The Texas Longhorns may or may not be back, but if their performance to close the game against the USC Trojans continues then they could be well on their way back to relevancy. Texas managed to score 34 unanswered points to close out the Trojans, 37-14, but how did Texas manage to put together that performance?
USC: 6-15 (40%) third-down conversions
One of the best measures of a defense is its ability to get off of the field. This becomes more impressive given the fact that through the first quarter, USC was 5-6 on third downs. Meaning that the Texas defense limited the Trojans to 1-9 (11%) through the final three quarters.
During that first-quarter stretch, four of the six Trojans third-down attempts were three yards or shorter, and the one failed attempt came on a 3rd and 12. In the following three quarters, the Texas defense did an incredible job of forcing USC into long third-down attempts, with just three attempts shorter than five yards, and four attempts from longer than 10 yards.
With Texas playing from behind throughout the second quarter and owning a narrow lead coming out of the break, the defensive domination by Texas over JT Daniels and USC’s offense proved invaluable.
Texas defense: -5 rushing yards allowed
With the high-powered passing attack, the Trojans running game was never going to be an offensive focal point. However, Texas truly dominated the line of scrimmage and forced USC to be one-dimensional late. Exemplifying how Texas locked down the run game late, USC running back Stephen Carr finished the first quarter with 20 rushing yards on four carries, and finished the game with 13 yards on six carries.
That -5 rushing yards is buoyed by 26 yards worth of sacks, but Carr had just two runs go for positive yardage — a 23-yard run that required a broken tackle at the line of scrimmage and a one-yard rush to convert on a short third down. Surprisingly, the -5 rushing yards sits at No. 24 in school history for the fewest yards allowed, and is the fewest Texas has allowed since allowing -14 against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in 2010.
Cameron Dicker: 3-3
Senior kicker Joshua Rowland struggled a year ago, especially from distances longer than 40 yards, converting on just 3-8 from that distance. Against USC, talented Texas freshman Cameron Dicker hit two 46-yard field goals in the second quarter, including one as time expired to give Texas its first lead of the game. Dicker’s three field goals put him in rarified status for Texas, as he becomes the first freshman kicker to make three field goals in a game since Dusty Mangum in 2001.
Sam Ehlinger - Ninth 200-yard passing game
Ehlinger continues to prove that the fourth quarter against the Maryland Terrapins was the exception, rather than the rule. His 223 passing yards against USC is the ninth 200-yard passing game of his career, moving him to No. 10 on the school’s leaderboards for such performances. His 2,638 career passing yards put him just 153 yards away from the Top 15 in Texas history, and he needs just 277 yards against TCU to move him into a tie for the fastest to 1,000 passing yards in a season in school history.
With TCU coming off of a close loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes, if Texas wants to achieve its goal of competing for a Big 12 championship, they need to play more akin to quarters two, three, and four vs. USC to compete with the Horned Frogs.