Caleb Williams makes his Heisman case, helps No. 6 USC roll past No. 15 Notre Dame

USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs past Notre Dame defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola
USC quarterback Caleb Williams eludes Notre Dame defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola in the first quarter at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

USC quarterback Caleb Williams passed and rushed for multiple touchdowns, shining in the national spotlight as the Trojans defeated Notre Dame.

‘Tremendous run’ continues for USC and Caleb Williams with win over Notre Dame

USC quarterback Caleb Williams runs for his third touchdown against Notre Dame Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Lincoln Riley peered out over the Coliseum from atop his new gilded perch, dreaming up a future that just days before seemed no more than a pipe dream. It was Nov. 29, 2021, as USC’s new coach stood over a surreal scene, promising to turn the Trojans into contenders and the Coliseum into a mecca.

Considering the depressing depths to which USC had fallen in recent years, no reasonable soul could’ve expected in that moment to see those promises basically fulfilled in under a calendar year. But 362 days after his declaration, Riley stood on that same field for the last time in his debut season with another rival vanquished, a Pac-12 title in close reach and the College Football Playoff presumably just one win away.

What once seemed improbable, if not entirely impossible, was now unfolding for all the nation to see, a reality even the most serious of college football skeptics could no longer deny.

“Just imagining that,” Riley said Saturday night of his vision, “these guys have brought it to life.”

USC’s coach had never wavered in his confidence throughout that yearlong turnaround, and neither had his Trojans. That much was clear with the stakes impossibly high Saturday night, as No. 6 USC dismantled No. 15 Notre Dame and its vaunted defense in a 38-27 win, its 11th of the regular season.

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Caleb Williams stars in USC win over Notre Dame

Superman? How about Heisman winner?

Caleb Williams dazzled in USC’s 38-27 win over No. 15 Notre Dame on Saturday, pushing USC to 11-1 overall and strengthening his Heisman resume with four total touchdowns.

Williams was 18-for-22 passing for 232 yards and one touchdown. He added three rushing touchdowns with 35 net yards. The Oklahoma transfer has 44 total touchdowns on the year, but some of his best plays Saturday didn’t end in the end zone as he stunned fans and defenders with his scrambling ability. He wiggled free from sacks and threw on the run, struck the Heisman pose after a touchdown and blew kisses to the crowd after another.

One year after finishing with four wins, USC remains in contention for the College Football Playoff. The Trojans will play for the Pac-12 title on Dec. 2 in Las Vegas against Utah or Oregon.

Lincoln Riley tied the school record for wins by a head coach in his first year, matching Howard Jones in 1925 and John Robinson in 1976.

Austin Jones ran for a career-best 154 yards on 24 attempts to help the Trojans grind the game away.


Notre Dame adds late touchdown

Michael Mayer caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Drew Pyne, but with 1:02 left and an 11-point lead, it’s likely too little, too late for Notre Dame.

The Irish went for a two-point conversion, but Bryson Shaw broke up the pass to keep USC up 38-27.

Mayer has 98 receiving yards and two touchdowns on eight catches, but the Notre Dame offense has limited his yards after catch to only five. Sound tackling against the elite tight end was a focus for the USC defense this week.


Next stop: New York City?

Book his ticket to New York City.

While another Heisman favorite stumbled today, Caleb Williams has starred, adding another rushing touchdown to his account as USC now leads 38-21 with 2:35 remaining.

Williams kept the ball on a zone read and rushed for a 16-yard score. It’s his third touchdown run of the night to go with his passing score. He has 232 yards on 18-of-22 passing.


Calen Bullock finally gets his interception

Friendly fire (and a defensive holding penalty) prevented Calen Bullock from reeling in an interception earlier in the fourth quarter, but the USC safety didn’t miss his chance this time as he picked off a pass intended for Braden Lenzy and returned it to the Notre Dame 24-yard line.

Bullock leads USC with five interceptions.

Drew Pyne is 18-for-21 passing for 242 yards and two touchdowns and one interception.


Pynes’s perfect night ends, but Notre Dame still finds end zone

Although Drew Pyne finally through an incomplete pass, Notre Dame still compelted a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to cut into USC’s lead.

Pyne missed his first throw of the game at the 13:43 mark of the fourth quarter. He had completed his first 15 passes of the game until his throw over the middle to Lorenzo Styles skipped just short of the intended receiver.

But he picked right back up with two consecutive completions of 18 and 25 yards and with a defensive holding call on Bryson Shaw, the Irish moved into the red zone. Logan Diggs plunged into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown run two plays later.

USC leads 31-21 with 11:29 to go.

Pyne is 17-for-18 for 237 yards and two touchdowns.


Caleb Williams opens fourth quarter with touchdown run

The Heisman chants are only getting louder for Caleb Williams as he opened the fourth quarter with a three-yard touchdown run to put USC up 21-14 with 14:53 remaining.

