USC outlasts UCLA 48-45 behind epic performance by QB Caleb Williams

There was simply no stopping Caleb Williams and the USC offensive.

Williams put on an epic performance Saturday night, beating Dorian Thompson-Robinson in a soaring 48-45 win over UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

Williams, one of the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy, threw for 470 yards and two touchdowns while adding 32 yards and a point on the floor in the win. Williams was the best player on the field and his outstanding performance paved the way for the Trojans to a Pac-12 championship game berth.

USC, now 10-1 in just its first season under Lincoln Riley, is alive and well for the college football playoffs as well.

And against all odds, it took a defensive stop to seal the win.

USC had a 48-38 lead with 9:10 to go, but that lead quickly shrank to 48-45 with 6:38 remaining. From there, it looked like USC’s offense could extend the lead yet again while consuming much of the remaining time.

Instead, USC’s offense faltered near midfield and holed for the first time all night, giving Thompson-Robinson and the Bruins another shot at 2:21 to play.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) hits for a touchdown against UCLA on Saturday, November 19, 2022 in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-grader, quickly grabbed a first down and got the Bruins moving. At this point, the much-maligned USC defense was making a play. Korey Foreman, a defensive end, ducked for cover and intercepted Thompson-Robinson in midfield.

Thompson-Robinson put on an incredibly brave performance with 309 passing yards, 75 rushing yards and six total touchdowns, but that turnover allowed the Trojans to lose time and seal the win. It was the game’s third interception and fourth turnover overall for Thompson-Robinson, who also lost a fumble.

Ultimately, that third and final interception dashed UCLA’s Pac-12 title hopes and allowed the Trojans to move one step closer to a spot in the four-team playoffs.

USC fell behind 14-0, fighting back to the max

At first, things didn’t look good for USC.

The Trojans’ first three drives ended in a turnover on downs, a missed field goal, and an interception thrown by Williams. Those errors allowed UCLA to take a 14-0 lead after a quarter.

In the second quarter, however, Williams and the Trojans went on the offensive and by halftime UCLA’s lead was down to 21-20.

In the second half, USC began to take control. Williams made game after game, constantly passing balls into tight windows on the move. His 35-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Addison midway through the third game gave USC its first lead, 27-24. And then a Thompson-Robinson fumble allowed USC to quickly add another result, making it 34-24 with 6:36 remaining in third place.

From there came a barrage of points from both sides, with each defense seemingly unable to find a footing.

But in the end, the USC defense would actually be stopped by a formula it’s been using all season — force turnovers. USC entered college football Saturday with the highest revenue margin with 20 revenues won and just three losses.

The Trojans gave up 507 yards on offense but were up three in turnovers, taking them to a stunning 20 plus for the season.

What does this mean for USC?

With the win, USC officially secured a spot in the Pac-12 title game. And with just one loss this year, the Trojans are staying alive in the CFP race.

USC was 7th in the most recent ranking but will surely move up after Tennessee’s surprise loss to 5th place South Carolina.

And with a game against No. 18 Notre Dame and the Pac-12 title game on the horizon, USC can earn a spot in the field if it wins those two games.

The loser of next week’s game of No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Michigan could end up falling behind USC. There is also the duel between No. 6 LSU and No. 1 Georgia in the SEC title game.

Those are both ways for USC to climb while the wins come.

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