There’s no question — the Longhorns faced a must-win scenario Saturday night.
Over the first two weeks of the season, Texas only managed to tally a bad loss and a seemingly unsatisfying win. So when the USC Trojans traveled to Austin, there was everything left to prove for the Longhorns. And for once, nearly everything went their way.
“Psychologically, you know, when you’ve been up and down, and you’ve been so close for the last year and three games, in these types of games, to go out and win, and win in a complete fashion the way that we did, I think, certainly adds to that level of confidence,” head coach Tom Herman said during a postgame press conference. “I hope that it propels them into this week’s preparation knowing what they’re capable of.”
In front of a record-setting crowd of 103,507 fans, Texas displayed, by far, their best performance of the season, winning 37-14 over USC.
As the first quarter drew to a close, the Longhorns were staring down a 14-3 deficit. It seemed like it was no different than the usual product. But this time, Texas persevered and rattled off 34 straight points, shutting out the Trojans over the final 45 minutes of play.
The result was a special moment for the Longhorns and their fans. Since practice began in the spring, players and coaches alike have all preached one phrase — this year is different. Saturday was the first time they exhibited that message during a game.
The classic last-second, nail-biting finish has become a staple of Longhorn football games since Herman stepped foot on campus. So, as a defining game fell into Week Three of the schedule, Herman needed to show his team could handle the atmosphere of a game with monumental buildup.
“There is a bit of a release of a bit of a hump that we got over that we can win a big game, not just come close but win a big game,” Herman said.
Saturday’s matchup certainly fit the bill of a big game. Dozens of celebrities and prominent alumni figures lined the Texas and USC sidelines, ranging from actors Matthew McConaughey and Will Ferrell to former Texas basketball star Mo Bamba and country music internet sensation Mason Ramsey.
The need for a strong performance in a nationally televised game against the Trojans wasn’t limited to Herman, though, as many Texas players spoke to the level of confidence the blowout win brings to this team.
“I think it provides a certain confidence that we need to understand that we can do this and we can finish and we can be a really good football team when we’re playing on both sides of the ball,” sophomore quarterback Sam Ehlinger said. “So, I think psychologically, it’s going to instill a lot of confidence in us to finish games and play four-quarter football.”
The Longhorns will need any kind of psychological boost they can get over the next few weeks. Saturday’s USC matchup began their most difficult stretch of the schedule. But on Saturday night, Texas fans were able to rest easy — even if just for one game.
Whether this is the beginning of a new chapter in the Tom Herman era or just a needle-in-the-haystack is unclear right now, but that won’t stop the Longhorns from using this momentum to press forward toward something even greater.
“I ain’t gonna lie,” senior cornerback Kris Boyd said. “I feel like we’re kind of proving that we’re back. But this is just the beginning and we’ve got a lot of season left and conference starts so that’s our main focus right now. We’ve got to stay consistent and locked in and execute next week like we did this week.”