February 5, 2023

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USC trails UCLA 48-45 behind an epic performance from QB Caleb Williams

USC trails UCLA 48-45 behind an epic performance from QB Caleb Williams

Caleb Williams and USC’s offense can’t be stopped.

Williams put in an epic performance Saturday night, as he beat Dorian Thompson Robinson in a high-flying 48-45 victory over UCLA in the Rose Bowl.

A top Heisman Trophy contender, Williams threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns while adding 32 yards and a score on the ground in the win. Williams was the best player on the field and his championship effort paved the way for a berth in the Pac-12 Championship Game for the Trojans.

USC, now 10-1 in only its first season under Lincoln Riley, is also alive and well for the college football game.

And against all odds, it took a defensive stance to secure the victory.

USC had a 48-38 lead with 9:10 to go, but that lead quickly narrowed to 48-45 with 6:38 remaining. From there, it looked like the USC offense would be able to add to the lead again while eating up a lot of the remaining time.

Instead, USC’s offense stalled near midfield and stalked for the first time all night, giving Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins another chance with 2:21 to play.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) plays against UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Thompson-Robinson, a sophomore, quickly got a first down and the Bruins were on the move. That’s when the ill-fated USC defense made a play. Corey Foreman, defensive tackle, fell into coverage and Thompson Robinson was intercepted at center field.

Thompson-Robinson put in an incredibly daring performance with 309 passing yards, 75 rushing yards, and six total touchdowns, but this turnover allowed the Trojans to run out the clock and seal the victory. It was the third interception of the game and fourth total turnover for Thompson Robinson, who also lost a fumble.

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Ultimately, that third and final interception ended UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes and allowed the Trojans to move one step closer to a berth in the four-team playoff.

USC trailed 14-0, battling it all the way

Early on, things weren’t going well for USC.

The Trojans’ first three drives ended in a turnover on touchdowns, a missed field goal and an interception by Williams. These miscues allowed UC to jump out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter.

In the second quarter, however, the Williams and Trojans offense continued, and by halftime UCLA’s lead was only 21-20.

In the second half, USC began to take control. Williams played play after play, constantly putting balls into tight windows on the go. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison halfway through the third gave USC its first lead, 27-24. Then a Thompson-Robinson fumble allowed USC to quickly add another score, making it 34-24 with 6:36 left in the third.

From there, a barrage of points came from both sides as every defense seemed unable to stop.

But in the end, he would really stop USC’s defense with a formula he’s used all season — resulting in turnovers. USC entered Saturday’s game with the highest-ranked turnover margin in college football with 20 turnovers made and only three lost.

The Trojans gave up 507 yards of offense but were over three in turnover, putting them on an amazing 20-plus for the season.

What does this mean for USC?

With the win, USC officially clinched a spot in Pac-12 play. And with only one loss on the year, the Trojans are very much alive in the CFP race.

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USC is ranked No. 7 in the latest rankings, but it’s sure to rise after No. 5 Tennessee’s upset loss to South Carolina.

And with a game against 18th-ranked Notre Dame and a Pac-12 game on the horizon, USC can earn a spot on the field if it wins those two games.

The loser of next week’s game of No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan could end up falling behind USC. There is also No. 6 LSU’s matchup with No. 1 Georgia in SEC play.

These are two opportunities for USC to rise as long as the gains continue.