Both of these storied programs have had their recent stumbles.
There's still plenty of football to be played, but for much of the first 30 minutes the Texas defense looked better than it did in its season-opening loss to Maryland. Ballage and the Sun Devils play in Texas on Saturday night (5 p.m., Root), far from the desert where the running back had 15 touches and scored eight times last September - seven on direct-snap runs and on a 39-yard double-reverse flea flicker in a wild 68-55 win.
Unfortunately, Ehlinger had a rough finish to his night after being stripped of the football near the goal line in the second overtime that would eventually be capped off by the Casey McGrath game victor for USC.
The journey to get there proved to be full of surprising twists.
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But even with some momentum heading into the weekend, Texas will have to contain USC's offense after giving up more than 30 points in eight of its 12 games a year ago. USC stopped Texas on fourth-and-two at the Trojans' 17.
Remember, though, that Texas robbed a national championship from USC.
The Horns defense limited the San Jose State to 171 yards of total offense and Holton Hill returned an interception for a touchdown again in the week 2 action. He played the entire first half and recorded two sacks before his toe injury -which forced him to have surgery just a few days ago- was too much to continue on.
Heisman contender Sam Darnold didn't panic, and drove USC into field goal range near the end of regulation. The coaches inserted the third-string tailback, Vavae Malepeai, into the game and he lost three yards. He completed a 17-yard pass to Lil'Jordan Humphrey. On fourth-and-10 at the USC 28, he found Armanti Foreman over the middle for 11 yards. USC led 7-0 and just got the ball at its 23-yard line. He left the field early in the second quarter and was taken to the locker room shortly thereafter. Sam Darnold's offense is running exceptionally well, racking up 91 points and 1,144 yards against strong opponents in its first two games.
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Texas coach Tom Herman was doing whatever he could to make something happen, including a fake punt that worked but came back on a penalty. The game lived up to the hype in many ways and we learned more about the Longhorns on a flawless night in Southern California.
True freshman quarterback Sam Ehlinger got the start for a second straight week in place of Shane Buchele.
The Longhorns have an off week before a Thursday night game at Iowa State, a potential trap spot.
The Longhorns' first-year bench boss Tom Herman has also enjoyed regular success when facing nationally-ranked opponents, compiling a flawless 6-0 SU record while coaching Houston, including four outright wins with the Cougars pegged as underdogs.
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USC can breathe a sigh of relief, its playoff hopes suffering little or no damage. They also came up with one of the biggest plays late in the first half thanks to a pick-six from DeShon Elliott, who had a monster game. There will be no 12-year wait this time.
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