Holiday Bowl win
Defense wins big football games. Creating turnovers will always win football games. The Texas defense forced five turnovers in this Holiday Bowl — Texas did not lose one — and that was the difference in the game.
Yes, David Ash did his best impression of a real bonafide Texas QB — Case McCoy never saw the field — and Marquis Goodwin outran everyone within 1000 miles of San Diego, but it was the Texas defense — every bit the nasty, aggressive mean-spirited group defensive coordinator Manny Diaz wants — that won the game 21-10 over Cal. Texas allowed Cal only seven yards rushing — total — and they sacked Cal's quarterback six times, a season single-game high.
This is the kind of win that lasts. It’s one thing to beat Rice starting the season, it’s another to finish the season with a Holiday Bowl win over a good Cal team. Texas needed this, so did Cal. Both teams spent 2010 in 5–7 purgatory and managed to flip that to 7–5 in 2011. 2012 looms large for both of these teams and the winner, Texas, takes serious momentum into spring practice.
The game was a tale of two halves. Give the coaching staff credit: Both teams received an ass-chewing at halftime — Cal due to turnovers, Texas due to penalties — and both teams cleaned up their act in round two.
It would be easy to call the first half a defensive slugfest but that would be putting lipstick on a pig. The first half was more like a pig in a slop-fest. Texas could not get out of its own way with every great play (with the exception of one outstanding touchdown drive) negated by penalties (eight for 50 yards but all harmful to big plays) and Cal turned the ball over twice.
In the second half, Cal opened with an impressive 11 play, 69-yard drive for a game leading touchdown. Texas answered with a 47-yard TD pass from Ash to Marquis Goodwin and they never gave up the lead.
That pass is a throw Case McCoy can’t make. David Ash has the arm, if not the maturity, but maturity will come. You can’t create experience like this on the practice field, it takes big game — bowl game — experience and while Case McCoy clearly had the better numbers this season, Mack Brown clearly believes David Ash has more upside.
Let's not get all crazy about whether Ash is the future of the program; there are a couple of young gun QB’s joining the team next month straight out of high school. But Ash has the support of Brown right now and he played well enough to get into the mix.
Holiday Bowl wins are special in Texas lore. In 2007, Texas came off a disappointing season with a sophomore quarterback named McCoy and won a great Holiday Bowl game against Arizona State. That game became a harbinger of things to come. It took two years but Texas found itself in the National Championship in 2010.
No one with half a sports-minded brain would suggest this team has that potential, except maybe Mack Brown who reminisced about that game briefly in his pre-game press conference.
Bowl games are important. Not just for momentum, but for practice. Texas practiced 12 times between their last game against Baylor and this bowl game. That's their equivalent of another spring practice. Young teams like the Longhorns can't practice enough. Winning this game is gravy, really good gravy.
In three weeks a couple of new freshmen will enroll ready to compete for the starting quarterback position. David Ash will have something to say about that as he aged in football knowledge in dog years. However one looks at this win, the momentum built by one bowl win can make all the difference.