J.T. Daniels staked No. 22 USC to an early lead, but Texas scored 34 straight points to blow past the Trojans for an important 37-14 win in Austin.
It was clear from the first snap Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando‘s game plan was to rattle the true freshman Daniels through a number of blitz looks. The plan didn’t work early, as USC converted six of its first seven third downs, Daniels hit 12 of his first 17 throws and USC raced to a 14-3 first quarter lead.
Suddenly, Texas (2-1) needed a touchdown drive or the game — and perhaps the season — would quickly get away from them, and a touchdown drive is what they got. Sam Ehlinger found Lil'Jordan Humphrey for a 47-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass, pulling the Longhorns within 14-10 with 13:23 to play in the opening half. Texas cornerback Kris Boyd intercepted Daniels on the next snap from scrimmage, but Collin Johnson dropped a would-be first down catch on 3rd and 8, forcing Cameron Dicker to convert a 46-yard field goal.
Hooking up twice with favorite target Amon-Ra St. Brown, Daniels moved USC (1-2) into a 1st and goal at the Texas 9, but Texas stuffed consecutive runs from the 1 to turn the Trojans away empty handed with 7:14 left in the first half. On the ensuing possession, the Trojans appeared to sack Ehlinger inside his own end zone, but officials ruled him out of the end zone and the call was upheld upon review. The drive was actually given new life twice when USC was flagged for roughing the punter, but Texas punted anyway.
Still, the lack of a safety call worked in Texas’s favor when the ‘Horns forced a three-and-out and Chris Tilbey gave Texas the ball with 2:20 to play before the break at its own 49 after a 13-yard punt. Ehlinger eventually guided Texas to the USC 33, and Dicker nailed a 46-yarder as time expired to give Texas its first lead of the night.
Texas carried its momentum into the second half, ripping off a 21-0 third quarter to put the game away. The Horns accepted the ball to open the half and moved 74 yards in 10 plays, scoring on a 27-yard pass from Ehlinger to Joshua Moore. After a Daniel Young fumble at the USC 15 handed the Trojans the ball and a chance to climb back in the game, USC moved to the Texas 32, setting up a 50-yard Chase McGrath field goal try, but the kick was blocked by Caden Sterns and returned by Anthony Wheeler 46 yards for a touchdown.
Ehlinger put the game away at the 1:42 mark of the third quarter with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Though Daniels started hot, USC’s inability to run the ball eventually did him in. The Trojans were credited with only 16 runs for minus-6 yards, forcing Daniels to throw the ball 48 times. He completed 30 for 322 yards — nine of which went to St. Brown for 167 yards — but the Trojans went dark on the scoreboard over the final three frames. Stephen Carr opened the scoring with a 23-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game, but finished with six carries for 13 yards. He was USC’s leading rusher.
Ehlinger, meanwhile, completed 15-of-33 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns while rushing 17 times for 35 yards and a score. Tre Watson carried 18 times for 72 yards, and Young rushed 12 times for 57 yards.
The win was Texas’s 900th in program history; win No. 800 came in the 2006 Rose Bowl over USC.
The Trojans, meanwhile, have dropped back-to-back games by double digits for the first time since 2000, the year prior to Pete Carroll‘s arrival.