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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Texas faces Cal in Holiday Bowl

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- Manny Diaz, understanding the many times the visual is more impactful than the verbal, stood in front of the Texas defense Sunday night and asked the players in the room who had not been to a bowl game to stand up.

Eleven remained seated.

"I've got two linebackers in my linebacker room that have been to a bowl game," the Texas defensive coordinator said.

So for Texas, San Diego and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl are just fine. So, too, is the opportunity to play Cal (7-5, 4-5) on Dec. 28.

"We're up and coming and we're going to get this win at the bowl game," cornerback Quandre Diggs said.

A win would be icing on the cake. For Texas, which missed out on a bowl for the first time after a 12-year stretch in 2010, being able to get more experience is the main benefit of the bowl.

"The big thing we're excited about is we're excited about the continued growth of our program, and that's what playing in the bowl game gives you the opportunity to do," Diaz said. "It's another 2½ weeks of practice opportunities and a chance for us as coaches to continue the investment in the future of our football team and football program.

"Every one of those practice days is invaluable, and we know that we will see those results down the line."

As for the game itself, this is Texas' first trip to Holiday since 2007. But it is the fifth trip in Mack Brown's tenure as coach. The Longhorns are 2-2 in those games, with the most memorable being the 2001 game against Washington.

Current co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite was the quarterback in that 47-43 win over the Huskies.

"It should be extra special for Major Applewhite with him being inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame this past summer," Brown said. "Major has played in the game, and now he'll have a chance to coach in it, so I know he'll be excited about that."

This year's edition of the game doesn't appear as if it will be one of the Holiday Bowl's signature high-scoring affairs. Both defenses are ranked in the top 30. And both offenses have struggled. Cal is ranked 37th in total offense with 418 yards per game. Texas is 45th with 405 yards per game.

"It's always an exciting game and playing Cal will be a fun challenge for us," Brown said. "Jeff Tedford is a great friend who is a tremendous football coach. He's the winningest coach in Cal history, so he's had the Bears playing at a consistently high level for a long time, and we look forward to playing them."

Texas will take the week off from practice in order to concentrate on final exams before starting its bowl practices the week of Dec. 12.

Carter Strickland covers University of Texas football and recruiting for HornsNation

Follow HornsNation's coverage on Twitter: @ESPNHornsNation