AUSTIN — Not many could have expected what transpired on Saturday night at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, but, nonetheless, no one wearing burnt orange was left complaining.
The Longhorns shook off a slow start and dominated No. 22 USC, 37-14, in front of a sellout crowd of 103,507 — the largest in school history. It was also Texas’ 900th win in program history.
Here are five takeaways from Saturday night’s game:
1. Texas makes big 4th and goal stand in first half, then catches break with controversial no safety call
There was a pivotal sequence midway through the second quarter where the Longhorns caught some big breaks. After a 41-yard pass from JT Daniels to Amon-Ra St. Brown set up shop for the Trojans inside Texas’ 10-yard line, the Longhorns’ defense hung tough.
USC faced a 4th and goal on the one-yard line. A penalty by the Trojans on the previous play could have backed them up for a 3rd down, but Texas declined it and USC decided to go for it. USC running back Stephen Carr took a pitch and sprinted toward the outside, but junior safety Brandon Jones took a great angle and closed on him with tremendous speed to take Carr down. It was a critical defensive stand for the Longhorns in the first half, as they trailed 14-13 at that point. And it was also a classic deja vu moment.
Texas’ defense stuffed USC on a big 4th and goal from the one early in the first half of last year’s meeting in Los Angeles. And in the 2006 Rose Bowl, the Longhorns famously stopped LenDale White on 4th and one near midfield late in the fourth quarter to get the ball back to Vince Young.
What followed Saturday’s 4th and goal stop, though, was a weird sequence. On 2nd and six from Texas’ seven-yard line, Ehlinger was sacked in the end zone for what looked like a safety. His attempt to stretch the ball over the goal line didn’t appear to be enough to give Texas a spot on the one-yard line. But after replay review, the call on the field stood and Texas somehow avoided a safety.
It was massive break for the Longhorns and would have put USC up 16-13 while also giving the Trojans the ball back.
2. Texas has found its kicker in Cameron Dicker
The Longhorns have had their fare share of great kickers come through their program. Phil Dawson, Dusty Mangum, Hunter Lawrence, Justin Tucker and Anthony Fera all had standout careers and made big kicks at Texas. But in recents years, Texas’ kicking game has mostly been a wreck and plagued by inconsistency.
There was plenty of hype surrounding freshman Cameron Dicker, an Austin native and Lake Travis High School product, coming into this season. Herman named him the starter two days before the season opener against Maryland. Dicker was able to beat out last year’s starter, senior Joshua Rowland.
But Dicker didn’t have a chance to prove his worth until Texas’ third game of the season on Saturday night. Dicker went three-for-three in the first half on the first three field goal attempts of his Longhorn career. He hit field goals from distances of 20, 46 and 46 yards.
For now, the Longhorns appear to have found their man at kicker.
3. Texas erupts for 34 unanswered points in rout of Trojans
It was a slow start that was beginning to harken flashbacks to the season opener against Maryland just two weeks ago. The Longhorns found themselves down 14-3 early in the first half.
But then Texas started to find its groove and followed up with a touchdown and a field goal on back-to-back offensive possessions. Then the Longhorns came up with a big 4th and goal stop on their own one-yard line midway through the second quarter that bolstered the momentum.
From then on, it was a blood bath. Dicker converted his second 46-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give the Longhorns a 16-14 halftime lead, which felt as if they almost didn’t deserve it considering the slow start and how effective USC’s offense looked early on.
Then Texas made a statement in the third quarter with 21 points, which was highlighted by blocking USC’s 50-yard field goal attempt and returning it for a touchdown that put the Longhorns in complete control. Freshman safety Caden Sterns got his hands on Chase McGrath’s attempt, and senior linebacker Anthony Wheeler scooped it up and returned it to the end zone.
When it was all said and done Saturday night, Texas had scored 34 unanswered points after falling behind 14-3 early.
4. Sam Ehlinger impresses in pivotal game
Coming into the game, this was going to be a pivotal night for Texas’ sophomore quarterback. Ehlinger turned in a fine performance against an inferior Tulsa team last Saturday at home, but Saturday night was going to be a key barometer to see if Ehlinger could finally lead the Longhorns to a signature win against a top-25 team.
Ehlinger, by all measures, passed the test and commanded Texas’ offense well. He made big throws throughout the night and flashed his gifted running ability time and again, helping keep the chains moving for Texas in critical spots.
Ehlinger finished the night 15-33 passing for 223 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed 17 times for 35 yards and a touchdown.
5. Longhorns finally win a big game under Tom Herman
Above all else, the biggest takeaway from Saturday night was that the Longhorns finally claimed a marquee win under head coach Tom Herman.
Herman was 1-4 against the top-25 entering Saturday night, and the lone win came last year against a West Virginia team without its quarterback Will Grier.
Saturday’s stomping of the No. 22 Trojans helps change the national narrative about Texas at least for the time being. Texas not only won a big game but did so in dominating fashion. Texas’ offense showed some big playmaking ability, and its defense was suffocating after a sluggish start.
The Longhorns racked up 394 yards of offense, were 10-19 on third down and dominated time of possession with 34:38 compared to USC’s 25:22. Texas limited USC’s offense to 317 total yards, including a whopping minus-five yards rushing.
The Longhorns (2-1) are in for another marquee showdown next Saturday in Austin as they host No. 15 TCU. The Horned Frogs (2-1) will enter off a loss to No. 4 Ohio State. Kickoff from Royal-Memorial Stadium next Saturday is at 3:30 p.m.
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Source : https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/collegesports/2018/09/15/texas-usc-live-updates-will-longhorns-defend-home-turf-after-last-years-loss