Caleb Williams and the USC attack just couldn’t be stopped.
Williams delivered an epic performance Saturday night as he defeated Dorian Thompson-Robinson in a 48-45 win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
Williams, one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, threw for 470 yards and landed twice, adding 32 yards to the win and scoring on the ground. Williams was the best player on the field and his brilliant play paved the way for the Trojans to enter the Pac-12 Championship.
USC, now 10-1 in just its first season under Lincoln Riley, is also alive and well for the college football playoffs.
And despite everything, it took a defensive stop to seal the victory.
USC had a 48–38 lead with 9:10 left, but that lead quickly dwindled to 48–45 with 6:38 left. From there, it looked like the USC offense would be able to widen the lead again, absorbing most of the remaining time.
Instead, USC’s offense stalled near midfield and struck for the first time all night, giving Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins another chance 2:21 to play.
Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-year senior, quickly won the first down and got the Bruins moving forward. It was then that the maligned defense of USC played its part. Corey Foreman, the defender, came into the zone and intercepted Thompson-Robinson in center field.
Thompson-Robinson put in an incredibly bold performance with 309 passing yards, 75 rushing yards and six total touchdowns, but the loss gave the Trojans time to seal the win. It was the third interception of the game and fourth loss overall for Thompson-Robinson, who also lost a fumble.
Ultimately, this third and final interception shattered UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes and put the Trojans one step closer to a four-team playoff spot.
USC trailed 14-0, struggled all the way
USC did not do well at first.
The Trojans’ first three drives ended with a loss on downs, a missed field goal and an interception thrown by Williams. These errors allowed UCLA to take a 14–0 lead after one quarter.
However, the Williams and Trojans’ offense flared up in the second quarter, and UCLA’s lead was only 21–20 by halftime.
In the second half, USC began to take control. Williams played game after game, constantly hitting tight windows as he went. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison midway through the third gave USC a 27–24 first lead. And then a Thompson-Robinson fumble allowed USC to quickly add another score, making it 34–24 with 6:36 left in third.
From there, a flurry of scores came from both sides, and every defense looked unstoppable.
But in the end, USC’s defense would indeed be brought to a halt with the formula it has been using all season – forced losses. USC entered Saturday’s game with the best margin in college football, with 20 wins and just three losses.
The Trojans gave up 507 yards on offense, but they had plus three passes, giving them a staggering 20 plus for the season.
What does this mean for USC?
With this win, USC officially earned a place in the Pac-12 title game. And with just one loss a year, the Trojans remain alive in the CFP race.
USC was No. 7 in the last rankings, but is sure to rise after No. 5 Tennessee’s surprise loss to South Carolina.
And with a game against No. 18 Notre Dame and a Pac-12 title game on the horizon, USC could earn a spot in the field if they win those two games.
Loser in game #2 in Ohio State against #3 in Michigan next week could end up behind USC. There is also a No. 6 LSU matchup with No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game.
These are both opportunities for USC to move up as long as the wins continue.