past two or three seasons.

Also, Jones continuing to make plays on special teams tells me he absolutely needs to be on the field more on defense. Get him out there and let him do his thing.

— Not one corner played well enough for Texas to win this game. Davis, Hill, Boyd, and Evans all had poor moments where they were a step behind receivers, got caught blowing coverage, or missed a tackle.

And Davis getting banged up didn’t help one bit.

— Credit Cal offensive coordinator Jake Spavital and quarterback Davis Webb. Both of those guys prepared for Texas well and executed a game plan that continued to work all night.

Webb found his one-on-one match-ups and exploited the Texas secondary by continuing to attack the defensive backs.

— Chad Hansen is really good. Texas obviously didn’t respect him enough, and he torched the defense all night. I have no clue why Bedford didn’t try to double cover him most of the game. Just to remind everyone, he had TWELVE receptions.

— Texas actually played well against the run. If we take Enwere’s huge 54-yard run off the board from the end of the game, the ‘Horns allowed around just 3 yards per carry against the Cal running backs.

— Give me more Malcolm Roach and Breckyn Hager. Those two continue to make plays.

— Let’s mention missed tackles again, because it seemed like there were plenty for the Longhorns Saturday night, especially early in the game.

— Some way, some how, Sterlin Gilbert has to get more speed in the backfield. Even if it’s in the neighborhood of five carries a game. With Kirk Johnson hurt, go with Tristian Houston, Devin Duvernay, or even Jerrod Heard.

Foreman, Warren and Swoopes are effective rushers, but none of those guys are quick speedsters. Adding a speed option into the mix brings an added element currently not in the backfield.

-- I said this after the Notre Dame game and I’m saying it again, someone needs to send the Foreman family a thank you card for those two Longhorns. Aside from a near-fumble by D’Onta and one drop (I believe) by Armanti, those two continued to make plays on offense.

— This was Shane Buechele’s worst game in his short career as a Longhorn. He completed just under 58 percent of his passes and tossed an interception to go along with his only touchdown.

You have to wonder how much the rib injury he sustained early in the game effected his play. Either way, the offense still put up over 40 points, and the one touchdown he threw was right on the money.

He’ll have better days moving forward.

— I haven’t looked closely at the offensive line this week yet, but I don’t remember the Cal’s defensive line winning much of those match-ups up front.

Then again, maybe the running backs deserve more credit for more tough running. Both Warren and Foreman rushed for over 100 yards and averaged over 6 yards per carry.

— The ball was spread out a lot among the Texas wide receivers. I would have liked to have seen more Jerrod Heard, though, since he torched this Cal team last season out of the quarterback position. He ended the night with two receptions for 10 yards.

— Through three games, it seems like the offense does three main things: Run straight forward with the big running backs, throw short passes (generally to the outside), then take a handful of shots deep to the receivers on the outside.

I can’t help but wonder if any other wrinkles of this offense will reveal themselves moving forward or if this is basically the gist of the offense in a nutshell. I’m not expecting it to be much different than this. But it’s still something I’m curious about.

I also wonder if this is just part of the evolution of this offense given that this was just the third game. We’ll see moving forward.

— Leave Devin Duvernay in as the main kick returner. The more opportunities he gets, the sooner he will get adjusted to the game speed and have a chance to break off some big returns.

— I’m not going to harp on Trent Domingue’s two missed field goals too much. For a guy not known for leg strength, he showed he had the leg for a 53-yard attempt but pushed it just outside of the goal post.

And the 49-yard field goal was tough considering he had to pull the kick from the right hash back through the goal posts while getting a lot of power on it.

When I saw that camera angle from behind the kicking formation, I knew that kick would be tough for him.

I think of Domingue’s leg somewhat similar to my golf game. I don’t hit my irons far. So when I use lower irons in hopes getting more distance (my four or five iron) there’s a better chance I’ll hook or slice the golf ball when I strain my body to try to get more power.

If Domingue is straining himself more than normal to get more power for long kicks, his accuracy will suffer as he loses some control of the ball.

That may not be the best analogy, but it’s how I’m viewing his leg right now.

-- At the end of the day, this game exposed the glaring issues this defense is still facing. Luckily, Texas has a bye week to try to correct these issues.

But if certain things don’t improve, specifically in coverage, it could be a long rest of the season for Texas as it gets ready to face more spread offenses in conference play.