Another instant classic took place this evening out in Los Angeles between the Longhorns and Trojans. Even though Texas didn’t come out on top in this one, it’s hard not to feel encouraged considering most had Texas pegged to get run out of The Coliseum before halftime. Hat tip to the Trojans for making one more play. Here are a handful of things on my mind following the barn-burner on the West Coast.
1. The Defense
Yes they gave up some points and yes they made mistakes, but how can anyone not be encouraged by what Todd Orlando’s bunch was able to do tonight? They played with their hair on fire from the first whistle to the final snap, and despite the offense being in a holding pattern for most of the game they kept making plays. They had the USC run game snuffed out to the point where Tee Martin completely abandoned it for a good portion of the game. Holding Ronald Jones to less than 50 yards is nothing short of impressive. They couldn’t make one more play to end it, but this is a great game to build off of heading into conference play.
2. The Run Game
It was non-existent and I am baffled by the lack of touches Chris Warren received tonight. A freshman quarterback shouldn’t lead your team in rushes. Things might have played out differently if Warren gets the ball on the goal line instead of Ehlinger. Despite managing to manufacture offense down the home stretch, it’s baffling to see lack of commitment to the run game considering it could take a lot of pressure off your quarterback. I don’t know what the plan is moving forward, but the staff needs to figure it out over the bye week. Putting the entire offense on Ehlinger isn’t wise. Speaking of Ehlinger, he was far from great for most of the night but down the home stretch he made some very clutch plays and put his team in the position to win. He was far from perfect, but he showed some things to the entire country tonight and gave Texas fans a glimpse of the future.
3. Losing Connor Williams
Brutal. Absolutely brutal. Williams is the best player on the team and he isn’t replaceable. Texas fans need to hold out hope that the knee injury was just a sprain, but the fact he was ruled out immediately gives a very unsettling feeling. It’s unfortunate for Williams because he is well on his way to cashing NFL checks and the timing couldn’t be anymore unfortunate. Texas slid Nickelson over to the left side with Williams out and the drop-off couldn’t be any steeper. Texas will be in a pinch going forward if they lose Williams for extended time.
4. Collin Johnson is a grown man
On a field full of play makers at the skill positions, Johnson may have been the best. No, check that. He WAS the best. 7 catches for 191 yards and some of those were HUGE to keep Texas alive down the stretch. USC did all they could with various coverages to take him away and he still kept finding ways to make plays. This kid is a stud and I don’t envy defensive coordinators trying to figure out ways to slow him down.
5. The Little Things
This is where I have to be “Debbie Downer” because there were little things that regressed Texas at several points during the game. Fielding punts inside the 5 that are likely touchbacks, the touchdown before half, coverage busts, penalties (PJ Locke’s on the fake punt was huge), and most of all turnovers. You can’t give good football teams extra chances to beat you and Texas did that a lot tonight. Given how much they managed to shoot themselves in the foot, I was pleasantly surprised that USC didn’t manage to pull away. Again, credit to Todd Orlando and the defense for bowing their necks time and time again. If Texas can clean up even half of the things that plagued them tonight in LA they will have a chance to be in every ball game they have left on the schedule. It was incredibly frustrating to see the mistakes pile up in real time, but much of it is fixable. Time to get back to work.
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