Freshman Phenom Zachariah Branch Returns 75-Yard Punt in Rout Over Cardinals
(E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

The USC Trojans and the Stanford Cardinals have played one another since 1905; the Cardinals are the Trojans’ oldest rival. On Saturday, the Trojans played the Cardinals to open the 2023 Pac-12 season and play their final game as conference members. Nostalgic right? Well, someone forgot to tell the Trojans that. They showed the Cardinals no mercy, closing their rivalry with a 56-10 victory.

The Trojans and the Cardinals are leaving the Pac-12 conference; USC will enter the Big Ten Conference in 2024, and Stanford recently announced their move to the Atlantic Coastal Conference in 2024. It’s anybody’s guess when these two teams will meet on the football field again.

“We’re proud of taking advantage of the moment, in that this is potentially the last SC-Stanford game for a while,” said Trojan head coach Lincoln Riley. “I’m really big-picture, proud to be able to get the final two (meetings) here. It was important for us to seize the moment and opportunity.”

MarShawn Lynch Scores in Win Over Stanford
(E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Former Trojan Amon-Ra St. Brown led the Trojans out of the tunnel for this matchup. Brown, a former Trojan wide receiver, fluent in German and French, and a member of the Detroit Lions, remains a Trojan fan favorite. His younger brother Equanimeous plays for the Chicago Bears, and his other brother Osiris is a former Cardinal.

Related Stories

Harlem Lacrosse-Los Angeles Brings Inclusive Program to Compton High School

Glenn Gray Serves as Little League Coach For Over 40 Years

The game highlights: Trojan QB Caleb Williams passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns; he scored on a keeper, all in the first half. Williams would not play in the second half of the game. Freshman phenom Zachariah Branch returned a beautiful punt 75 yards for a touchdown. Marshawn Lloyd, Austin Jones, Dorian Singer, Brenden Rice, and Lake McRee all scored for the Trojans. This game was over by halftime.

SC scored their first touchdown in the first quarter, with Heisman (as he will forever be known) quarterback Caleb Williams scoring on a 21-yard run. Trojan kicker Denis Lynch confidently kicked a good extra point, giving the Trojans the early lead, 7-0.

Caleb Williams Celebrates with Teammate Dorian Singer
(E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Before we could settle down from that score, safety Max Williams from Carson and Serra High School intercepted the Cardinals and returned the ball for a 39-yard run. The Cardinals were called for unsportsmanlike conduct, resulting in a 15-yard penalty.

With 9:05 remaining in the first quarter, running back MarShawn Lloyd scored on a five-yard run; a good Lynch extra point gave the Trojans a 14-0 lead. His teammate, senior running back Austin Jones, would score in the final seconds of the first quarter with a one-yard run; the extra point was good, and the Trojans were up 21-0.

The Cardinal Divas of USC providing excitement from the stands
(E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

In a nice game break, the El Segundo Little League World Champion baseball team received heartfelt congratulations from Trojan fans for their recent championship win. The El Segundo Little League won the United States Little League Baseball World Series Championship over Curacao-based Pabao Little League in South Williamsport, PA, a 6 to 5 victory. El Segundo is the eighth California team to win it all.

While I’m giving shoutouts, Trojan DJ Jamal”  “DJ Mal-Ski,” pronounced Mall-Skee, is tasked with keeping the fans engaged and the Coliseum rocking; He does his job perfectly. When he says, “I need you to get loud and proud,” the fans willingly respond, and he jams when it comes to the music. I wonder if he does house parties…Hmmm?

Austin Jones Finds the Endzone in Trojan Victory
(E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

The Trojans continued their victory march with a thrilling 75-yard punt return by freshman playmaker Zachariah Branch. Branch is making the Coliseum his personal scoring field. The Trojans had a 28-point lead over Stanford, and if you haven’t seen the Trojans live this season, Branch is the real deal.

The Trojan defense continued to ramp up their play, with edge rusher Jamil Muhammad causing a Cardinal fumble recovered by Tackett Curtis. With 10:42 remaining in the second quarter, Dorian Singer would score on a 19-yard pass from QB Caleb Williams. The Lynch extra point is good, and the score is even better, Trojans 35-0.

DJ Mal-Ski Keeps the Coliseum Rocking
(Credit: Instagram)

The Cardinals get on the board with 6:57 remaining in the second quarter. Joshua Karty kicks a 38-yard field goal, Trojans lead 35-3.

One of the hashtags for this game was #BeattheFarm, and the Trojans would do just that, scoring again before halftime with QB Williams looking long and finding senior receiver Brenden Rice for a 75-yard pass. The Trojans lead 42-3. Williams would throw a short pass to tight end Lake McRee. The Trojans would end the half with a 49-3 lead. The game is essentially over.

At halftime, SC and The Spirit of Troy would pay homage to the music of Rhianna and display a beautiful drone show, for the first time, to highlight all things SC…Traveler…the iconic Trojan helmet…Fight On…and the Heisman.

Trojan QB Caleb Williams would not play in the second half; backup QB Miller Moss would take over the offense. The Cardinals would score in the fourth quarter with Justin Lamson on a one-yard run and a good Joshua Karty extra point. The Trojans lead at this point is 49-10, and with 0:58 remaining in the game, QB backup Miller Moss would find the end zone on a 15-yard run. The Trojans rout the Cardinals 56-10.

The Trojans entered the game ranked No. 6 in the AP poll. The Alabama Crimson Tide would lose to the Texas Longhorns and Coach Steve Sarkisian, remember him? So, the Trojans move up a spot and begin this week ranked #5 in the nation. The Trojans are on the road to face the No. 12 Utah Utes next Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.