A suitable amount of fairy dust might’ve been the only thing this showdown was missing.
The No. 4 USC Trojans needed two overtimes to outlast the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, 27-24, during the first meeting between the programs since the legendary finish in the 2006 national championship.
Fom every perspective, there was a victory.
USC grabbed the most important one, moving to 3-0. While a loss wouldn’t have shattered the Trojans’ dreams of winning the Pac-12 and reaching the College Football Playoff, it sure would’ve complicated the journey.
Texas will be disappointed at the missed opportunity, and moral victories aren’t helpful in the record books. But spare us the “participation-trophy culture” retorts.
You can be sure Tom Herman and his coaching staff will flaunt to recruits how this underdog squad nearly upset a national contender. When a program is in Texas’ position—working to merit relevance—a close loss is one meaningful step toward to a close win. “You’re the missing piece,” they can say. Depending on the recruit, they won’t be wrong.
And except one thing, what more could football fans want from the rare matchup? The sixth all-time meeting between the schools had everything but the upset.
Sam Darnold, a potential first-round NFL draft pick, tossed a pair of interceptions—though one was not his fault—and took three sacks. But the superstar quarterback came through when USC needed him most, leading a game-tying field-goal drive despite having less than 45 seconds on the clock.
On the opening play of the first overtime, Darnold threw a strike to Deontay Burnett for a go-ahead touchdown. That’s exactly what everyone expects from a touted prospect such as Darnold. He afforded his team another chance to win—and his teammates responded.
With Texas inside the 5-yard line and destined for a 1st-and-goal situation, Trojans defensive lineman Christian Rector ripped the ball free. Ajene Harris pounced on the ball, leading to a second set of heroics from an unlikely source.
Chase McGrath, a freshman walk-on kicker who had nailed a 31-yard field goal as regulation expired to force overtime, calmly hammered a 43-yard winner:
None of that would’ve been necessary without a remarkable performance from the underdog, however.
USC entered the contest a 16.5-point favorite, per OddsShark. After all, Texas was only two weeks removed from an embarrassing defensive day in a loss to the Maryland Terrapins, who amassed 482 yards and 51 points to ruin Herman’s debut with the team.
Orangebloods.com’s Dustin McComas saw value in Texas’ effort:
This game shouldn’t have been close.
Nevertheless, the Longhorns put together a sensational outing, forcing six punts and limiting a dynamic duo of running backs—Ronald Jones II and Stephen Carr—to 75 yards on 27 carries.
Additionally, they had no choice but to start a true freshman at quarterback—on the road, opposite a likely first-round pick in Darnold. That should be a recipe for a complete disaster, but it wasn’t.
Sam Ehlinger responded to the challenge, posting 298 yards and two touchdowns in the high-stress environment. His shining moment was capping the go-ahead scoring drive with a 17-yard touchdown to Armanti Foreman along the sideline with :45 seconds remaining in regulation:
Yes, Ehlinger’s overtime fumble cost Texas the game. No, the turnover should not be disregarded because the Longhorns tried really hard and that’s what matters, because actual wins are the object of the sport. But Herman appropriately described the significance of the Longhorns’ effort.
“There are no moral victories in college football,” he said, per Bryan Fischer of College Football Talk. “But to be in a position to win the game says a lot at how much we’ve grown.”
This is coming from the same coach who, after falling to Maryland, said he couldn’t have expected to sprinkle fairy dust on this roster and expect greatness immediately, per Paul Myerberg of USA Today. Just two weeks later, however, the Longhorns found some of that magic.
A short-handed, underdog Texas team made a much-needed statement on the road against an elite opponent. USC countered by doing what national contenders do: pulling out a victory it maybe shouldn’t have. And fans saw one of the year’s most captivating games.
Yes, Texas was the loser. But everyone’s a winner.
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Source: Bleacher Report-CFB News