On paper, this game should not have been a contest, but the 2005 National Championship rematch did not disappoint. On Saturday night, as a three-score underdog on the road, the Longhorns, specifically the defense, put on one of the guttiest performances you will ever see on the gridiron. With little help from the offense, the they flat-out refused to give up against fourth-ranked Southern California and a Trojan offense featuring one of the best quarterbacks in the county. When the Longhorns needed it, somehow, the defense made a play time and time again.
On USC’s first drive of the game, the Trojans marched 44 yards down the field before being turned away on fourth and four at the Texas 37 yard line. On the Trojans second drive of the game, the Longhorns were backed up to their goal line, but once again held strong and turned USC away on fourth and one from the one yard line.
The Longhorn offense, whose self-inflicted injuries from week one traveled with them to the west coast, promptly threw a pick the very next play, and USC was back in business on the Longhorn 34 yard line. You wondered just how long the defense could hold on. But once again the defense held and USC was forced to punt.
Three plays later, the quarterback Sam Ehlinger turned the ball over on a fumble. Once again, USC was in business on the Longhorn’s side of the field. Once again, the defense held and their effort was rewarded by the football gods as Chase McGrath’s 46-yard field goal attempt went wide.
At the end of the first quarter it was 0-0 and despite gifting USC two turnovers, they had survived four scoring opportunities by the Trojans. It was clear that the only reason the Longhorns were even in the game was because of the defensive effort, and once that broke, it was over.
Mid-way through the second quarter, the defense broke when USC quarterback Sam Darnold found Deontay Burnett for a 15-yard touchdown. It was just one score, but it felt like that was the game, and the Texas offense couldn’t seem to find any rhythm.
However, on USC’s very next drive, the Texas defense answered with a score of their own with 19 seconds left in the half. DeShon Elliot picked off Darnold and took it to the house for a pick six, and just like that it was a tie ballgame again.
Then disaster struck.
With just 10 seconds left in the half, the Longhorn defense was caught looking ahead to halftime and two plays later USC was in the end zone on a 56-yard pass with triple zeros on the clock. It was a dagger.
For the defense to give up a score in that fashion, after basically willing Texas into the game, it felt like a back breaker.
Somehow, amazingly, the Texas defense once again got up off the mat. If USC wanted out of the ring, they were going to have to knock Texas out.
In the second half, the Longhorn offense showed a pulse, but a number of misfires meant USC was never really threatened. However, because of the Texas defense, USC couldn’t pull away either.
And then, with just 4:53 left in the game, something magical happened. It was now or never as USC had a 14-10 lead, and the Longhorn offense responded. After starting the drive on their own 9 yard line, seven plays later, they faced fourth and one on their own 28 yard line with 2:55 left on the clock. With the game on the line, Sam Ehlinger tucked the ball and pushed forward for a 2-yard gain and a first down. Texas was still alive. Seven players later, the game was once again on the line with 1:07 left on the clock. Texas faced fourth and 10 and converted when Ehlinger found Armanti Foreman for an 11-yard gain down to the USC 17 yard line.
Down four, and with just a minute left in the game, Texas was threatening to knock off number four in the country on the road. Two plays later, Ehlinger once again found Foreman for a 17-yard touchdown.
Unbelievably, the Longhorns had a 17-14 lead with just 45 seconds left in the game.
Unfortunately for Texas, Sam Darnold only needed 43 of those seconds to get USC within field goal range, and walk on kicker Chase McGrath was clutch to send the game to overtime.
With momentum on their side, USC put seven on the board with a 25 yard strike to receiver Deontay Burnett.
Another dagger, but Texas simply refused to lay down. Somehow clinging to life, the offense answered. They didn’t do it in one play like the Trojans, they needed four plays, but they answered to send the game to double overtime.
In the second overtime, Texas finally succumbed to their fate. The Longhorn offense ran back-to-back quarterback draws to try to punch it in, and USC made them pay for the second one, stripping Ehlinger of the ball.
The Texas defense came out and held USC to just a one-yard gain through three downs, but there simply wasn’t anything left that they could do as they watched McGrath put the 43-yard attempt through the uprights.
Texas made them earn it, but USC escaped with the win, but you can bet they aren’t looking forward to their trip to Austin next season.
|3rd Down Eff||4-16||6-18|
|4th Down Eff||2-3||0-3|
|Yards Per Pass||7.4||7.8|
|Yards Per Rush||1.9||1.9|
|TEX – S. Ehlinger||21/40||298||7.4||2||2||27.4|
|USC – S. Darnold||28/49||397||8.1||3||2||54.1|
|TEX – C. Warren III||4||15||3.8||0||5|
|USC – R. Jones II||18||47||2.6||0||11|
|TEX – C. Johnson||7||191||27.3||0||48|
|USC – D. Burnett||8||123||15.4||2||25|
EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK
Big 12 offenses would do best to avoid throwing Deshon Elliott’s way. He broke up multiple passes and came away with two picks against one of the best quarterbacks in college football.
We didn’t see Shane Buechele despite him being available, which likely means we won’t see much of him from here on out. It looks like the job is Ehlinger’s to grow into.
Preseason All-Big 12 left tackle Connor Williams went down in the first half and was out the remainder of the game. It was a blow for Texas as Ehlinger was under duress for much of the night. There no word yet on how long he may be out.
“Obviously, Connor’s an incredible player and everybody in the country knows that,” quarterback Sam Ehlinger said after the game. “Next man up, though. The way we moved around up front, they did a great job. Couldn’t have asked for a better performance from guys off the bench.”
Maybe don’t close your eyes next time
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 17, 2017
The fumble that sealed the game
Ugh Texas pic.twitter.com/xuectCZlDX
— Joe Fleming (@ByJoeFleming) September 17, 2017
The defense watching the fumble.
— LandGrant Gauntlet (@the_LGG) September 17, 2017
Yes please, but Mike Stoops vs Tim Beck, not so much.
Lincoln Riley vs. Todd Orlando in Dallas. Yeah. Give it to me, baby.
— Matt Zemek (@MattZemek) September 17, 2017
This is true. Malik Jefferson played lights out.
Seriously, Malik has played a damn monster game.
— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) September 17, 2017