The quarterback’s most dazzling play on the drive came on another scramble for a first down, dodging a would-be sack, rolling out of the pocket, cutting up field then crossing from one side to the other for a 19-yard gain on second-and-13.

Williams is 15-for-19 for 196 yards and one touchdown through the air. On the ground, he has 19 net yards on seven carries, but 38 yards gained compared to 19 yards lost on two sacks.

After scoring his second rushing touchdown of the game, Williams blew kisses to the USC student section, who followed the in-stadium DJ’s call of “Heisman! Heisman!”

Austin Jones has 128 rushing yards on 18 carries, proving that he was ready to step up for the injured Travis Dye.


Drew Pyne’s perfect night continues with second touchdown pass

Drew Pyne still hasn’t thrown an incompletion and his latest strike might be one of his best tonight as he threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Deion Colzie to cut into USC’s lead.

The Irish trail the Trojans 24-14 with 5:54 remaining in the third quarter.

Colzie helped his quarterback out by catching the ball in traffic against USC’s Jacobe Covington, who was in position to make a play but never turned his head to the ball.

Pyne is 13-of-13 passing for 183 yards and two touchdowns. While he’s cooking in the pass game, Notre Dame has yet to find momentum on the ground, averaging just 3.8 yards per carry.


USC stretches lead in third quarter

USC running back Raleek Brown celebrates with Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams after scoring
USC running back Raleek Brown (14) celebrates with Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) after scoring against Notre Dame in the third quarter at the Coliseum Saturday.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Lincoln Riley’s third-down magic strikes again.

USC started the third quarter with a takeaway on defense, which turned into a five-yard touchdown run from Raleek Brown to put the Trojans up 24-7 with 8:21 remaining in the third.

USC marched down the field with four consecutive first downs to start the drive. Austin Jones ripped off runs of 24 and 13 yards.

Of course, the drive wouldn’t be complete without a Caleb Williams highlight. The quarterback zipped a pass to Tahj Washington through two defenders for 18 yards and brought the Trojans into the red zone, where Brown finished it off.

Williams is 13-for-17 for 178 yards and one touchdown. He also has a rushing touchdown.

Jones leads the rushing attack with 94 yards on 14 carries.


USC snuffs out Notre Dame with takeaway to open second half

Drew Pyne still hasn’t missed a throw, but the quarterback just made his first big mistake of the game by fumbling the ball on a zone read at the USC 26-yard line. Linebacker Ralen Goforth was there to jump on the ball for USC’s first takeaway of the game.


Second half underway

Caleb Williams is dazzling, scrambling and punting. USC fans are campaigning for the Heisman Trophy. But USC is still only leading by 10 points.

Notre Dame gets the ball to start the second half. The Irish are trailing 17-7, which seems like a minor victory for Notre Dame as Williams’ electric play has the Coliseum buzzing.

While Williams is earning comparisons to NFL star Patrick Mahomes for his scrambling ability and abilty to throw while off-balance, Notre Dame’s Drew Pyne has yet to miss a throw. Pyne is eight-for-eight for 106 yards and one touchdown.


Caleb Williams showing his Heisman potential

After scrambling for several seconds, wiggling free from at least two would-be sacks and firing a rocket to Jordan Addison for 23 yards on second-and-eight, Caleb Williams was serenaded with chants of “Heisman! Heisman!” from the USC student section.

Certainly the quarterback’s heroics are strengthening his Heisman resume, especially after a five-yard touchdown run to put USC up 17-7 entering halftime.

Williams faked the handoff to Austin Jones, but pulled the ball for himself and rushed straight up the middle into the end zone. He even flashed a quick Heisman pose when celebrating among his teammates.

The quarterback is 10-for-13 for 146 yards and one touchdown. His rushing yards are weighed down by two sacks, which have him at minus-four yards on the ground.

Tuli Tuipulotu ended the first half with a sack on Drew Pyne, who is eight-for-eight for 106 yards and one touchdown.


Notre Dame finally on the board

There’s a reason USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch called Michael Mayer the best tight end in the country.

The John Mackey Award semifinalist from a year ago caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Drew Pyne for Notre Dame’s first points of the game. USC leads 10-7 with 6:14 to go in the second quarter.

Mayer caught the pass in front of Max Williams, a nearly impossible matchup for the 5-foot-9 USC defensive back against the 6-foot-4 tight end.

Pyne was a perfect 7-of-7 passing for 95 yards and a touchdown. His most impressive throw came on a key third-and-10 when he got crushed by USC safety Bryson Shaw on a delayed blitz, but the quarterback was still able to complete a 30-yard strike to Deion Colzie to move the Irish into USC territory.


Caleb Williams shows off his punting skills

Get you a quarterback who can do it all.

We know Caleb Williams can throw and run, but tonight’s game plan to showcase the Heisman-candidate quarterback has included a trick play that could have led to a receiving touchdown and now a pooch punt.

