LOS ANGELES, CA-USC. Texas. Vince Young, Matt Leinart. Matthew McConaughey. Football in Southern California. Another nail-biter. What else would you expect? The USC-Texas football game didn’t have national championships ramifications riding on it as it did when Young’s spectacular one-man show did in the Trojans 11 years ago at the Rose Bowl.
But it was nearly as exciting. If anyone thought that Texas would go quietly in the night after the Longhorns’ embarrassing loss to Maryland last week, they guessed incorrect. USC came out the winners of this colossal event that took place at the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16.
But the Trojans had to sweat it out before they could claim their third win of the 2017 season. That’s because Texas put its heart on its sleeve during the emotional wave of thrilling ups and downs in its second loss of the season.
The tense standoff between the fourth-ranked Trojans and the Longhorns gave college football another kick in the quality entertainment chapter. In keeping in line of what transpired when the two teams last tangled with one another, Texas and USC provided enough shock value to take people’s breath away in the Trojans’ 27-24 double overtime win.
Big stumbles, big hits, and big plays became the theme rising from this Trojans-Longhorns battle. Neither team needed help from Leinart or from Young. This time around, the former NFL stars had to take a backseat to another generation of playmakers. Let’s start with USC.
The Trojans were the beneficiaries of game-tying and game winning field goals by placekicker Chase McGrath. When they needed timely defensive stops, Clay Helton’s team delivered.
A successful Hail Mary pass for a touchdown on the last play of the second quarter, a play that looked more like a hitch route with a downfield pick, put new life into the Trojans as they went into the locker room at halftime. Or so they thought.
As incredible as that play was and considering how momentous it could have been for USC, the Longhorns didn’t tuck their tails between their legs to run and hide. Instead, they came out and put the USC offensive unit on lock for the entire second half, giving up just three points right at the end of regulation that forced the game to go into overtime.
When you talk about big plays, Texas had many of them, recording several fourth down stops against USC, blanketing quarterback Sam Darnold and the Trojans’ offense in the first and third quarters. And let’s not forget the two interceptions that Texas defensive back DeShon Elliott snagged off Darnold, including one for a pick six touchdown.
This game was a defensive tug-o-war for over three quarters before it turned out to be a chess game of offensive playmakers deciding the outcome of the contest. That’s pretty much what happened in the first go around between the two teams.
There would be no Vince Young moment for the Longhorns, though. Texas quarterback Sam Ehlinger came close when he connected with Cade Brewer with a three-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds left in the game as the Longhorns took their first lead of the evening at 17-14.
A monumental upset was brewing, and it was left to Darnold to do something about it. Like he has done this season, and what he managed to do in 2016, Darnold proved yet again that he was up for the task, leading the Trojans down the field in 45 seconds to kick a game-tying field goal (31 yards by McGrath).
For a while, though, there was some trepidation about the Trojans’ offense, particularly in the second half. Even though he passed for 397 yards and three touchdowns, Darnold was taken out of his comfort zone by an aggressive Longhorns’ front seven.
The Texas defensive line hurried and harassed Darnold into completing just 28 of the 49 passes he attempted. The Longhorns also landed several haymaker sacks on Darnold as well.
But being the resolute leader that he is, Darnold got the job done for the Trojans, hooking up with a wide open Deontay Burnett in the first overtime period for a score after driving the field at the end of regulation. Texas may not have their Superman in Vince Young running around the field anymore, but the Trojans sure have Sam Darnold dropping kryptonite on everyone else.