Horns Down: Scondi’s USC vs. Texas 2017 preview

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 04: Running back Reggie Bush #5 of the USC Trojans carries the football past Aaron Harris #2 of the Texas Longhorns before fumbling the ball on the play in the second quarter during the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl Game on January 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 04: Running back Reggie Bush #5 of the USC Trojans carries the football past Aaron Harris #2 of the Texas Longhorns before fumbling the ball on the play in the second quarter during the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl Game on January 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) /

After an impressive victory against Stanford, USC vs. Texas is all about the Trojans avoiding a letdown game against the Longhorns.

Disclaimer: If you are a USC fan that is faint of heart and/or hasn’t gotten over the 2006 Rose Bowl game, please be wary of the introduction.

On January 4, 2006, one of the greatest games in college football history was played as the USC Trojans and Texas Longhorns faced off in the Rose Bowl for the BCS National Championship. Two undefeated teams playing for immortality. One side had Vince Young and the other had Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush (it still counts).

This game had incredible moments from start to finish. It started out slow, but then, early in the second quarter Reggie Bush tried to change that when he broke off a long run off a Leinart pass before turning the ball over attempting a lateral.

Bush made a huge gain to get the Trojans into the end zone but decided to go big or go home and tossed it to a teammate that has never prepared for that moment in his life.  You think Pete Carroll was working out lateral drills for this type of scenario? Maybe he did because he’s a crazy person, but that’s besides the point.

A play like this is something you should only do in video games, and I’d still consider turning off the console if it didn’t work perfectly.

Caught up in the hysteria of the play was whether or not it was actually a lateral. From SBNation’s article:

"Bush’s toss to Walker is never touched by Texas, and like it’s a slightly forward-moving pass, not a lateral. If that were the case, officials should’ve called a five-yard penalty and let USC keep the ball. I know this is a hilariously petty thing for me to be litigating in a public forum 11 years later."

I’m not sure why there is a rule that bails out a player out from mistakenly throwing a live ball when he’s past the line of scrimmage without allowing the opposing team to decline the penalty, but I hope it still doesn’t exist.

There was more controversy with officiating later in the second quarter that makes you think Glasses Ref and the rest of the Pac-12 referees were in charge of officiating.

On this play Vince Young pitches the ball to Shelvin Young for a touchdown, but it’s extremely obvious from this angle (and every other angle) that Young’s knee was down.

How did the officiating crew miss this egregious call? Apparently their replay setup was experiencing more computer issues than Equifax’s servers this week.

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Parry told AP that replay officials did not receive the camera angle that definitively showed Young’s knee down — even as ABC was showing it to the rest of the nation. In fact, he said, the officials told him one of their feeds showed fans in the stadium. In the resulting confusion, play was allowed to continue with Texas missing an extra-point attempt, and by the time replay officials got the correct feed, it was too late."

How do you not have everything set up for the biggest college football game of the season? It’s not like this game happens once a year in the same place at the same time. From reading more on the glitches they had that night, I’m certain I’ve gotten more reliable service from Time Warner.

The game would go back and forth, with each team exchanging scores until 2:13 left in the fourth quarter when USC faced a fourth and two with a chance to ice the game. Big Balls Pete decided to go for it. Unfortunately, the Longhorns were able to stop LenDale White before he reached the first down marker.

Embed from Getty Images

I respect the decision to end the game right there, but I disagree with the play call and more importantly, the personnel on the field. Reggie Bush had one of the greatest seasons of any player that year. To leave him on the sidelines for the most important play of the game is atrocious.

I don’t care if White had more yards that game. I don’t care if it was a short down situation. Bush is one of the best college football players ever. You’ve go with the guy that got you there.

It doesn’t seem like Pete has learned from his past mistakes as a similar decision later in his coaching career cost the Seahawks a Super Bowl when he decided to throw the ball on the goal line instead of handing it off to Marshawn Lynch.

Apologies for any Trojan fans from Seattle. Opening up all sorts of wounds in this preview.

Everyone knows how this game ends. If you don’t, kudos to you. You were either born after 2006, or have found a way to ignore any of the promos for this week’s game.


I’m just going to assume more than half of you skipped over that highlight, so let me break down the horrible play call by the Trojans.

