On Saturday, one scene said it all at the end of USC’s loss (7-3, 5-2, Pac-12) to the Washington Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12). Trojan quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams found his mother in the stands and jumped into her arms, crying, as she hid his face from public view with a piece of paper.
A sure example of a mother’s love and instinct and the raw heartbreak of Williams shared by thousands of Trojan fans at the sold-out Coliseum on Saturday. The Huskies defeated the Trojans 52-42
No words were needed to describe the team’s disappointment; you could see it on their faces, but many questions remain: what happens now with two games remaining? How will the team respond to their upcoming road game with Oregon and their matchup with hometown rival UCLA?
The Trojans are not a part of the collegiate national championship chatter; they exited that conversation weeks ago with two losses, but a chance to play in the Pac-12 title game remained on the horizon, and now, the possibility of the Trojans playing in Las Vegas on December 1 is pretty much gone. It was a tough homecoming game for the Men of Troy.
The game was touted as a battle of two high-flying offenses and lived up to the hype. The Trojans finished the day with 515 yards of offense, with the Huskies posting 572 yards. Both teams are blessed with prolific and, at times, magical quarterbacks, Williams completing 27-of-35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. Washington’s quarterback Michael Penix Jr., a sure nominee for this year’s Heisman, completed 22-for-30, 256 yards, and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough for the Trojans to overcome the Huskies’ offensive firepower. The absence of MarShawn Lloyd and Troy Dye is worth mentioning. They were sorely missed.
In the first quarter, SC would score first with a two-yard Raleek Brown run and a good extra point. The Huskies would answer with a two-yard Dillon Johnson run. Duce Robinson, a true freshman, squandered an SC opportunity to score, dropping a sure touchdown. He would redeem himself on special teams, delivering a great punt block leading to a Caleb Williams one-yard run for a touchdown, his 10th rushing touchdown. At the end of the first quarter, the Trojans led 14-7.
In the second quarter, the Huskies would score four touchdowns, two belonging to Dillon Johnson. SC’s Darwin Barlow would score on a one-yard run. The Trojans would run a nice play that caught the Huskies off-guard; Williams would hand the ball to Zachariah Branch, who would run the ball, looking as if he was in trouble, only to hand it back to Williams, who threw a beautiful pass to a wide-opened Tahj Washington for the touchdown. With 1:07 left in the second quarter, on 1st-and-10, at the SC 25-yard line, Washington’s Zion Tupuola-Fetui would strip SC quarterback Caleb Williams of the ball, setting up a Washington touchdown—the 30th fumble in William’s career. At the end of the second quarter, the Huskies led 35-28.
Early in the third quarter, USC’s Christian Roland-Wallace intercepted the Huskies, a much-needed defensive stop that prevented the Huskies going up by 14. SC would score twice in the third quarter: Brenden Rice on a 25-yard pass from Williams and Mario Williams on a 20-yard pass from Williams. Both extra points from Denis Lynch were good.
Washington would kick a 43-yard field goal in the fourth quarter after USC’s Eric Gentry sacked the Huskies’ quarterback for a seven-yard loss. Washington would answer with a sack of Caleb Williams for a loss of 12 yards, forcing the Trojans to punt. Dillion Johnson, who had a great day, would score again on a one-yard run. The Huskies won 52-42.
“We didn’t play very well tonight,” Head Coach Lincoln Riley said post-game. “The biggest thing was the run game, way too many big plays, and some of our worst ball was on some of the biggest plays of the game. The third-and-extra-long where we had a chance to sack him, and he gets out and makes kind of a crazy play there in the end zone. A couple of other key third-down plays where we had chances to get off the field, and we didn’t and did not make enough plays obviously to get enough stops to win.”
Several USC players faced the media as a unit in the post-game conference. The pain on their faces was not easy to watch, and Caleb Williams summed up his feelings succinctly:
“Like, we lost the game. I worked hard throughout months and years to have big games like this, try and win, and play your best, each and every one of us. We came out with a loss today, so emotionally, I want to go home, and I want to play with my dog,” Williams said.
The Trojans are on the road to face Oregon on Saturday. To reach the Pac-12 championship game, they would need to run the table and have some help. Oregon State, UCLA, Arizona, Utah, and USC have two conference losses. Utah owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Trojans.