Southern California at Texas

The Sports Xchange

September 12, 2018 at 5:13 pm.

KICKOFF: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
SITE: Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
SERIES: USC leads 5-1 (not counting vacated games)


–RB Stephen Carr had his most active game in almost a calendar year, showing no signs of limitation from offseason back injury. Carr rushed 10 times for 52 yards against Stanford and caught three passes for 12 yards. Carr’s ability as a pass-catcher made him an invaluable counter-punch with Ronald Jones II last season before injury sidelined him. With Aca’Cedric Ware handling the majority of carries through the first two weeks, look for Carr to again establish himself as a weapon in the passing game to counter.

–WR Amon-Ra St. Brown was JT Daniels’ primary and most effective target in Week 1, but the true freshman caught just two passes against Stanford. He missed hauling in a would-be touchdown reception that would have been a game-changer for the Trojans. “It wasn’t for a lack of trying to get him the ball,” said coach Clay Helton. “He did a nice job opening up a new personnel grouping that involves him in the slot. It opened him up a few times, the ball just didn’t find him.”

–S C.J. Pollard takes on a more significant role in the secondary this week, with the already-thin unit losing Isaiah Pola-Mao to a shoulder injury. Helton praised Pollard for his performance stepping in against Stanford, which included a pair of tackles.

–DE Jay Tufele debuted with a sack against UNLV and was in on a pair of tackles vs. Stanford. The freshman’s rotation into the lineup adds another potential playmaker to benefit from offenses having to double-team edge rusher Porter Gustin.


–QB Sam Ehlinger, a sophomore, is cemented in the starting role over junior Shane Buechele after the signal-callers split the starting position last season. He finished 21 of 27 for 237 yards with two touchdowns (and one fumble) against Tulsa. He played well overall, especially at the end of the game when he engineered 13-play scoring drive with the help of some check-down passes, including one on Texas’ final TD.

–WR Collin Johnson, a junior, hauled in four catches for 37 yards against Tulsa but has not yet had the big game Texas fans have been looking for. Johnson is the huge, fast, downfield target that the Longhorns need to help open up the offense and is due for a breakout season. The 6-foot-6 receiver can go over or through most of the defensive backs that are covering him.

–LB Gary Johnson made back-to-back sideline-to-sideline plays to snuff out a Golden Hurricane drive in the fourth quarter. At 6-foot and 230 pounds, Johnson might be a little undersized to be a constant run stuffer, but he plays bigger than his size and hits as hard as anyone in college football.

–CB Kris Boyd had six tackles and a pass break-up against Tulsa and has 11 stops, a sack and three pass breakups for the season. Boyd came away from the Tulsa game with a stiff neck and missed practice on Sunday; he is listed as probable for Saturday’s contest against USC.


Texas coach Tom Herman said his team is still a work in progress after the first two games of the 2018 season and he expects the Longhorns to take another step forward when they host No. 22 USC on Saturday at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in one of the college football campaign’s most anticipated showdowns.

Herman’s sentiments mirror those of USC coach Clay Helton — the best is yet to come for his team.

Both the Longhorns and Trojans are 1-1 on the season and still trying to find out just how good they are going to be. Saturday’s game will be a thorough examination in the most pressure-packed of situations.

Texas comes into the game with the Trojans on the heels of a tougher-than-expected 28-21 home win over Tulsa. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger finished 21 of 27 for 237 yards with two touchdowns and fumbled once against Tulsa but played well overall, especially at the end of the game when he engineered a 13-play scoring drive with the help of some check-down passes, including one on Texas’ final TD.

Ehlinger had two crucial interceptions in the fourth quarter in the Longhorns’ season-opening loss to Maryland on Sept. 1 and seemed none the worse for wear last week.

“Sam played really, really well, really well, managed the game well, checked us into some really good plays versus blitz,” Texas coach Tom Herman said. “He handled the tempo well, he handled the uniqueness of Tulsa’s defense well.

“We already have seen him play well as a true freshman against USC, so I’m excited for him to continue growing, with this weekend being one of the steps in his growth process, certainly.”

USC heads to Austin to play for the first time since 1966 after losing 17-3 on the road at No. 9 Stanford last week. The three points were the fewest points in a game for the Trojans since being shut out by Washington in 1997.

Helton said Tuesday that true freshman quarterback JT Daniels is progressing well after sustaining a bruise to his right (throwing) hand during Saturday’s loss.

“It’s doing good,” Helton said in the Los Angeles Times.

“We actually threw a little bit yesterday, just to see grip-wise and pain-wise where it’s at, and he felt really good. He lifted this morning. He was functional yesterday. We’ve got a full-pad practice today. He was spinning it really good yesterday.”

Daniels hit on 16 of 34 passes for 215 yards in the defeat and had two interceptions in the fourth quarter as the Trojans were trying to get back into the game late.

Even though the Trojans only put a field goal on the board last week, USC had six drives that advanced to at least the Cardinal 40. So, the Trojans can move the ball.

USC outlasted the Longhorns 27-24 in double overtime at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2017 when Ehlinger, making his first college start, fumbled near the Trojans goal line. It was the first meeting between the two teams since Texas beat the Trojans in the 2005 BCS National Championship game in the Rose Bowl.

The Trojans don’t recognize that game as a loss because that season’s results were vacated by the NCAA when it decided star running back Reggie Bush received impermissible benefits. Without that loss counting, USC is now 5-0 against the Longhorns, according to the Trojans.

Texas’ game notes release states that Saturday’s game is the seventh all-time meeting and that USC holds a 5-1 series record.