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. Redshirt sophomore tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe, who was one of the team's biggest red-zone threats last season, has been shut down indefinitely with a lower-body injury.
However, Darnold led the Trojans down the field and put them in position to kick a field goal to send the game into overtime, where the two sides traded touchdowns before USC won it.
The journey to get there proved to be full of surprising twists.
If you're looking for one breakout star from this Texas-USC game not named Sam Ehlinger, most people would suggest the 6-6 receiver from San Jose, California. In Week 3, however, the Longhorns bounced back quickly with a huge road victory over the fourth-ranked USC Trojans, 17-14.
This was set up to be the game that gave USC a convincing victory over a nationally recognized school in prime time on an early season Saturday night, the sort of win that could well resonate all the way till playoff time.
Credit USC for making the plays they have needed to make in the first three weeks of the season, especially last week against Stanford in a revenge game at home. With 19 seconds left, DeShon Elliott intercepted a deflected pass off Darnold and returned it 38 yards for a Texas touchdown. Darnold shredded Stanford for 313 yards and four touchdowns. But perhaps not as much as the last minute of the second half.
Heisman contender Sam Darnold didn't panic, and drove USC into field goal range near the end of regulation.
Simply put, the biggest reason the Longhorns were in this game in the first place was because of the defense. Carrington has lived up to the hype after transferring from OR, tying for No. 6 in the country with 128 receiving yards per game and trying for No. 11 with 17 receptions. Chris Warren III would be a good candidate after rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns last week, and Kyle Porter provides Texas a solid second option in the rushing attack. On fourth-and-10 at the USC 28, he found Armanti Foreman over the middle for 11 yards.
The Longhorns then fumbled after getting inside the USC five-yard line in the second overtime. When Helton unexpectedly got the chance to lead the Trojans two years ago, the longtime assistant swiftly brought maturity and continuity to the talent-laden program, and wins have followed. All things considered, this is the play Texas would most like to have back on the night.
Jones was aided by several blocks, none more graphic than Steven Mitchell Jr.'s absolute crushing of Longhorns safety John Bonney.