Defense will picks its poison against Cal
AUSTIN, Texas -- It doesn't matter that Texas is winging its way to the West Coast to face a Pac-12 team that put the high in high-flying.
So what if Cal coach Jeff Tedford has been the passing game guru that has put numerous quarterbacks into the NFL.
For Texas the mindset is still the same -- stop the run, the rest will follow.
In Texas' five loss it allowed 134 rushing yards per game. In its seven wins, Texas allowed just 82 yards per game.
Cal rushes for 167 yards per game and has a back, Isi Sofele, who averages 105 yards per game. Add to that quarterback Zach Maynard is moving the offense with his ability to scramble and throw on the run, and Texas will be picking its poison on defense.
“Again, it always comes back to first thing’s first," Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said. “The best way to stop the quarterback is to stop the run, take away his best friend, and then you can do some different things with him.”
With the exceptions of the Oklahoma State and Baylor games, Texas had been adept at making offenses one-dimensional. Texas gave up 191 on the ground to Baylor and 202 to Oklahoma State. Those were the two highest totals of the season. Baylor was also able to victimize Texas through the air more than the Cowboys.
Cal, while not as explosive, appears to be of the same mold. Couple that with the residual effects of the Baylor game, and it has made for refocusing of efforts during the bowl practices.
“In this game, and I have said it a million times is, all we do is go back and fix what we made mistakes on,” Diaz said. “We are in a constant fight to battle to improve. That is really all we are trying to do. That is why getting the bowl bid the [day after the Baylor loss] was a quick way to refocus us.
“Then when you play an offense as dynamic as what Cal has, that is an easy way to get yourself excited to go out and finish the year the way we want to finish it. I always look at bowl games as the bridge to next year’s football team. We have some guys who are trying to make a statement about who we want to be in the future, and we have a great opportunity to do that on national TV.”
That national exposure could backfire. Cal has put up big plays, but against lesser teams than Texas. The Bears had a 74-yard touchdown pass against Arizona State. They also had a 90-yard touchdown pass against Washington. Sofele has eight runs of 22 yards or more with his season-best being a 56-yard run against Oregon State.
“We have to get after the running back and try to minimize that,” defensive tackle Kheeston Randall said. “Then we will try to rush the passer. If we do that, we should put ourselves in a successful position.”