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No. 19 Colorado knocked from unbeaten ranks as USC scores wild Saturday’s final upset

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It was a wild Saturday in college football filled with top 25 upsets across the board. Pac-12 After Dark was sure to get a pelt on the wall as well.

USC quarterback J.T. Daniels threw two first quarter interceptions but bounced back in a big way as the Trojans knocked No. 19 Colorado from the ranks of the unbeaten 31-20 on Saturday night and managed to reinsert the defending champions back into the driver’s seat of the Pac-12 South.

Daniels, who tossed one of those picks on the first play of the game, basically was the Trojans offense on the night as the program known for ‘Student Body Right’ had just seven yards rushing at halftime and didn’t improve much on that number as the game wore on. The freshman signal-caller wound up with 272 yards passing and three touchdowns when all was said and done in the game, giving the half-full crowd a few things to cheer about while keeping head coach Clay Helton a perfect 19-0 at the L.A. Coliseum as head coach of the cardinal and gold.

Michael Pittman Jr. led the way as Daniels’ best friend, recording 144 yards on just five catches — two of which went for scores, one from 65 yards out. Tyler Vaughns also found the end zone through the air in an encouraging sign for USC’s receivers breaking out at the right time as they hit a critical stretch in conference play.

Defensively, the Trojans were able to put together one of the best efforts of the season. Ajene Harris recorded a pick-six in the second half that essentially put this result to bed and they held the Buffs to one of their worst performances on the offensive end in some time. That they did so without captain and star middle linebacker Cameron Smith spoke volumes and especially so given that his replacement, freshman Palaie Gaoteote, suffered a concussion (on a questionable play that also could have been called for targeting) and the team was forced to put a walk-on in the middle of the field.

As for Colorado, it was a night to forget for the program as they finally slipped up against a team with a winning record on the season. The big plays defensively were one thing but the lack of any real productivity on offense all but doomed Mike MacIntyre’s group in a game they generally had control of until a few minute stretch before halftime turned things on its head.

Quarterback Steven Montez threw for only 168 yards and one interception on a night where he mostly had to check it down whenever he wasn’t being pressured (which was quite often). He didn’t get any help from the rushing attack and the score made the Buffs one-dimensional as things wound down.

All-purpose star Laviska Shenault scored on a wild 49 yard run out of the wildcat formation to help lead the team in rushing and receiving (72 yards) but it wasn’t enough. He was one of a number of key players who got banged up during the game too, missing most of the fourth quarter with an injury that isn’t too concerning going forward but did keep him out down the stretch.

The end result not only gives CU their first loss of the season and keeps them from hitting bowl eligibility at the midway mark, but also shakes up the Pac-12 South race and all but certainly drops the Pac-12 out of the College Football Playoff race at the same time given events elsewhere in the league. The flip side is it makes USC the team to beat once again as they try to defend their crown following another slow start to the year. The trip to Salt Lake City next weekend to play Utah very well could determine the division and who makes that trip to Santa Clara as a result.

The Trojans seem to have a knack for getting better as the year gets going and the Buffs found that out first hand to cap off another crazy Saturday night.

J.T. Daniels bounces back to help USC to halftime lead over No. 19 Colorado

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USC’s true freshman quarterback bounced back from a rough first quarter to throw a trio touchdown passes and help the Trojans secure a 21-7 lead at halftime in a pivotal Pac-12 South battle with No. 19 Colorado at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

After an extremely ugly (and slow) start for both sides, it was the Buffs that started to get things going in the second quarter thanks to, who else, all-everything star Laviska Shenault. The receiver not only led his team in yardage through the air, but he was also CU’s leading rusher thanks to a 49 yard rushing touchdown for the game’s first points. QB Steven Montez couldn’t find his favorite target as much as he would have liked to, being forced to check down plenty while completing 14 passes for only 60 yards and taking a number of sacks.

Opposite number J.T. Daniels wasn’t any sharper early for USC but rebounded as the game went on deep into the cool Los Angeles night. Following two first quarter interceptions (one of the first offensive snap of the game), the freshman signal-caller started launching bombs to his wideouts down the field and seemed to find plenty of success as a result. All told, Daniels threw for 255 yards in the half and found both Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman Jr. (twice) for a trio of touchdowns all told.

The Trojans didn’t have any sort of ground game to lean on at all with a paltry seven yards rushing, making the throws their quarterback was making even more impressive. They also limited the Buffs’ ground attack, aside from the Shenault run, despite the absence of senior linebacker Cameron Smithwho was in street clothes for the game with an injury.

This is the biggest test yet for undefeated Colorado against the defending conference champions and doubles as the first of several key games in the South Division for both sides. There was already a shakeup in the North earlier in the day and as #Pac12AfterDark started setting in L.A., it appears one on the other side of the league is starting to take hold as well given the way this one is trending.

