September 13, 2016

Thanks to a dramatic season-opening 50-47 win over Notre Dame and a 41-7 thumping of UTEP, the heat is off Texas head coach Charlie Strong.

But for the 11th-ranked Longhorns to become serious Big 12 contenders, they'll need to find a way to improve greatly on a 1-4 road record in 2015. The first chance to do that comes on Saturday night when Texas (2-0) travels to the Bay Area to face Cal (1-1).

California, behind future No. 1 NFL Draft pick Jared Goff, handed Texas a 45-44 home loss last season, a contest that ended with kicker Nick Rose missing an extra point that would have possibly sent the game to overtime. A victory in the rematch Saturday would give Texas its first 3-0 start since 2012, even Strong's record in Austin to 14-14 and possibly move the Longhorns into the top-10 next week.

"You're taking a young team into a hostile environment," Strong said. "There are certain things as a team that you have to pack. You've got to pack your defense. We can take the crowd out of the game if we can play great defense."

When it comes to traveling with confidence, Strong said he will lead by example.

"It's all about the attitude of the players and even the coaches," Strong said. "They will look at how we lead and that's how they'll go."

Texas will face a couple of Texans across the field in Cal coach Sonny Dykes, son of former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, and quarterback Davis Webb, who transferred to the Golden Bears from Texas Tech. No matter the results for either team coming into the game, Dykes and Webb have familiarity with Texas and no doubt burn to beat the Longhorns.

They also have the offense to properly duel with Texas.

Strong knows his team will have to accept giving up yards, but also need to make a few big plays on defense.

"It's going to be a big challenge for our secondary," Strong said. "We need to get pressure on the quarterback to take pressure off the secondary because some balls are going to be completed. We just can't allow balls to be thrown over our head."

Cal graduated a ton of its leaders, across the table defensively, including Goff: the Los Angeles' Rams first pick in the NFL draft. His replacement, senior transfer Davis Webb, has been splendid -- including in the Golden Bears' 45-40 loss to San Diego State Saturday on the road.

Webb threw for 522 yards and five touchdowns, so the Golden Bears' offense wasn't the problem. As it's been in recent years, it was the defense yielding 281 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Aztecs tailback Donnel Pumphrey, the reigning Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

Now, Cal sits in danger of falling to 1-2 with the opening of Pacific-12 Conference play waiting on Sept. 24 at Arizona State. Golden Bears coach Sonny Dykes, in his fourth year in Berkeley, was proud of the effort, though, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Our effort was outstanding. He said that was the hardest any team has ever played under him," Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen said, reflecting on Dykes' postgame message. "It's no consolation, but we know we left everything out on the line."

Hansen is becoming the breakout star the Golden Bears believed he could be. After Cal's six most productive wide receivers saw their collegiate eligibility end after 2015, Hansen has posted team-highs with 28 catches for 350 yards. Those numbers also lead the FBS. He also has caught three TDs. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound junior had 14 grabs for 190 yards and a TD against San Diego State.

The Longhorns have benefitted from two capable quarterbacks in true freshman Shane Buechele (starter) and senior Tyrone Swoopes (dynamic running threat). Swoopes made a name for himself in the Notre Dame win with three rushing TDs.

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