The celebration of UT’s much needed win over Rice is officially over. An explosive California offense is on deck and the 2-0 Bears come in averaging 54 points a game which is trouble for a struggling UT defense.
There’s no question that the Texas defense have to improve. After two games they’ve given up 60 first downs which is dead last in the nation. 20 of those have come on third downs which also ranks the Longhorns at the bottom.
It’s something that’s definitely on the minds of UT’s players.
Freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson says, “We just have to come in and execute when it comes to third down situations. Because we have been behind the ropes and we can never finish."
Junior defensive back Dylan Haines agrees. "Just hadn't capitalized. I don't know what it is. I think that we kind of tense up on third down and we just missed assignments, miscues, bad eyes, just not getting in zone drops. Just simple stuff like that. And we're allowing teams to convert."
Longhorns head coach Charlie Strong says another problem for the UT defense is that they're not making teams one-dimensional.
"We have to improve. I always say this and in a plan to win you have to play great defense. That's the first thing you have to do. You have to play great defense and we haven't done that," Strong says.
Executing Strong’s plan may prove to be tough again with Cal coming to town with their balanced offensive attack.
Jefferson says, "This is gonna be a challenge for us. Especially as a defense. Because this team likes to throw the ball. They're very different than most teams we've played so far.”
“So now we really have to focus this week on the passing game and linebackers being ready for the run. And the D-line getting a push on O-line and getting sacks,” Jefferson adds.
UT knows it will be a challenge but players are ready and know they can improve.
"You look at the defense from these last two games and you just look at the statistics, the numbers, and it doesn't really look in our favor obviously. I think we're a long way from where we've shown as far as how good we are as a defense. I don't think we've shown how good we are yet," Haines says.
California is a seven point favorite but Texas has never lost to Cal in five meetings including the last time out in the 2011 Holiday Bowl.