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17 September 2017, 10:05 | Anna Jefferson
USC Athletics Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold is a Heisman Trophy front-runner
The stakes were not as high as the last time the two teams met, but the late-game drama was certainly close.
A week after thumping Stanford and exorcising one recent demon, USC struggled mightily in trying to right a wrong that reached back into the very lore of its storied program.
The matchup was hyped plenty during the offseason after USC closed the year on a nine-game winning streak and Texas made a splash head coaching hire with Tom Herman, but lost some of its luster when the Longhorns were dismantled in a 51-31 loss to Maryland in the opener.
But given the circumstances, it's hard to have asked for anything more than what the Trojans and Longhorns delivered this time.
Both teams' defenses dominated for most of the game. In Week 3, however, the Longhorns bounced back quickly with a huge road victory over the fourth-ranked USC Trojans, 17-14.
Remember, though, that Texas robbed a national championship from USC.
There were several glaring decisions that explained why the Trojans were hamstrung by their staff and needed some good fortune to escape with a 27-24 double-overtime victory. That 7-7 score would stay static for the next 36 minutes or so of game time until quarterback Kyle Shurmur's two-yard touchdown run (of course) proved to be the difference in the game. DeShon Elliott intercepted Darnold and returned it 38-yards for the Longhorns' third straight game with a non-offensive touchdown. He played the entire first half and recorded two sacks before his toe injury -which forced him to have surgery just a few days ago- was too much to continue on.
Simply put, the biggest reason the Longhorns were in this game in the first place was because of the defense.
Ehlinger's coaches and teammates were thrilled with his effort after the game. He completed a 17-yard pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey. Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown, taking his TD tally to the ninth consecutive game. On fourth-and-10 at the USC 28, he found Armanti Foreman over the middle for 11 yards.
In his first career start, true freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger led the Longhorns to whopping 623 yards of total offense, including 406 yards on the ground. USC led 7-0 and just got the ball at its 23-yard line. Unfortunately, he did throw two interceptions, but the important takeaway from Saturday night is that the Trojans remain flawless and Darnold's Heisman campaign isn't derailed just yet.
Coach Clay Helton never ruled out Gustin, but never expressed much optimism that he would play Saturday night. I suppose it makes sense, then, that everyone is still talking about 2006; even as a Trojan fan, it might be more compelling to argue about LenDale White's fourth-down run or Reggie Bush's freakish lateral attempt than to discuss the Longhorns' quarterback predicament or Gustin's status for game day.
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