AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Sam Ehlinger passed for two touchdowns, Anthony Wheeler returned a blocked field goal 46 yards for a score and Texas beat No. 22 Southern California 37-14 on Saturday night to give second-year coach Tom Herman his biggest win in burnt orange.
Texas, which had started 1-2 in four of the previous five seasons, trailed 14-3 in the first quarter before shutting down freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels and scoring 34 unanswered points.
The win could be a huge boost for a Texas (2-1) program that desperately needs one after eight years without a Big 12 title and a run of bad seasons. Herman is 9-7 with the Longhorns and got this win in front of an energized school-record crowd of 103,507 that stayed to the end and kept up deafening chants of “Texas Fight!”
“There is a bit of release, a bit of a hump that we got over that we can win a big game, not just come close, but win,” Herman said. “We’ll evaluate where this win stands by how we respond to it, how we play the rest of the season.”
Ehlinger threw touchdown strikes of 47 yards to Lil’Jordan Humphrey and 27 yards to Joshua Moore. Wheeler’s scoop and score came in the third quarter after Texas blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt. The touchdown put the Longhorns up 30-14.
Daniels passed for 322 yards, but the Trojans (1-2) were held to minus-5 yards rushing. Texas turned USC one-dimensional and turned its defense loose, USC coach Clay Helton said.
“They wanted to see what J.T. could do in the passing game and forced our hand,” Helton said.
USC: The Trojans will have to regroup to keep their season together. Daniels was sharp in spots and led USC to a pair of first-quarter touchdowns after not finding the end zone against Stanford a week earlier. Personal fouls kept a couple of Texas scoring drives alive — linebacker Porter Gustin was ejected for targeting — and short punts led directly to two Texas scores.
Texas: The Longhorns will expect to earn some respect with this win. Texas fought back from the early deficit, the defense dominated the Trojans’ running game and kept up the pressure late. Ehlinger was efficient, playing his first game this season without a turnover. USC hasn’t come close to living up to its preseason expectations, but it’s still a traditional power and Texas pushed the Trojans around. Texas also got program win No. 900, joining Ohio State and Michigan as the only programs to reach that number.
“This needs to be the standard,” Herman said.
The Trojans will fall out of the rankings after their second straight loss. Texas may need to beat No. 15 TCU next week before they can get back in as voters still might be shy about the Longhorns after their season-opening loss to Maryland and recent history.
USC returns to Pac-12 play Friday night at home against Washington State.
Texas hosts No. 15 TCU next Saturday in the Big 12 opener for both teams.