The California Golden Bears couldn't stop themselves from giving up the game to the Texas Longhorns in the 2011 Holiday Bowl. The Longhorns forced five turnovers, one interception and four fumbles, and didn't turn the ball over once, in the process of their 21-10 Holiday Bowl win.
The Longhorns took the ball first and after they ran seven plays for a total of seven yards they punted the ball away to the Golden Bears. On their first drive, California was able to drive 40 yards down the field on 11 plays, setting themselves up for the game's first score, a 47-yard field goal from Giorgia Tavecchio. That's when everything started to fall apart for Cal.
The Longhorns went three-and-out on their next drive and punted the ball back to Cal, but on the fifth play of the drive, quarterback Zach Maynard threw an interception to Texas' Quandre Diggs at the Longhorns' 42-yard line.
Texas wasn't able to take advantage of the interception, though. They went three-and-out again and punted the ball back to the Bears. Cal breathed a sigh of relief but turned around and gave the ball up again. This time it wasn't an interception but a fumble. Maynard scrambled for a four-yard gain but fumbled the ball when he was being tackled. Texas recovered on Cal's 19-yard line. Even though Cal was giving the game away, Texas couldn't take advantage. They were unable to score on the second straight turnover after they missed a 38-yard field goal.
The two teams punted back and forth on three drives before Texas was finally able to get on the board. Half way through the second quarter, the Longhorns sparked their team with a trick play in which wide receiver Jaxon Shipley threw a touchdown pass to quarterback David Ash from the four-yard line. Texas took a four-point lead.
After that play, the two teams exchanged punts until the end of the first half.
Cal took back the lead in the first drive of the second half. They marched 69 yards down the field on 11 plays before Isi Sofele was able to punch the ball into the end zone from the six-yard line for their first touchdown of the game. They took a 10-7 lead but would not score another point.
The Longhorns answered right back. On the fourth play of their next drive, Ash threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin and after a Justin Tucker extra point, Texas took a 14-10 lead.
Cal had a chance to battle back but instead of scoring points, they turned the ball over three times in the second half on three fumbles. On the next drive, Golden Bears running back Sofele was hit in the backfield and fumbled on the Texas 47-yard line. The Longhorns recovered but were unable to score any points and punted the ball away after going three-and-out.
The two teams exchanged punts three times again before the Bears turned the ball over for the fourth time. With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter, Maynard was sacked by Adrian Phillips and fumbled in the process. Phillips recovered the fumble and the Longhorns took over on the Cal 44.
This was the turnover that hurt Cal the most because this was the first time that Texas was able to take advantage of a turnover. After a 37-yard rush by Goodwin, the Longhorns were able to score their third touchdown on a three-yard run by Cody Johnson. They took a 21-10 lead and things started to look bleak for Cal.
The two teams exchanged four punts to start the fourth quarter before Cal turned the ball over for the fifth and final time. After Maynard completed a 20-yard pass to Marvin Jones, Jones was hit and fumbled the ball on their own 29-yard line. The longhorns recovered and were able to hold on to the ball for the rest of the game and let the clock run out.
Cal only has themselves to blame. It's nearly impossible to turn the ball over five times, without creating any turnovers themselves, and win a football game. It could have been much worse for them too. Texas was only able to convert on one of Cal's five turnovers. Had the Golden Bears eliminated two or three of their five turnovers, including the one in which the Longhorns scored afterwards, and scored a touchdown themselves instead, it's a whole different game.
Hopefully Cal players learn how to hold on to the ball in the offseason to avoid this kind of game in 2012.