LOS ANGELES—The NO. 6 USC Trojans kicked off their 2023 campaign by pulling away in the second half over the visiting San Jose State Spartans, 56-28 on a cool late summer evening at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, August 26.
Every year expectations for USC football are sky high, in 2023, the stakes haven’t been any greater since the Pete Carroll Reggie Bush era. This is USC’s final year in the Pac-12 before joining the Big 10 in 2024, SC Quarterback Caleb Williams is attempting to become only the second player ever in college football to repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner.
And winning the National Championship, of course. Lets not put the horse in front of the cart, take it one game at a time.
On their second drive, USC took a 7-0 lead on its opening drive when Williams hit Dorian Singer for a 15-yard touchdown. It was Singer’s first touchdown catch as a Trojan.
Caleb Williams was outstanding. Williams threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns in the victory. Williams is no doubt a terrific passer and runner. Yet, his greatest attribute might be his ability to improvise and turn a broken play into a touchdown.
For instance, in the second quarter, Williams fumbled the snap, calmly picked it up and found a wide open Tahj Washington for a 76-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
It was big plays all game for the Trojans. True freshman wide receiver Zachariah Branch made his sensational debut with a 96-yard kickoff return and caught a 25-yard touchdown. Branch gets the game ball.
“There’s some big plays on all sides of the ball,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said. “Some huge plays on special teams, but from a consistency standpoint it wasn’t there. We know we have a lot of work to do.”
San Jose State were confident and not intimidated by the Trojan lore. It was a truly competitive first half, as the Spartans cut the lead 21-14 with eight seconds left in the first half when quarterback Chevan Cordeiro connected with Nick Nash for a 28-yard touchdown heading into the locker room.
The Trojans were terrible on defense a year ago, but Riley decided to keep defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Unfortunately, the defense is still a work in progress, still making the same mistakes it did last season.
For example, Cordeiro was able to scramble for a 28-yard gain on a third-and-22 play in the first quarter. That first-down conversion led to SJSU’s first score of the game. USC needs to improve their run defense in order to compete for the Pac-12, and ultimately a title.
In the second half it was all USC. First, a 75 yard Drive culminating with a touchdown broke the game wide open.
After the defense forced a punt, Williams hit Brenden Rice for a 12-yard touchdown and USC took a commanding 49-21 lead in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Miller Moss added a 4-yard touchdown run to give USC a 56-21 lead.
USC returns to the Coliseum next Saturday to host Nevada. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.