Los Angeles, CA —USC has a lot of things to prove this year and they have the receipts to show they are not playing around this season.
USC quarterback Caleb Williams threw for 319 yards and connected with receiver Tahj Washington with two of his five touchdown passes, leading the Trojans to a 66-14 victory over Nevada.
The best play of the game which brought a smile to head coach Lincoln Riley face when Stanley Ta’ufo’ ou, the 6-foot-2, 275-pound defensive lineman, galloping into the end zone after returning a fumble sent the USC coach leaping into the air in a sideline celebration.
“When big people score,” Riley said with a slight grin, “football’s more fun.”
After beating down San Jose State in the opener, the No. 6 Trojans (2-0) played like a team destine for the chip.
William shredded the Nevada defense then he retired to the sideline with over 2 minutes left remaining in the third quarter and comfortable 42-7 lead. Backup quarterback Miller Moss completed 7 of 10 passes, 14 USC players caught a pass and six scored, led by two touchdowns from Tahj Washington.
The Trojans overcame the loss of three inside linebackers to hold Nevada to 49 rushing yards on 38 carries.
USC overwhelmed Nevada (0-1) from the start of the game, scoring on a four play, 79-yard first drive. Williams added another highlight to his Heisman reel, escaping pressure to his face, tiptoeing the sideline and wristing a 30-yard pass to receiver Dorian Singer, who snatched it with one hand.
“I was yelling at him to throw it away,” Riley said. “Sometimes I’m mad when he doesn’t listen to me. This time I was glad he didn’t listen to me.”
Running back MarShawn Lloyd bounced back from a shaky USC debut to claim to the starting role. The South Carolina transfer had a team-high seven carries for 76 yards and his first touchdown at USC, while returning back Austin Jones was limited to two carries for 19 yards.
Williams passed for 258 yards and four TDs on just 15 completions while USC built a 35-7 halftime lead. He finished 18 of 24 while also rushing for 42 yards as well.
“He’s improving,” Riley said. “I can’t say I’m disappointed with how he’s played, but he’s got to get better. Everybody wants to look at the score and just write the story, and there’s so much to it. There’s some things he’s done really well, especially the situational ball, and some understandings defensively have improved, but we’ve had a handful of plays in both games that we both want back, that we’ve got to go get and not leave on the table.”
Nevada scored on its first possession but Wolf Pack went scoreless for 10 consecutive drives during USC’s run of 45 consecutive points. Ta’ufo’ou punctuated the scoring splurge, returning a fumble forced by freshman Braylan Shelby 23 yards to put the Trojans up 52-7.
“It’s like a dream come true to get a touchdown for the defensive line,” Ta’ufo’ou said.
USC’s 668 yards were its most under Riley, and its 66 points matched the highest-scoring game of his tenure.
“I’m proud of both sides of the ball,” Riley said. “A few plays here and there that we’re going to want back, that we know we have to continue to clean up, but we took a step this week.”
Senior linebacker Mason Cobb and returning starter Eric Gentry watched from the sideline with injuries, and the linebacker position got even thinner after starter Tackett Curtis was ejected for targeting during the second quarter. Raesjon Davis, who started in Cobb’s place, teamed with Shane Lee to hold down the defense for the rest of the game.
Brendon Lewis passed for 182 yards for the Wolf Pack (0-1), who scored on their opening drive before giving up 45 consecutive points. Freshman AJ Bianco threw a 77-yard touchdown dime to Jamaal Bell on his first career pass attempt during the fourth quarter for Nevada, which went 2-10 in coach Ken Wilson’s debut last season after four straight winning campaigns under Jay Norvell.
“We just wanted to get out there and see the situations, get ’em playing,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a long season ahead of us. We played against a really good football team tonight. We got to look at all the mistakes we made. We got to fix them in the next week.”
Nevada: Host Idaho on Saturday, Sept. 9.
USC: Host Stanford on Saturday, Sept. 9.