USC receiver Zachariah Branch Returns 96-Yard TD in season opener.
(Credit: Associated Press)

It was a beautiful day for Trojan football as the team entered the United Airlines Field at the LA Memorial Coliseum, ranked #6 in the AP and Coaches polls for the 23/24 football season. Expectations are what they always are for the Men of Troy – a national championship. The Trojans took the field for the last season as members of the PAC-12 Conference and entered year two of the Lincoln Riley era.

Who were the offensive names to remember for this game? Let’s begin with freshman receiver Zachariah Branch, who would score two touchdowns and have a  night to remember; receivers Tahj Washington, Dorian Singer, and Brenden Rice caught touchdown passes; and running back Austin Jones rushed for two scores; and of course, 2023 Heisman winner and quarterback Caleb Williams, completed 18 of 25 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. He did his thing, turning a dropped pass into a Trojan touchdown.

The Trojans got down to business immediately with a highlight of what we can hopefully expect from the receivers and running backs corps as Austin Jones broke free for a 31-yard run. The Trojans would score in the first quarter with 6:32 remaining on a 13-yard pass from quarterback Williams to wide receiver Dorian Singer. Denis Lynch kicked a good extra point. The Trojans would lead 7-0.

Branch Celebrates TD with Team
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

The San Jose State Spartans would answer at the top of the second quarter with 14:16 remaining; senior running back Kairee Robinson rushed for a one-yard touchdown. The kick was good. The Spartans tied the game 7-7.

Related Stories

Student Athlete of the Week: Kourey Patterson

Winston, Saints defeat Chargers 22-17 in Week 2 of Preseason

At the beginning of the second quarter, I must mention the SC peacock moment as the school continues to break new ground in its athletics program. The school President, Carol Folt, presented SC’s new Director of Athletics, Jennifer Cohen, the first woman to lead the Trojan athletic programs. Folt assumed her duties as the first female president in the school’s history in 2019. It is worth mentioning that the Director of Football Communications, Katie Ryan, assumed her duties in 2022. In the words of Beyonce, “who runs the SC world?” In a single word, girls.

With 9:38 remaining in the second quarter, SC quarterback Caleb Williams dropped a snap, recovered it, and found receiver Tahj Washington for a 76-yard touchdown, the Trojans up by 7. We’ve come to expect this from Williams: making something special out of a busted play. Williams most likely will contend again for the Heisman trophy.

USC Tahj Washington scores on a Caleb Williams 76-Yard pass in win over Spartans.
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

As the second quarter came to a close, the Trojans would score again on an Austin Jones two-yard run with 3:31 remaining. The Lynch extra point was good. The Trojans were up 21-7. With 0:08 remaining in the second quarter, Spartans quarterback Chevan Cordeiro found receiver Nick Nash on a 28-yard pass. The Halvorsen kick is good. The Trojans still lead 21-14.

In the third quarter, Austin Jones would continue his big night with a three-yard carry for a Trojan touchdown. The Lynch extra point was good. Trojans continued to lead 28-14.

An SC Defensive highlight – Solomon Byrd sacked Cordeiro, resulting in a 22-yard loss.

Defensive Linebacker Mason Cobb makes his presence known in SC win.
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

In the best offensive quarter of the game, freshman Zachariah Branch, a five-star prospect, would score a Trojan touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Williams. The Trojans would lead 35-14. The Spartans would score again on a 32-yard completion from quarterback Cordeiro to receiver Nick Nash. The Trojan still led the game, 35-21, but Branch was just beginning.

With 1:50 remaining in the third quarter, the freshman Branch would receive the ball at the four-yard line. Branch would run for a 96-yard touchdown. It was a beautiful sight that thrilled the 63,411 fans in attendance. Trojan fans had not seen a player return and catch a touchdown pass in the same game since Adoree’ Jackson in 2016. The Trojans would lead by 21 points, 42-21.

This feat earned Branch a seat at the post-conference table, a rarity for a freshman under head coach Riley.

SC QB and Heisman Winner Caleb Williams leads Trojans to Victory in Season Opener
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

“I’ve been planning that for like two” months,” Branch said with a grin. “It was always a dream for me to be at a prestigious university and be around an elite staff and elite players. I was just real excited. … And once I touched the end zone, the crowd turned me up a little bit.”

The Trojans would end the third quarter with Williams to Brenden Rice for a 12-yard reception and a good extra point. The Trojans remain ahead, 49-21.

In the fourth quarter, Caleb Williams exited the game early, and backup QB Miller Moss scored on a four-yard keeper, extending the Trojan lead 56 to 21. The Spartans would score again on a two-yard completion and an extra point from duo Cordeiro and Nash; the score continued to favor the Trojans, 56-28. Spartans quarterback Chevan Cordeiro passed for 198 yards and rushed for 52 yards, and receiver Nick Nash (a California native) caught three Cordeiro passes.

SC Basketball Player Bronny James enjoys the win over San Jose State
(Credit: Jevone Moore)

Caleb Williams summarized the play of the Trojans this way:

“The message was we got a special team,” Williams said. “The second part of the message was that we got a long way to go and a lot to get better at.”

The Trojans will meet the Nevada Wolf Pack on September 2nd at United Airlines Field, the LA Memorial Coliseum.