Saturday night’s USC vs. Texas score was yet another ugly one for the Trojans in the Lone Star State, losing in embarrassing fashion following a horrific third quarter and allowing 34 unanswered points.
The lowdown: The Trojans got out to a great start, leading 14-3 after the game’s opening quarter on the back of an efficient offense built around a game plan appearing to make life easier for true freshman quarterback JT Daniels. He was 12-of-18, leading USC on two drives capped off with running touchdowns. But the Trojans seemingly went away from the short stuff, Texas adjusted and things started going awry in the second quarter.
The Longhorns scored on a 47-yard touchdown pass to Lil’Jordan Humphrey early in the second quarter and wouldn’t look back. They blew up a Stephen Carr toss sweep on fourth down at the one-yard line, survived a controversial near-safety and took a 16-14 lead to halftime on a field goal as time expired.
Texas would make it ugly in the third. After opening the second half with a 10-play, 74-yard drive, they busted the game open on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown. Sam Ehlinger made it 37-14 minutes later.
The takeaway: It’s not that the losses exist. It’s how. And Saturday night was yet another game in which there were questions about the USC coaching staff, which contributed to the loss. Case in point, John Baxter’s special teams unit turned in a truly devastating performance.
Chris Tilbey’s 13-yard shanked punt set up Texas’s go-ahead drive before the half at the 49-yard line.
Chase McGrath’s blocked field goal —from 50 yards out after he missed a 53-yard attempt from the same hash last week at Stanford— was returned for a back-breaking Longhorn touchdown.
And then after being replaced and re-inserted into the game, Tilbey’s 22-yard shank set up Texas’s nail-in-the-coffin touchdown to make it 37-14.
That’s the game right there.
USC has a true freshman quarterback, a struggling offensive line and a defense prone to giving up big plays. They don’t need coachable miscues and/or poor decisions to make life that much harder on their efforts. And yet they were.
You don’t kick field goals on fourth down two scores from 50 yards away on your kicker’s least-favorite hash. And yet they did.
It’s a pattern at this point, and unless the Trojans get more out of Baxter —and by extension, Clay Helton — they’ll continue to put themselves at a disadvantage. Something has change and change quickly. They’ve got Washington State in six days.
Player of the game: Looking for a lone bright spot for the Trojans? True freshman wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown was spectacular. He caught nine passes for 167 yards, and was a key target for JT Daniels on third down.
Stat of the game: USC has lost its last four trips to the state of Texas, losing to Georgia Tech, Alabama, Ohio State and Texas by a combined score of 134 to 34.
Next on tap: They say the best cure to getting over something is to get right back out there. USC will have to hope that’s true. They host 3-0 Washington State Friday night on short rest. The Cougars haven’t been to the Coliseum since the infamous Lane Kiffin game in 2013.