PASADENA, Calif. — — Caleb Williams supported Southern California’s bid for a possible spot in the College Football Playoff with the biggest game of his career against the Trojans’ arch-rival.
He may also need to book a trip to New York next month as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Williams had a total offense of 503 yards for three touchdowns on Saturday night and the seventh-seeded Trojans defeated No. 16 UCLA 48-45 on Saturday night to reach the Pac-12 Championship game.
“If you told me last year where we would be now, I would call you a dead liar,” said wide receiver Kyle Ford.
The Trojans (10-1, 8-1) got their first win of the season over a ranked team. They will wait to see who their opponent will be on December 2 in Las Vegas for the conference crown.
“Obviously it’s very, very meaningful,” said USC coach Lincoln Riley. “With everything riding on it, it was a clutch effort from our football team to pull it off.”
Williams completed 32 of 43 passes for 470 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The sophomore also rushed for 33 yards and a score. It was the second most passing yards by a USC quarterback in 92 editions of the Crosstown Showdown.
“I’ve played in two other games that are rivalries, and I went into this game expecting the same. You have to do your job, do your job at a high level and keep playing, keep swinging,” Riley said.
In the first game where both LA schools were led by a black quarterback, Williams defeated UCLA counterpart Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
The fifth-year senior was responsible for all six of the Bruins’ touchdowns and 384 yards of total offense, but also had four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) that the Trojans converted to 10 points.
“Obviously I feel disappointment, a lot of myself,” said Thompson-Robinson. “As a quarterback, I can’t have (four) turnovers and win the game. It’s just not acceptable.”
The Trojans had a season-high 648 yards of total offense. Williams completed passes to nine players, but his favorite target was Jordan Addison, who had 11 receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Williams’ performance was the latest in a string of great games that have propelled him into Heisman Trophy consideration. In his last five games, Williams has a total offense of 2,027 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“We played against such a good quarterback as I’ve had in my college career, looking at what Caleb did tonight, so I’d give Caleb a lot of credit and say he’s a great quarterback,” said UCLA coach Chip Kelly.
USC trailed 14-0 before the rally. The Trojans scored on eight of nine drives, including five in a row, after going empty on their first three possessions.
UCLA (8-3, 5-3) got the ball with 2:21 left after forcing USC to punt with a chance to win or force overtime. The Bruins reached midfield, but their hopes for a comeback evaporated when Thompson-Robinson was picked in midfield by Korey Foreman with 1:26 left.
Thompson-Robinson was 23 of 38 for 309 yards and passed for four touchdowns. He also rushed for 75 yards and two scores.
After Jones’ 8-yard run put the Trojans within 21-17, UCLA got the ball and were looking for a final score before halftime – along with getting the ball early in the second half.
It didn’t go according to plan.
Thompson-Robinson was knocked out twice during the final 1:42 of the first half. USC was able to convert on the second interception as Denis Lynch connected from 49 yards to put the Trojans within 21-20 at halftime.
Nicholas Barr-Mira’s 46-yard field goal on the opening drive of the second half extended the Bruins’ lead to four before Williams connected with Addison for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Trojans on top 27–24.
The USC defense came with its third turnover midway through the third quarter when Tyrone Taleni sacked Thompson-Robinson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Latrell McCutchin at the UCLA 9. Two plays later, Jones scored at center from 2 yards to get out expand the Trojans lead to double digits.
USC: There were some concerns following Travis Dye’s season-ending injury last week that the Trojans would struggle in the running game. But Austin Jones picked up the slack with a season-high 120 yards and two TDs.
UCLA: The Bruins’ defense has been having problems for the past two weeks, especially stopping an opponent’s passing play. They allowed four completions of at least 35 yards.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE POLL
The Trojans could bid for the top five after this win, while the Bruins will try to hang on to the rankings.
USC: Host No. 18 Notre Dame this Saturday.
UCLA: Travels to California on Friday.
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