Californias return to bowl football ended up being a face-first education. But the choice of lessons is greater than merely, Texas is better.In losing to the Longhorns, 21-10, in the Holiday Bowl Wednesday night, the Golden Bears learned the distance between themselves and a middle-of-the-pack Big XII team. Also, what happens when two legitimate offensive weapons match up against five turnovers. And especially how hard the Pac-12 would have become if it had become the Pac-16.Theyre a very good team you have to give all the credit in the world to, and they have a lot of very skilled athletes, head coach Jeff Tedford said after watching those athletes slowly but surely dominate his own athletes.RECAP: Texas tops Cal 21-10 in Holiday Bowl
And his own skilled athletes . . . well, they were fewer in number, and fewer in impact.
Indeed, Cals entire production was limited to its opening drives of each half. In the first, the Bears moved smartly and cleverly downfield for 40 yards and what ended up a 47-yard field goal by Giorgio Tavecchio. In the second, they looked even more Texas equal by driving 69 yards for their only touchdown, a six-yard toss play by Isi Sofele.And then there were The Seven Plays That Made A Win A Loss.1. The 17-yard punt return by Marvin Jones after Texas was forced to punt from the back of its own end zone, putting Cal at the Texas 27 down only 14-10
2. The incomplete pass from quarterback Zach Maynard to Sofele.
3. The personal foul by tight end Anthony Miller that took the ball back to the 44.
4. The sack of Maynard by safety Adrian Phillips, causing a fumble that was recovered by Texas tackle Chris Whaley.
5. The 37-yard run by wide receiver Marquise Goodwin to take the ball to the Cal 7.
6. The three-yard push by fullback Cody Johnson.
7. The final four-yard push by Johnson.And that was surely that. Cal would have enough problems getting the touchdown that would have put them ahead, but two was asking far more than Cal had the ability to give.That was obviously a big swing there, Tedford said wearily. To be in that position and have it turn around that quickly, that was hard to overcome.Truth be told, though, it would have been an event against the run of play, because the Longhorns turned the game into a study of being overmatched. Cal would have trouble with Texas under any conditions, in any venue and this was a substandard Texas team.But throw in the four fumbles, three by Maynard, and the interception by Maynard, and the season-high six times he was sacked, and the number of times Sofele couldnt find open ground and how Jones and Keenan Allen couldnt separate from the Texas secondary . . . and frankly, what you find out is that 21-10 really was not a representative score for the differences between the two teams.And Texas in its present state would be, at best, the fourth best team in this years Pac 12, distantly behind Oregon, Stanford or USC. Which means that Cal found out Wednesday what it already knew that their 7-5 record was a true measure of their worth on the open college football market.And that Texas didnt regard this as a crowning jewel in its history.Were not jumping up and down, and were not throwing Gatorade all over the place, head coach Mack Brown said. But this was a particularly important game for our seniors, and for the players coming back.He went on to make a point that Holiday Bowl wins one year have become bigger bowl wins within two years the Cotton Bowl win over LSU a year after the Holiday in 2001, the national championship over USC two years after the Holiday in 2003, the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State the year after the Holiday in 2007 and a loss in the national championship to Alabama the year after that.Cals goals are more modest by necessity, even if the Golden Bears are loath to admit it. They went from 5-7 to 7-6, but lose Jones and Allen, their two nonpareil receivers, plus defenders Mychal Kendricks and Trevor Guyton. They relearned the art of winning, but they have to consolidate that knowledge to become less susceptible to being slowly devoured by a team like Texas.Thus, Wednesday did have lessons. Starting with the understanding that as 21-10 losses go, this one wasnt close to 21-10 at all.