A deeper look inside Texas’ 27-24 double-overtime loss to USC:
Why Texas (1-2) lost
Well, it certainly wasn’t because of the defense, which played like it was Jan. 4, 2006 all over again. The Longhorns stopped USC on three fourth-down plays and stuffed Ronald Jones II on back-to-back goal-line stops inside the 1 in the first half. Sam Ehlinger, getting the start for the second straight week over an injured Shane Buechele, was shaky in the first half but electric in the second, particularly in the fourth quarter and in overtime with a series of nifty backfield escapes, third- and fourth-down conversions and big plays. We may have watched him supplant Buechele tonight. Maybe. The freshman also committed four turnovers, including the critical strip-fumble as he was driving toward the end zone in the second overtime.
Why No. 4 USC (3-0) won
Too many weapons, all of whom showed up to make important plays. Sam Darnold, who has been generating buzz as the Heisman Trophy favorite and possible No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL draft should he choose to come out, showed he has flaws but connected on key passes late. He now has six interceptions in three games. But he finished 3 yards shy of 400 passing yards and threw for three touchdowns. Jones finished with only 47 yards and averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, and he made only one catch. But it was a big one, a 56-yard touchdown on the final play of the first half. And that second-overtime strip-fumble of Ehlinger saved the day.
The Eyes of Texas
The Longhorns kept their eyes on three specific Trojans — Darnold, who had thrown for 605 yards and four touchdowns while completing 74.6 percent of his passes in the first two games; wide receiver Deontay Burnett, USC’s leading receiver coming off back-to-back 100-yard games and a two-touchdown performance the week before against Stanford; and inside linebacker Cameron Smith, the Trojans’ leading tackler who was a second-team all-conference player in 2016.
How did they do?
Darnold was 28 of 49 for 397 yards. He threw 3 touchdowns but was intercepted twice, including a 38-yard pick-six by DeShon Elliott.
Burnett had 8 catches for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns, including one on USC’s first play of the first overtime.
Smith tied for the team lead with 9 tackles.
QB Sam Ehlinger: Even with his four turnovers, it’s hard to not like what you saw out of the freshman. Texas got into overtime because of him.
WR Collin Johnson: A career night — 7 catches for 191 yards, including a brilliant leaping grab in the second half.
S Deshon Elliott: Had two interceptions, including a 38-yard pick six that was Texas’ only scoring play of the first half.
CB Holton Hill: No pick-sixes this week, but he came up with a handful of big plays and stuffed Ronald Jones II at the goal line.
LB Anthony Wheeler: Led the team in tackles (12) with 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
LB Malik Jefferson: His 11 tackles were only 1 off the team lead. Also had 2 tackles for loss.
Plays of the game
Offensive play of the game: With time for just one play before halftime, USC pulled off a Half Hail Mary as Darnold eluded Texas’ three-man pass run, found Jones in a gap around the Longhorns’ 25 and watched the Trojans running back elude the secondary and outrace Elliott into the end zone to complete a 56-yard score and a 14-7 halftime lead.
This and that
1. Texas, a 16 1/2-point favorite, was impressive in defeat. Not that we’re big into moral victories, but the Horns should enter Big 12 play with some confidence.
2. What a night for the defense. DeShon Elliott, Holton Hill, Anthony Wheeler, Malik Jefferson, Poona Ford and Charles Omenihu, take a bow.
3. So Joshua Rowland can make a field goal after all. Who knew?
1. Reggie Hemphill-Mapps made two questionable decisions to field punts inside his own 5-yard line; on the second one, he was straddling the goal line as he caught it and was tackled at the 2.
2. Michael Dickson’s fake punt and 11-yard run for a first down late in the third quarter was wiped out by a holdin penalty against P.J. Locke III, his lead blocker.
3. The refs made a couple of key good calls late in the game but also missed two key pass interference penalties on Trojans defenders who clearly crossed the line on a pair of Ehlinger deep shots to Collin Johnson and Lorenzo Joe.
The Longhorns have three pick-six touchdowns in as many games this season, two by Holton Hill and one Saturday night by DeShon Elliott. And Elliott’s was Texas’ fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season. … Collin Johnson’s 191 yards were the fourth-most in school history. … Armanti Foreman has scored a touchdown in each of the first three games. … When Ehlinger found freshman tight end Cade Brewer for a touchdown in the first overtime, it was a freshman from Westlake throwing to a freshman from Lake Travis.
On deck: Iowa State
Thursday, Sept. 28 in Ames, Iowa (7 p.m., ESPN)
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