First off, how does no one realizes Vince Young has absolutely no intention of passing the ball on this play? It’s only fourth-and-five and his wide receivers are running streaks into the end zone. He barely finishes his five step drop before taking off for the touchdown.

Second off, why are you blitzing inside and giving up outside containment? If you really wanted to pressure Young, blitz the edge and force him to step into the pocket and make a decision.

Third and finally, the inside blitz forces the defensive end on the outside, the only person who could stop Young’s path to the endzone, to cover the running back. By the time Young is running to the pylon, the defensive end is turned around and nowhere near to stop the inevitable.

You may be reading this, getting madder and madder by the sentence, ready to send a nasty reply to the Reign of Troy Twitter account, asking yourself, “Why is the writer who made a dozen Rice puns last week making me relive one of the worst moments in Trojan football history?

Well, for one, I was still in high school back then so its easy for me to look back at this game and enjoy it for all the chaos and insanity that occurred during those four quarters. It was beautiful and while I wasn’t the die-hard USC fan that I am now then, I’m glad I could witness that kind of history in the moment.

The other reason? To tell USC fans in the most polite and sincere way to get over it. You lost over ten years ago in tragic fashion. You know how many teams have suffered crippling defeat more recently?

The Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cleveland Indians blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series to the Chicago Cubs. North Carolina lost a National Championship to Villanova on a buzzer beater. The Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots.

Hell, Alabama lost in the same exact way as USC did in this year’s National Championship. Deshaun Watson drove 68 yards in two minutes to score the game winning touchdown with a single second left.

I don’t see many Crimson Tide fans complaining about that loss. They are too focused on winning it this year.

The point is you can’t undo the past.

Or can you?

In USC’s media guide this week, the Trojans have the 2006 Rose Bowl loss vacated due to an NCAA penalty.

It’s a genius strategy and I appreciate USC’s pettiness to go through with it. If USC wins don’t count, why should their losses? No one won the Heisman in 2005. In fact, Reggie Bush never even played college. That No. 5 on USC you played with in NCAA Football 2006 was actually a cheat code.

Fans and reporters from every team are calling the Trojans sore (vacated) losers.

As USC Reporter Ryan Abraham pointed out, no one would no more about vacating wins than a 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

However, USC is actually complying with what they were instructed to do by the NCAA.

From an ESPN report:

"But, according to USC sports information director Tim Tessalone, the program was instructed in 2010 by Jim Wright, then the NCAA director of statistics, not to include participation in any games that year as part of its official records. That edict included the Rose Bowl."

"“I have documentation in a letter sent in July 2010 to Wright noting all the changes he instructed us to make, including that losses had to be vacated,” Tessalone said in an email. “The letter also states that he had reviewed all our revisions and approved them.”"

I want to employ this vacated loss strategy to all aspects of life. My last relationship didn’t end well; that’s a vacated girlfriend. I got fired from my job; that’s a vacated employer. I got caught cheating in a class; that’s a vacated test.

You may be asking yourself, “Why does any of this matter and when is he going to preview the game?”

Remember last week, when USC no longer had the curse of being on the wrong end of the biggest upset in college football history?

Well, since the Trojans vacated their loss, they are no longer cursed with losing the 2006 Rose Bowl.

They are now 4-0 against Texas. Let’s stay undefeated.

Texas Team Preview

Note: A lot of my research on Texas came from Bill Connelly’s team preview.  He deserves the recognition. 

Record: 1-1

The Texas opened up their season losing 41-51 to Maryland. The Terrapins beating the Longhorns was the most lopsided upset since the Tortoise and the Hare. Although, slow and steady didn’t win this race.

Texas was able to bounce back and beat San Jose State 56-0. Sounds like the Spartans spent a little much time on Sixth Street before the game.


While its his first year as head coach of Texas, Tom Herman has a history of coaching in the Lone Star state. He began his career as a graduate assistant under Mack Brown in 1999-2000.

Wonder if he was in charge of converting all those quarterbacks that were recruited to the secondary like Coach Brown wanted.

After that, he made stops in Sam Houston State, Texas State, Rice, Iowa State, and Ohio State, where he won a national title as an offensive coordinator.

In 2015, he took the Houston head coaching job where he went 22-4 in two seasons.

