■ Chuck Carlton: Texas looked stronger against a USC team that showed problems 37-14.
Texas dominates USC after first quarter for school’s 900th victory
AUSTIN — You can debate what constitutes a signature win or whether USC is really a Top 25 program this year and if what happened Saturday will have any lasting impact.
All that really matters for the moment is that Texas got a win that coach Tom Herman and his program desperately needed. With complaints from the fan base growing louder, Texas delivered a rebuttal and a reason for at least some hope the rest of this season.
“Yeah, I would say so,” Herman said when asked if this was was his most complete win at Texas. “Against this opponent, at this time, pushes it into the lead for our 16-game tenure here.”
Down by 11 early, Texas (2-1) rallied for a 37-14 victory over No. 22 USC, dominating the game after the first quarter. While Herman carved out a
reputation as giant-killer at Houston with victories over Florida State and Oklahoma, this was his biggest win at Texas, easily trumping wins over Kansas State and Missouri last season.
Texas avoided a 1-2 start, something the Longhorns had not been able to do in four of the previous five seasons. UT opens Big 12 play on Sept. 22 with TCU, which has a fourgame winning streak on the Longhorns.
“We’ll evaluate how this win stands during the season with how we respond to it,” Herman said.
Announced attendance was 103,507, a school record for Royal-Memorial Stadium, which got to see Texas’ 900th win. The Longhorns joined Ohio State and Michigan as the only schools to reach that milestone.
After practice Thursday, Herman said his team was “in a really, really good place. A really good place. The guys have let their hair down collectively.”
Apparently, Herman had a solid read on his players.
Sophomore Sam Ehlinger threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and Texas broke open the game on special teams. Freshman Caden Sterns blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt by Chase McGrath. Anthony Wheeler scooped up the loose ball and raced 46 yards to give Texas a 30-14 lead.
The Texas defense shut down USC and freshman quarterback JT Daniels after the Trojans built a 14-3 lead in the first quarter. USC had failed to score an offensive touchdown in a Week 2 loss to Stanford but Stephen Carr capped a 75-yard drive with a 23-yard touchdown run. Vavae Malepeai scored just before the end of the quarter on a 3-yard run.
That would be it for the Trojans’ offense. After seven first downs and 153 total yards in the first quarter, USC was held to nine first downs and 164 total yards over the next three quarters by the Texas defense. The Trojans, who have produced some of the great tailbacks in Pac-12 history, had minus-5 yards rushing.
“Offense, defense, special teams all had an impact in digging out of that hole,” Herman said.
Texas’ comeback began early in the second quarter. Ehlinger found Lil’Jordan Humphrey on a short completion. Humphrey spun out of a tackle and turned the completion into a 47-yard touchdown.
Two 46-yard field goals by freshman Cameron Dicker gave Texas a 16-14 lead at halftime that only grew larger in the second half.
Ehlinger found freshman Joshua Moore, who made a diving catch for a 27-yard
touchdown to complete a 74yard drive early in the third quarter and put Texas up 2314.
Then came the 10-point
turnaround on the blocked field goal try. USC could have drawn within one score. Instead, Texas had a 30-14 lead. Ehlinger (15 of 32 for 233 yards) scored from 4 yards out and the outcome was a formality.
Texas defensive back Caden Sterns (7) blocks a field goal attempt by Chase McGrath. Anthony Wheeler scooped up the loose ball and raced 46 yards to give Texas a 30-14 lead.
Texas wide receiver Collin Johnson tries to catch a pass while being defended by USC cornerback Isaiah Langley in the end zone. Johnson had six catches for 79 yards.