Football

Texas 37, USC 14: Our five pregame questions — answered

Posted September 15th, 2018

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Revisiting our five pregame questions that were facing the Longhorns ahead of Saturday night’s 37-14 win over USC.

Here’s how they played out:

1. Did Tom Herman get his first big win at Texas?

Yes.

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Big win? Certainly. Signature win? Probably not — a win over the 22nd-ranked team in the country probably doesn’t reach that level. But make no mistake: A win over USC in prime time, especially with Texas looking so impressive doing it, is big. Whether this acts as a catalyst for the Longhorns as they begin Big 12 play remains to be seen. Herman, who famously went 6-0 against ranked teams at Houston, infamously started out 0-4 against ranked teams at Texas. But now he’s won two straight, going back to the 28-14 win at Morgantown last November.

2. Did USC cover Collin Johnson (this time)?

No.

Johnson had a monster game in last year’s double-overtime loss in Los Angeles, as he turned seven receptions into 191 yards. He led the Longhorns again in receiving tonight, with six catches for 79 yards — he had seven catches in the first two games. Sam Ehlinger targeted him 11 times, though, so it was a busy night. In fact, Texas’ first two plays of the night were 15- and 20-yard passes to Johnson. The Trojans were allowing only 140 passing yards a game; Ehlinger passed for 223.

3. Did Texas get a sack?

Yes.

Three of them, in fact. They were sorely needed; Texas had produced just one sack and two quarterback hurries in its first two games against Maryland and Tulsa, two schools hovering around No. 100 nationally in passing offenses. But the Trojans’ offensive line has had its issues; through three games, USC has given up nine sacks. Charles Omenihu, Gary Johnson and Chris Brown all notched sacks. In last  year’s game, Texas got to Sam Darnold three times, too.

4. Did the Trojans get to Sam Ehlinger?

Yes.

USC had two sacks of Ehlinger — both by standout linebacker Porter Gustin. But he exited early in the third quarter for a targeting penalty on a play that saw him hit Ehlinger so hard, the quarterback’s helmet popped off. Last year, USC sacked Ehlinger five times. But the sophomore looked composed for much of the night and his ability to run kept him out of sticky situations; the quarterback ran it 17 times — some called, some not but he ended up with more carries than all of the Trojans combined.

5. Is punting still a concern?

Yes.

Freshman Ryan Bujcevski averaged 36.2 yards on four punts, with only one of those falling under the category of a Michael Dicksonesque effort, not on length but on placement — a 36-yarder that pinned USC at its own 8. It was Texas’ other freshman specialist, kicker Cameron Dicker, who had the impressive night. Bujcevski’s night was on par for his season; he went into the game averaging 37.3 yards per punt. But he avoided the flubs that he’d shown against Maryland and Tulsa.

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