It was hidden under the 27-24 double-overtime loss to then-No. 4 USC, but two Austin natives made one of the plays of the game — and it could have been the game-winner.
Down by seven in the first overtime, freshman quarterback and Austin Westlake High School alum Sam Ehlinger rolled to the right side of the field. Seconds later, the freshman quarterback planted his feet and tossed the ball over the Trojan defense to the opposite end of the end zone, where freshman tight end and Lake Travis High School alum Cade Brewer hauled in the touchdown pass.
“I thought that was a very interesting play by a couple of young guys,” offensive coordinator Tim Beck said. “You're down seven in overtime at USC, 95,000 (people) … and you get your true freshman to roll out and throw to your other true freshman.”
Texas drilled the extra point to send the Longhorns and Trojans into double overtime, where Ehlinger fumbled inside the five-yard line eventually resulting in Texas’ three-point loss.
Coaches and players were asked this week about the possibility of a two-point conversion following the Ehlinger-Brewer touchdown. If converted, it would have completed Texas’ upset of USC. But after using the throw across the field for the touchdown play instead of on a two-point try, Texas’ coaches opted to send the game to a second overtime period.
“We actually talked about (going for two),” Beck said. “I was like ‘coach that was it. That was our best one right there.’ We needed a score at that point. We had them on the ropes. They looked a little discombobulated. Lorenzo Joe just caught that option slant and he kind of lost his feet. If he had kept his feet maybe we would have [gone for two].”
That near-touchdown wasn’t the only play the coordinators recalled in their press conference on Wednesday night. Defensive coordinator Todd Orlando reflected on the final play of the first half with visible anger.
The Longhorn defense, who limited the potent USC offense through the game’s first 29 minutes, appeared to be heading into halftime tied at 7-7. That’s why Orlando was so visibly frustrated when the Trojans took a 14-7 lead on Ronald Jones II 56 yards touchdown reception as time expired on the first half
“It’s gut wrenching,” Orlando said. “I don't know how to describe it…that play, I mean you talk about anger – past anger. I couldn't describe my emotions right there.”
Although Texas is over five days removed from the last-second loss to the Trojans, the ‘what ifs?’ can’t be avoided. USC’s last-second touchdown to take the lead into halftime combined with the two-point conversion that never was might haunt Texas fans for quite some time — and maybe some coaches as well.
“We’re not in the second place business,” Orlando said. “You either win or you lose. It’s real simple. It’s cut and dry. It’s not my daughter getting a sticker on her forehead for coming in second place. That’s not what we do around here. We’re the University of Texas and we should win ball games like that.”