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Texas vs. Cal: Blown coverages, missed tackles doomed Longhorns secondary

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The sum of the secondary struggles consists of several must-fix weaknesses.

Texas v California Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

To say the Texas Longhorns secondary struggled to even compete with a Bear Raid attack it knew was coming Saturday night against the California Golden Bears would be a considerable understatement.

Cal had its way with a Texas secondary comprised of several veterans and numerous highly-touted recruits much like I’d assume it does each week against the Golden Bears practice squad.

For the 'Horns, blown coverages, poor communication, and nearly laughable tackle attempts are at the core of a four-hour long defensive lapse that gave way to 396 yards through the air.

Let's start on Cal’s very first drive.

On what could have been only a five- or six-yard play, a pretty horrible angle from sixth-year senior Sheroid Evans on the missed tackle resulted in a 26-yard gain for Cal’s most dangerous offensive option, Chad Hansen.

Only two plays later, Davante Davis was a couple steps too slow on the slot receiver’s outside break and this happened:

Later in the first quarter around the 1:12 mark, Davis was beat deep again, this time down the seam by Hansen, and it required Davis to pick up a holding penalty to prevent the big gain, though the grab wasn't much compared to the contact on many passing plays.

The very next play, Cal’s Jordan Veasy beat P.J. Locke III on an outside fade just past the pylon, which would have been another Golden Bear touchdown if Veasy had about six more inches of sideline. Either way, he had a couple steps on Locke.

The following play, on 2nd and 10, open field tackling deficiencies were again on full display for Texas, as what could have been a three- or four-yard gain became a 16-yard scamper for a 1st and goal after Kris Boyd and John Bonney came nowhere near wrapping Demetris Robertson up.

With 10:30 to go in the second quarter, Evans was again the target of a Webb-to-Hansen connection, though the camera missed what appeared to be Evans getting beat on the outside for a 38-yard gain down the sideline.

Later in the second quarter, miscommunication by Texas resulted in a Cal touchdown after Holton Hill had no idea who was matched up with Melquise Stovall, which wasn’t aided by Hill giving up on the play after being beaten.

And it seemed that Hall had locked in on the inside receiver after the break and didn’t have any idea where the ball was until Stovall was walking into the end zone. The entire play was a perfect example of the matchup issues Cal was able to exploit and Texas’ inability to recognize switches or have any idea who is guarding who.

The score came only one play after Evans was once again beaten deep by Hansen, but the Webb pass was just a tad bit too long.

With less than a minute to go in the first half, Davis connected with his go-to-guy deep once again courtesy of what proved to be Evans’ complete inability to keep up with Hansen on a simple fade.

After a quite third quarter, much of the same offensive fireworks resumed in the fourth, beginning with a 28-yard dime from Webb to Hansen on the sideline that was placed right between Boyd and Haines — though it’s worth noting that while the call was ruled a competition, film looked as if he didn’t secure the catch and bobbled the ball while out of bounds. But in any case, Boyd got beat and Haines was too slow on the help.

Later in the drive, Hall bit on a fake screen and Cal’s Veasy ran wide open on the sideline for a reception to which Hill was a step too late recovering.

Later in the fourth, Malik Jefferson and Breckyn Hager failed to pick up a slot receiver who found himself wide open over the middle, which was made worse after a missed tackle from Haines led to 11 more yards on the play for a 30-yard gain. A fake screen sucked in the Longhorns linebacker.

That drive was capped with what would become the game-winning touchdown pitch after Hansen beat Boyd on a slant and Hall was once again a step too slow on the help -- yet another theme of the night for the 'Horns.

By the time it was all said and done, so much had went wrong for the Texas secondary that it was hard to pinpoint every mistake or even determine the called coverage. That said, here's a few takeaways as Texas enters the conference slate against Oklahoma State, which will be only the beginning of several more pass-happy offenses that Charlie Strong and Vance Bedford will need to slow down.

  • Cal had Texas' number all night. Sonny Dykes and Jake Spavital planned for Texas to focus on the screen and were still able to have success with it, while sprinkling in several big plays. Cal saw eight plays go for at least 10 yards and eight more go for at least 20 yards.
  • Considering Texas knew the screens were coming, which the 'Horns were prepared for on some occasions, it still seemed as if the secondary was providing way too much cushion for the Cal receivers all night.
  • Sheroid Evans looked a lot like he may be better suited for a reserve role after how badly he was exposed in matching up with Hansen. He was beaten deep several times and was hardly ever even in a position to make a play on the ball.
  • Something needs to click for this entire secondary. Cal was able to perfectly expose exactly how lost Texas can look when things get tricky and there were several instances in which Texas' corners and safeties were out of position as a result. If this doesn't get improved upon and in a hurry, there will be more game film for opponents to add to the Cal game after teams continue to shred Texas through the air.