Last week’s win against Tulsa was anything but easy. While the Longhorns never trailed, it felt as if Texas was trying to give the game away to the Golden Hurricane.
This week is a chance to show that the Week One loss was a fluke and that the Longhorns can contend on the national scale — at least against USC. Here are the keys to a Texas victory:
Force the QB to make mistakes
The starting quarterback for the Trojans, freshman JT Daniels, should be in high school right now. He graduated early to start for USC, and while he definitely has the talent to lead a program like USC, he lacks the poise to rebound from mistakes.
In the first game of the season, USC walloped UNLV and Daniels threw for one touchdown with no interceptions. However, against a highly ranked Stanford team, Daniels faced constant pressure and threw two interceptions while completing less than 50 percent of his passes.
If the Longhorns want to beat a ranked opponent for just the second time in the past two years, the defense will need to rattle Daniels and force costly turnovers. The defense proved capable of doing this against Tulsa, but doing it against USC is another level of challenge.
Establish the ground game
Unfortunately, this seems to be a key to the game every week, and that is a problem for several reasons. First, a successful run game allows the passing game to become more dynamic. Second, it forces the defense to respect the offense.
In the past two games for the Longhorns, the team has struggled to find any meaningful progress in developing the rushing attack. With grad transfer Tre Watson running for either a yard or 11 and then freshman Keaontay Ingram breaking out for huge chunks of yards, consistency has been hard to find.
If the team wants to beat USC, a team that allowed UNLV to rush for over 300 yards, Texas needs to take advantage of a weaker run defense and put up points on the ground.
Show improved special teams
Last year, the Trojans beat the Longhorns by a score of 27-24 in double overtime. The game this year promises to be just as close, meaning special teams will be a crucial element to the game.
Freshman Cameron Dicker has yet to kick a field goal for the Longhorns, but his presence — good or bad — in the USC game will be felt. Additionally, fellow freshman punter Ryan Bujcevski has been inconsistent this season in flipping the field for Texas.
Although both Dicker and Bujcevski are young and will suffer the occasional freshman mistake, both will need to be at the top of their games if the Longhorns are going to win a close game. Whether it be a well-placed positional punt, or a clutch field goal at the end of the game, these two will have a large role in the outcome of Saturday’s game.