Texas scores 34 straight to blow by No. 22 USC

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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.

Daniels stakes USC to early lead, but Texas nudges back in front at the break

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After a lively and lengthy first half, Texas holds a 16-14 lead over USC at the break in Austin.

It was clear from the first snap Texas defensive coordinator Todd Orlando‘s game plan was to rattle USC true freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels through a number of blitz looks. It was clear immediately after that the plan wasn’t going to work.

Daniels completed 12 of his first 17 passes, leading the Trojans on a 9-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game, then, after a punt, an 8-play, 53-yard scoring march, staking visiting USC to a 14-3 lead with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.

Suddenly, Texas needed a touchdown drive or the game 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 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.

For the half, Daniels completed 16-of-27 passes for 199 yards with an interception, hitting St. Bronw five times for 88 yards. USC managed only 16 yards on 11 credited rushes. USC converted six of its first seven third down tries.

Ehlinger started hot, but closed the half 7-of-17 for 132 yards with a touchdown. Tre Watson leads all runners with seven carries for 30 yards.

Texas will receive to open the second half.

Defense, special teams push No. 24 OK State past No. 17 Boise State

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A game pitting the highest-scoring teams of the decade was won on the other two phases, as No. 24 Oklahoma State used opportunistic special teams and bend-but-don’t-break special teams to grab control of the game and its running game to put it away, earning a key 44-21 win over No. 17 Boise State in Stillwater.

The Broncos (2-1) opened the scoring less than a minute into the second quarter as Brett Rypien found John Hightower for a 31-yard touchdown pass, but the lead could have been more. The first sustained drive of the day by either team, a 14-play, 42-yard march by Boise State midway through the first quarter, ended in a 27-yard Haden Hoggarth field goal try that doinked off the right upright.

Oklahoma State (3-0) notched the equalizer immediately after Boise State’s opening touchdown, as Taylor Cornelius found Tylan Wallace for a 43-yard connection, allowing Justice Hill to scamper in for an 8-yard touchdown run on the next play.

The Cowboys forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Amen Ogbongbemiga bursted through the line to block Quinn Skillin‘s punt, which Ogbongbemiga recovered at the Boise State 7. Cornelius plunged in for a 1-yard rush three plays later to give Oklahoma State a 14-7 lead.

Boise State moved into Cowboy territory on their next touch, but Bryan Harsin elected to go for a 4th-and-6 at the OSU 37, and a group of Cowboys lassoed Alexander Mattison a yard short of the line to gain.

Cornelius hit Tyron Johnson for a 35-yard gain to put Oklahoma State back in Broncos territory, and Matt Ammendola booted a 22-yard field goal, his 15th straight successful try, to push the Cowboy lead to 10 to close the first half scoring.

Ammendola added a 48-yard kick to open the second half, but Boise State closed the Cowboys’ lead to 20-14 when Rypien hit A.J. Richardson for a 34-yard touchdown with 9:18 to play in the third quarter. Oklahoma State again responded immediately, moving 68 yards in eight plays, punctuated by a 32-yard scoring strike from Cornelius to Dillon Stoner.

And then history repeated itself. Just like in the first half, Oklahoma State followed a touchdown with a three-and-out, then blocked a Boise State punt deep in the Broncos’ end. This time, Jarrick Bernard blocked Joel Velazquez‘s punt, and Za’Carrius Green scooped the pigskin up and returned it 13 yards for a touchdown, pushing the Cowboy lead to 34-14 with 20 minutes and change remaining.

A third Rypien touchdown pass and a third Ammendola field goal gave Boise State the ball with a two-score deficit and plenty of time to erase it, but Calvin Bundage and Devin Harper combined to sack Rypien for the sixth time of the day, and Boise State punted. Oklahoma State put the game away on the ensuing possession, moving 72 yards in five rushes: 53 on one carry by Hill to move Oklahoma State from its own 28 to the Boise State red zone, and then Cornelius for the final 10, including a 6-yard score.

While not always pretty, Cornelius was effective in his first major appearance as a starting quarterback. He completed 15-of-26 passes for 243 yards with a touchdown while displaying an as-yet-unseen running ability, carrying 16 times for 41 yards and two touchdowns. Hill led all runners with 15 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Rypien completed 39-of-56 passes for 380 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, but he was sacked seven times and lost a fumble on Boise State’s final drive. When including sack yardage, Boise State mustered only 34 yards on 30 credited carries.

The loss pushes Boise State behind No. 18 UCF for the top spot among Group of 5 programs in the race for the New Year’s Six, while a win opens up a world of opportunity for Mike Gundy‘s Cowboys. Oklahoma State does not face another ranked team until Nov. 10, when at that point the Pokes will close at No. 5 Oklahoma, versus No. 14 West Virginia and at No. 15 TCU.