USC vs. NotreDame
(Credit: Matt Wadleigh)

The night began with the always poignant recognition of USC senior players. For those graduating seniors and their families, it is an important milestone. Still, as these senior Trojans played their last game on the United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, they knew that the Michigan Wolverines beat the Ohio State Buckeyes earlier in the day, and the Clemson Tigers lost to the red-hot South Carolina Gamecocks. To wit, those team’s losses put the Trojans closer to a possible national championship berth. The No. 6 Trojans needed a decisive win, and they got their wish, defeating the Irish 38-27 before a crowd of 72,613 on a glorious, perfectly sun-kissed California day.

Caleb Williams, the effervescent quarterback, ruled the day in the Trojan’s 38-27 win. Williams put on an electric performance, passing for 232 yards, completing 18 of 22 passes, nine carries for 35 yards, scoring three touchdowns on the ground, and throwing for one score.

The confident quarterback provided entertaining moments during the game, striking the Heisman pose after one score and being crowned by teammate Jordan Addison as the chosen winner of the prestigious award. In post-game interviews, Williams was asked about the Heisman pose, and he said he did it on a dare from his teammates.

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“I struck the pose because a bunch of my teammates were saying do it. After I score, I normally don’t do anything. They kept saying it, so I ended up doing it in the moment.”

USC Quarterback Caleb Williams leads the Fight Song!
(Credit: Katie Chin / USC)

The Trojans would strike first on a pass from Williams to receiver Tahj Washington. The drive, eight plays, 75 yards, ignited by tight end Lake McRee, who gained 31 yards, followed by the efforts of Williams, wide receiver Addison and running back Austin Jones. Williams scored on a five-yard run to put the Trojans up at the half, 17-7.

In the third quarter, freshman running back Raleek Brown would find the end zone on a five-yard handoff from Williams, who would score again in the fourth quarter on a three-yard touchdown run.

Sophomore defensive back Caleb Bullock in a critical play for the Trojans would intercept the Irish on an 11-yard return, his fifth interception of the season and a costly pick for Notre Dame. Trojan QB Williams would again find the endzone on a 16-yard run. Williams was no lone ranger in spectacular play; Jones kept the Trojans in victory mode, rushing for 154 yards on 25 carries, and offensively, the Trojan’s play was solid as they finished the game with zero turnovers.

Irish quarterback Drew Pyne played well, 23 of 26 for 318 yards, three touchdowns – a career-high for him, and that costly pick; however, the Irish could not overtake the convincing play of the Trojans. His teammate, tight-end Michael Mayer, finished the game with eight passes for 98 yards and two scores. Marcus Freeman, 36, completed his first season as head coach of the Irish with respectable numbers, 8-4, and a remaining bowl game.

Caleb Williams Celebrate with teammates
(Credit: Matt Wadleigh)

A year ago, USC athletic director Mike Bohn after hiring Lincoln Riley, the team’s 30th head coach, made this optimistic prediction, “Our time is now.” Newly anointed Trojan head coach Lincoln Riley went further, promising to return the Trojans to national prominence, those good old glory days. On Saturday, Riley reminded us of his vision.

“Great win…it was fun seeing the Coli like that…sitting at the press conference close to 12 months ago…just imagining that…these guys have brought it to life. Man, it was electric in there,” Riley said. And so, it was.

“We played really well, all three sides of the ball,” Riley said as he subtly answered the critics, “I got sick and tired of hearing how well we were going to get pounded in the run game, and that didn’t happen.” At the night’s end, the first-year head coach felt nothing but pride.

On Friday, the Trojans will face the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The Utes are the Trojan’s only loss this season. If the Trojans emerge victorious, they could find themselves playing for the 2022-23 collegiate National Championship…California Dreamin…