‘The light bulb went off’: Herman places trust in Orlando’s defense

Alex Briseño

Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando knew what he wanted to do — he just needed the green light from head coach Tom Herman. 

USC stood one yard away from the end zone facing a third and goal when Trojans freshman quarterback JT Daniels handed the ball to running back Vavae Malepeai. The Texas defense stuffed Malepeai at the line, keeping USC out of the endzone. 

But there was a flag. The head referee told Herman it was an illegal formation on USC, forcing Texas to either accept or decline the penalty. 

If Herman accepted the penalty, USC would get pushed back five yards but replay third down, likely forcing a field goal. If Texas declined it, the Trojans would face a fourth and goal — three feet away from the end zone. 

“We could have certainly backed ‘em up to third and six, stopped ‘em, and they jog their field goal unit out and probably would have had three points,” Herman said. “But we knew if we chose for it to be fourth and goal at the one, there was a high likelihood that they would go for it.”

Herman and Orlando listened intently before the head official asked if they wanted to accept or decline the penalty. 

“He (Orlando) looked me in the eye and said, “Put the ball on the one and let ‘em go for it,’” Herman said. “And it was neat to see the looks in their (players) eyes when they realized that this coaching staff and myself has a tremendous amount of belief in them.”

The Texas coaching staff was right. USC head coach Clay Helton opted to go for the touchdown instead of kicking a field goal.

USC lined up and quarterback JT Daniels pitched the ball to running back Stephen Carr who caught the ball and tried to reach the right corner of the end zone. As Carr tried to round the corner past Longhorn defenders, defensive back Brandon Jones ran him down and pushed him out of bounds to end the threat. 

“The light bulb went off. Now again, that’s not to say that some great epiphany is going to carry us into the wild blue yonder, but it was a step in the building of our program in terms of proving again that we believe in them and we trust them and they can trust us,” Herman said. 

USC was three feet away from the endzone with a 14-13 lead in the second quarter — the Trojans never got close to the endzone for the rest of the night. As the game concluded, the Longhorn defense shut down the Trojan running game down to the tune of -5 yards. 

“I was surprised,” senior defensive end Charles Omenihu said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that, ever. Not here or anywhere.”

Before Saturday, Texas was known for having the tendency to collapse in the second half. That wasn’t the case against the Trojans as they failed to put any points on the board in the
second, third or fourth quarter. 

“It was good to see our guys cut it loose and make some plays in the backfield,” Orlando said.  “I thought we did a really good job in the third quarter. I think it was four three and outs, and the fifth series we end up blocking the kick and that gave us the momentum. I really liked the way
we finished.”