In his time there, he got wins over several ranked opponents including Oklahoma, Florida State, and Louisville twice. He even got Paul Wall to rob a jewelry store and make him a grill.

Tom Herman has earned the reputation as a quarterback whisperer. At OSU, he lead the Buckeyes to a national title with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones and the last two years at Houston he turned part-time receiver Greg Ward Jr. into one of the best quarterbacks in the country.

I don’t know what he will mumble into Shane Buechele’s ear, but he should start with “don’t get injured” and “throw the ball better.”

Herman is a player’s coach and a certified #FootballGuy.

Tom Herman is a #FootballGuy that's also a player's coach. He also has a grill fitted by Paul Wall

A post shared by Pardon My Take (@pardonmytake) on

He’s also a little too concerned about your hydration levels

Judging by their game against Maryland, some of the players haven’t been drinking water for weeks.


The offense is led by quarterback Shane Buechele who threw for nearly 3,000 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes last year.

In the season opener against Maryland, he thew 375 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Unfortunately, he suffered a shoulder injury that game and backup Sam Ehlinger had to take over at quarterback against San Jose State, throwing for 222 yards and one touchdown.

Buechele has been limited in practice this week and it’s unsure if he will be able to play this Saturday.

Buechele or Ehlinger have their top three targets from last year back in Dorian Leonard, Armanti Foreman and Colin Johnson.

They also have freshman wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey, whose name raises a lot of questions. Is his father’s name Big’Jordan Humphrey? Does his name change to Old’Jordan Humphrey when he’s no longer a teenager? What if he gains a lot of weight, does it automatically change to Fat’Jordan Humphrey?

In the backfield, the Longhorns will be without running back D’Onta Foreman, who ran for over 2000 yards last year. He’s replaced by Chris Warren III whose production this year has been uneven. Against, Maryland he had 6 carries for 31 yards, but was able to rebound against San Jose State, rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

The Longhorns offensive line is experienced, but it’s uncertain whether it’s helping their performance.  Against Maryland, they allowed eight tackles for loss, five sacks, and four pass deflections. They were able to recover against San Jose State, only allowing two tackles for loss and three pass deflections.


On defense, Texas returns a lot of players and of the 22 players returning, 19 are either are sophomores or juniors.

They are led by coordinator Todd Orlando who employs a nickel defense with three down linemen.

Last year’s defense was bad against the run, and good against big plays and pass rush, and that seems to be the case again this year. Against Maryland, Texas gave up 263 rushing yards and four touchdowns. They were able to bounce back against San Jose State, holding the Spartans to 1.83 yards per carry.

It’s like Maryland is in a top conference and San Jose State is a cupcake opponent that gets paid to lose to top football programs.

In the secondary, they have massive strength at safety where their corners are less proven. Although, defensive back Holton Hill has had an interception returned for a touchdown in each of the first two games this season.

Sam Darnold better make sure Hill doesn’t get a turkey.

Special Teams

On special teams, it’s  good and bad. They return punter Michael Dickson who averaged 47 yards per punt last season, but are in need of a new kicker and kick returner. Not only that, they need some protection on field goals as their first attempt of the season was blocked and returned for a touchdown.



It looks like Bevo XV, named after a plural form of beef and not a confederate general’s most famous horse, will not be able to make it to the Coliseum this Saturday.

Bevo XV staying at home is a good idea. People in Los Angeles love In-N-Out too much to let that large piece of meat out of the stadium in one piece.

Hook ‘Em Horns

Texas fans are very sensitive about making fun of their school’s hand signal. They get really insulted when you point the horns down, so if you see a Texas fan this Saturday, so you should


do it.

I repeat: do


extend you index and pinky fingers while holding on to the second and third fingers with you thumb and point it downward.

Fans get so bent out of shape that they think a Ronald Jones, a Texas native, was giving a horns down in the final minutes against Stanford.

This controversy (if you can call it that) got so out of hand that USC reporters had to ask Jones himself to clarify on the issue.

This is the same player who got sick the first time he came out to California because he was having Whataburger withdrawals. Do you really think he would insult his own state?

USC’s hand gesture is associated with peace and it doesn’t bother us. When you flip it, you got A Town. Shout out to Usher. YEAH!

Final Warning: Do


point the horns down.

