Third and Longhorns: A closer look at Texas’s 37-14 win over USC

Posted September 16th, 2018


Why Texas (2-1) won

How about six straight scores without a USC answer? Things looked shaky at the end of the first quarter, as the Longhorns trailed 14-3. But it was all Texas from there — touchdown, field goal, field goal, touchdown, blocked field goal return for a touchdown, touchdown. A school-record crowd of 103,507 had its breath taken away. We can only assume how the Trojans felt. Sam Ehlinger made plays, Collin Johnson made plays, Lil’Jordan Humphrey made plays, Caden Sterns and Gary Johnson made plays. The defense played its best game in quite some time, holding the Trojans to minus-yardage in the running game and exerting pressure throughout the night. Texas gained control of the game in the second quarter, seized momentum and controlled the clock. Oh, and it looks like the Longhorns finally have their kicker.

Why No. 22 USC (1-2) lost

JT Daniels is going to be very, very good. But he wasn’t tonight. In fact, he pretty much looked like a highly-coveted five-star quarterback who graduated high school a whole year early to play college football. He looked flustered at times, he threw off the mark at times and he also made some plays. He finished 30 of 48 for 322 yards and a pick. He, and the rest of the team, lost composure in a second straight prime-time loss. USC was flagged 10 times for 99 yards, including several costly ones — a targeting ejection of linebacker Porter Gustin, who not only missed virtually the entire second half but also will sit out the first two quarters of the Washington State game; a roughing the passer penalty; a roughing the punter penalty; an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The national ranking will go away when the new polls come out.

The eyes of Texas

… were on four specific players tonight — USC kicker Chase McGrath, whose field goals in last year’s game sent it into overtime and then won it in double overtime; Texas safety Caden Sterns, who recorded his first career interception last week; Texas running back Tre Watson, expected to be the focal point of the running game with Keaontay Ingram injured; and USC running back Aca’Cedric Ware, a Texan who had a 100-yard game to open the season.


How’d they do?

McGrath: He was perfect on his two extra points but his lone field goal try, from 50 yards out, was blocked and returned for a game-sealing touchdown.

Sterns: His final tackles stat line won’t impress, as he finished with only two, but one of them was very important — a stop for no gain on third-and-goal from the Texas 1 in the second quarter that set up the goal-line stand. He also had a pass breakup and the key blocked field goal.

Watson: Given a chance to shine, Watson was only reliable. He averaged 4 yards a carry with a long run of 9 yards. He finished with 72 yards on 18 carries.

Ware: Four carries, 8 yards.

Game balls

Offense: Cameron Dicker. OK, so maybe this is more of a special teams game ball. Still, Dicker was an unknown quantity because we’d yet to see him try a field goal in the first two games. He had three of them against the Trojans from 20, 46 and 46 yards.

(Last week’s offensive game baller, Sam Ehlinger, was 15 of 33 for 223 yards and 2 TDs. He also had 17 carries for 35 yards and another TD.)

Defense: Gary Johnson. The linebacker had 6 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss, 1 quarterback hurry and a forced fumble. Impressive.

(Last week’s defensive game baller, Caden Sterns, also could’ve earned a game ball with the blocked field goal, a pass breakup and a key goal-line stop.)


1. The crowd. A school-record 103,507 showed up at Royal-Memorial Stadium and that was the first thing Tom Herman brought up in his post-game press conference. And the large student section showed up nearly two hours early.

2. What a night for the defense, which shut the Trojans out for the final three quarters, held them to negative rushing yards, blocked a field goal and returned it for a score, sacked Daniels three times and set the tone for the win.

3. Another strong night for the freshmen. Caden Sterns continues to impress and play like a young Kenny Vaccaro. Joshua Moore had a diving 27-yard touchdown catch, his first as a Longhorn. Dicker nailed two 46-yard field goals.


1. Freshman safety B.J. Foster had a big hit in the second half — but was also ejected for targeting on the play. Now he’ll have to sit out the first half of the Big 12 opener against TCU.

2. How worried should we be about the running game? Texas’ running backs finished with 129 yards on 30 carries, an average of 4.3 yards. That’s not terrible, of course, but was there a single run that you can really recall? Tre Watson’s longest gain was 9 yards. The running game wasn’t all that impressive against Maryland  or Tulsa either.

3. Hard to come up with a third jeer in a 37-14 win over a nationally ranked team. How about this: Why was Ehlinger still playing late in the game?


Texas joined the 900 Wins Club. The Longhorns notched their 900th all-time victory in their 1,300th all-time game. Only Michigan and Ohio State have won 900 games. … The minus-5 rushing yards were the fewest Texas has allowed since 2014, when it held Texas Tech to minus-14 yards. … Kris Boyd played in his 40th straight game. … Ehlinger moved into the top-10 in the school record books for 200-yard passing games; he tied former Horns quarterback Shea Morenz (1993-94) with his ninth one. Ehlinger also improved to 4-5 as a starter.

On deck

No. 15 TCU (Saturday, Sept. 22, DKR, 3:30 p.m., Fox)

The Longhorns open their Big 12 schedule. It’s also the second game in what should end up being a season-defining four-game gauntlet — at home vs. USC, at home vs. TCU, at Kansas State in always-treacherous Manhattan, and vs. Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl. The Horned Frogs led No. 4 Ohio State at halftime but fell 40-28 on Saturday.

The last five Texas-TCU matchups:

2013: Texas 30, TCU 7 (Fort Worth)

2014: No. 6 TCU 48, Texas 10 (Austin)

2015: No. 4 TCU 50, Texas 7 (Fort Worth)

2016: TCU 31, Texas 9 (Austin)

2017: No. 10 TCU 24, Texas 7 (Fort Worth)

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