Hostile crowd no match for USC football

Despite miscues, the crowd could not stop the Trojans from putting up 42 points.

Junior quarterback Caleb Williams had three touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns, leading the Trojans to a 42-28 victory over ASU. (Bryce Dechert)

USC did what it needed to do to win a football game. But the Trojans did not win in as dominant a fashion as many expected them to, beating Arizona State 42-28 despite the Sun Devils playing with their third-string quarterback.

In their first road game of the year, the Trojans made multiple mistakes in the first half, with six penalties and two fumbles. The 54,166 in attendance made it difficult for the USC offense to get into its normal rhythm, as four of those penalties were committed by the offense before the snap.

“Tough road win for us tonight,” Head Coach Lincoln Riley said in a press conference Saturday. “For the first three quarters, it was kind of an example of how the road games can challenge you. It was an example of how mistakes tend to show up on the road a little bit different than how they do at home.”

The Trojans never trailed in the game, but it felt like the Sun Devils were the ones with the early lead as an underdog, forcing the No. 8 USC Trojans into multiple third-and-longs and even fourth-and-longs.

But, as usual, the Heisman winner found a way.

On USC’s first drive of the game, junior quarterback Caleb Williams hit freshman wide receiver Zachariah Branch on third-and-20 for a 23-yard gain to keep the drive moving forward. The heroics continued on USC’s third drive of the game as Williams found senior wide receiver Brenden Rice for a 43-yard touchdown on fourth-and-7.

Williams’ play helped the Trojans rally as a team and find a way to win in front of a crowd that was truly against them.

“We had a little bit of adversity tonight,” said freshman inside linebacker Tackett Curtis. “The crowd was against us and [the score] being kind of closer towards the end of it. But it kind of showed we are up for that. We want the hard games. Nobody wants just the easy win. I mean, that’s what we live for, the hard games.”

But again, despite all of the miscues and necessary heroics, the Trojans came out of a hostile environment with a win to improve their record to 4-0. Although it looks to the common eye as a step backward for this team, Riley had a differing opinion.

“The season is just a climb,” Riley said. “The challenges continue to change, and then we either respond and keep growing together as a team and getting better and winning along the way or you don’t. We won. We did a lot of good things. We have a lot to get better at.”

Through those challenges, multiple USC players came out looking like star players.

Redshirt junior running back MarShawn Lloyd, who is still not listed as the clear-cut starting tailback on the depth chart, went for 154 yards on the ground on only 14 carries.

Rice came into the game with only 124 receiving yards through three games but tallied 133 yards and two touchdown receptions against ASU.

Redshirt junior rush end Romello Height recorded two sacks, his first sacks with the Trojans since joining the team last season after dealing with injuries for the better part of his USC tenure. This performance earned Height a game ball, said junior inside linebacker Eric Gentry.

“[Ro]mello [has] been through so much,” Gentry said. “I’m just so happy about my boy.”

If the pressure of a tough road game made diamonds out of USC’s players, it’s likely to happen again as the Trojans take on the Colorado Buffaloes this upcoming Saturday in Boulder.

But just because it will likely be another tough road environment, as Colorado announced Sept. 7 that tickets to the game were sold out, the Trojans are not backing down from the challenge.

“Away games are always the games you’re going to remember the most,” Gentry said. “So you want to perform to your best, especially when it’s hectic and in a position that I’m in, like in a leader position. Just trying to get everyone to stay calm, just making sure everyone stays calm and good. Be happy to play football. It’s a game at the end of the day.”

The undefeated Trojans will travel to Boulder to take on the Buffaloes at 9 a.m. PST Saturday at Folsom Field.

© University of Southern California/Daily Trojan. All rights reserved.