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Well, if you aren’t going already, good luck getting in now as the Coliseum is sold out for the first time in four years. Shocking that it has been that long, but not that surprising given the fact that you could probably get box seats to a Rams game for whatever change you have in your left pocket.


This isn’t a game you can kick the flagpole at 5:15 PM and expect to waltz into the stadium and be at your seats for the first or second drive. If you don’t get into the Coliseum early, you’re going to be spending a lot of time staring at the construction zone for Los Angeles FC’s new stadium instead of watching Sam Darnold and Ronald Jones.

With Matt Leinart being honored at this game, it would make sense that he would lead the team out of the tunnel. Last time he did that, USC upset No. 4 Stanford so safe to say he’s a good luck charm.

A certain former player has a different suggestion, and I tend to agree with him.

It’s time for Reggie Bush to come home and this is the perfect occasion. With the Rose Bowl loss vacated, and the scandal a decade old, what better way to welcome No. 5 back to USC by having him, Leinart and LenDale White lead the Trojans out of the tunnel to finish what they started.

Last Saturday, the Coliseum was loud.

Is that…a home field advantage? IN LOS ANGELES? The best part was this video was taken in the fourth quarter. We had fans staying the whole game and the players love it.

If USC’s success is built on fan attendance then the Trojans are going to struggle when they realize they have a road trip after this week. I can guarantee there will be a lot of Trojans at Cal, but don’t expect many to make the trip up to Berkeley or Pullman, Washington.

Bottomline: Go to this game and get there early.


On offense, Texas will not have enough to stop USC on the ground or in the air. Their run defense couldn’t stop a turtle, so how is it going to stop a Tesla?

The balanced attack may need to be more run heavy this game which could mean more carries out of Aca’Cedric Ware and Vavae Malepeai. On the passing side, their secondary seems to be up to the challenge of guarding USC’s receivers, but USC should still try to expand the depth chart of receivers. With Pittman back from his ankle injury, I’d like to see the Longhorns safeties tested on a couple deep throws to him.

On defense, there’s uncertainty for USC. Five out of the eleven starters sat out practice on Wednesday. This could be a strategy to keep players rested in order to compensate for the lack of a bye week or a general concern for the health of the defensive squad.

It’s uncertain Porter Gustin will be able to play this week since he had surgery on his big toe this week, but seeing as his post-op treatment including lifting back in the weight room, I’m going to go out on the limb and say he’ll be suiting up Saturday. With the injuries on the Trojans side and quarterback Shane Buechele banged up, it may be a perfect opportunity to try out some of the younger players lower on the depth chart and see how they do.

I’ve mentioned testing USC’s depth twice which makes it seem like I’m underestimating Texas, and to be honest, I am. They’ve shown very little over the past two games, while USC has shown a lot. Sure, Tom Herman is a great coach that has built a reputation bringing down top programs, but so has Clay Helton. I bet if you put their resumes side to side, they’d look very similar. One just has hair…and a grill.

It’s true that Texas is a sleeping giant but I don’t think they are waking up in week three. They are going to come to this game fired up. USC has given them a lot of bulletin board material with the vacated loss and Ronald Jones’ alleged horns down gesture. They will be inspired, but so will we. First sold out game in four years. If the players really fed off the fans last week, how do you think they are going to do with a 15 thousand more in attendance?

No one expected such a dominant performance from USC against Stanford last week. It was a rare opportunity for Trojans fan’s delusional expectations to be met. Now, a lot of us, including myself, aren’t sure how they should feel. This optimism is strange. It’s a feeling we haven’t had in some time.

Times before we jumped on the hype train only to have it derail a week or two after. It seems like fans are expecting this to be letdown game. But that doesn’t seem to be part of Helton’s coaching style. He has USC on an 11-game winning streak, and while it will come to an end eventually, that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen this season.

Sure, USC may not play as well as they did against Stanford, but that is a high bar to meet. I haven’t seen a Trojans team play that well in sometime. Maybe the 2009 Rose Bowl. Maybe last year against Washington. Definitely nowhere in between.

This team is great in all the right places you need to be to win games week in and week out. They’re resilient, they finish strong in the second half, they make adjustments on the fly, and they have plenty of players that know what to do to get the victory no matter the circumstances.

USC might lose a game this year, but it’s not this week.

USC 42, Texas 28