Keys to the Game: vs. No. 4 USC

Wills Layton

Sustain the run game

Texas’ rush attack finally showed signs of life last week against San Jose State, collecting over 400 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns — a huge improvement from the Longhorns’ rushing performance of 98 yards against Maryland in the season opener. Junior running back Chris Warren III rushed for 166 yards and scored two touchdowns on the ground.

While the Spartans weren’t titans of defensive prowess last Saturday, the improvement on the ground looks promising moving forward. Additionally, the success on the ground gives the entire offense confidence heading into the rest of the season.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup against No. 4 USC — a team that held No. 19 Stanford to 170 total rushing yards last Saturday — getting the run offense off to a quick start is essential for Texas to not only gain yards on the ground, but also to open up the passing game against a stingy Trojan defense.

Execute on special teams

There is no worse pain in football than missing a field goal when the decision of the game is on the line.

Although junior kicker Joshua Rowland has converted all extra point attempts, he’s missed all three of his field goal attempts this season. One of his misses immediately costed Texas when Maryland blocked the kick and returned it for a touchdown.

If Texas plays to its fullest potential against the Trojans, the game could very possibly come down to a last second field goal. In that case, Rowland will need to deliver a clutch field goal when it matters most.

Contain Sam Darnold

Playing against Heisman candidates is never an easy task, but the Longhorns can find success against USC if they minimize Heisman-contending quarterback Sam Darnold’s effectiveness on the field this Saturday.

Darnold led the Trojans to two wins to start the season, but there are chinks in the armor if you look closely enough. The redshirt sophomore failed to throw a touchdown pass and threw for two interceptions against Western Michigan in Week One. Darnold showed improvement with four passing touchdowns against Stanford last weekend, but still threw another two interceptions.

Western Michigan nearly pulled off the upset by not letting Darnold get into a rhythm within his offense. Pressuring Darnold in the pocket and making him feel uncomfortable in his home stadium will be essential to upsetting the Trojans.