Williams lined up the offense on fourth-and-eight from the USC 42-yard line then backed up to punt the ball away. His kick rolled through the back of the end zone for a 58-yard punt. It’s USC’s longest punt of the year.

Williams was forced to use his legs on the drive as protection started to break down when receivers could get open down field. He was sacked for a 10-yard loss on second down and wiggled free of another big loss on third down and flung the ball to Mario Williams. While the pass traveled at least 30 yards through the air, Caleb Williams had scrambled back to far that it only counted for a 12-yard gain.


USC stops Notre Dame on fourth down

USC stuffed Notre Dame on fourth-and-one from the USC 27-yard line to maintain its 10-0 lead with 14:11 remaining in the second quarter.

Stanley Ta’ufo’ou tackled Drew Pyne on third-and-two, keeping the Notre Dame quarterback about half a yard away from the line to gain after a referee review. The Irish kept their offense on the field and tried a direct snap to Mitchell Evans, but the backup tight end was stopped for no gain by Ralen Goforth and Tyrone Taleni.

The Trojans have held Notre Dame to 58 yards on its first two drives. The Irish are coming off a 44-0 rout of Boston College and have scored 35 or more points in five consecutive games.


USC in front after one

USC leads 10-0 entering the second quarter with Notre Dame driving into USC territory.

The Irish have second-and-five from the USC 31-yard line after Audric Estime was tripped up by Eric Gentry for a five-yard gain.

Gentry is back on the field for the first time since injuring his leg against Utah on Oct. 15. The linebacker had three tackles in the first quarter to lead the USC defense.


Trick play results in penalty for USC, leads to field goal

Caleb Williams has thrown a touchdown pass and he almost had a chance to catch one.

The Trojans ran a fun trick play on second-and-goal from the five-yard line that featured a handoff to Austin Jones, who gave the ball to Mario Williams on a reverse. Mario Williams reared back to pass to Caleb Williams in the end zone, but the quarterback was called for offensive pass interference on the incompletion. The penalty stalled USC’s promising red-zone drive and the Trojans had to settle for a 31-yard field goal from Denis Lynch after Caleb Williams was sacked for a six-yard loss on second-and-20.

USC leads 10-0 with 3:29 to go in the first quarter.

The field goal is a big improvement for the Trojans considered what almost was a turnover. USC appeared to lose the ball on a third-down fumble by Jordan Addison recovered by Notre Dame, but referees reviewed and overturned the call.

Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey punched the ball out of Addison’s grasp, but replay showed that the the USC receiver was able to reach for it and recover the ball while on the ground.

Caleb Williams is five-for-six for 86 yards and one touchdown. Jones leads the Trojans with 30 rushing yards on six carries.


USC strikes first with surgical touchdown drive

USC effortlessly marched down the field to score on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Caleb Williams to Tahj Washington on its first drive of the game.

The Trojans lead 7-0 with 10:36 remaining in the first quarter.

Williams was surgical on the drive, completing each of his two pass attempts for 42 total yards and scrambling once for seven yards. The carry gave him 323 rushing yards this season, the most for a USC quarterback in the last 70 years when complete records were first available.


USC starts on offense against Notre Dame

Hello friends, this is Thuc Nhi Nguyen. I’ll be driving our live blog tonight from the Coliseum, where I’m joined by USC beat writer Ryan Kartje and columnist Bill Plaschke.

The No. 6 Trojans (10-1) are pushing to stay in the College Football Playoff semifinals hunt and win a rivalry game against No. 15 Notre Dame. USC will receive the opening kickoff after Notre Dame won the coin toss and deferred.

The Irish (8-3) have won five consecutive games after a head-scratching loss to Stanford on Oct. 15.


USC honors seniors before final home game of season

USC honored its senior class before Saturday’s game at the Coliseum, a group that included offensive line stalwarts Brett Neilon and Andrew Vorhees and star transfer Travis Dye.

Dye, a Norco native who transfered to USC from Oregon, walked onto the field with one crutch after suffering a season-ending leg injury against Colorado. He received a loud cheer from fans.

Neilon wiped tears from his eyes after he took photos with his family on the field.

Linebackers Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth ran out of the tunnel and greeted their families on the field but both still have eligibility remaining.

Of note, Justin Dedich, a fifth-year senior, was not honored before the game. The team captain may return with an additional year of eligibility because of the pandemic.


USC, Notre Dame players warm up at the Coliseum

USC players warm up before playing Notre Dame at the Coliseum
USC players warm up before playing Notre Dame at the Coliseum.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Notre Dame players head to the Coliseum field to warm up before playing USC
Notre Dame players head to the Coliseum field to warm up before playing USC at the Coliseum.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Can Caleb Williams have another Heisman moment? What to watch for in USC-Notre Dame

His teammates called him a gamer, a winner, Superman.

After a nationally televised, primetime rivalry win over UCLA in which Caleb Williams threw for a career-high 470 yards and clinched USC’s spot in the Pac-12 championship game, the Trojans hope to add another title:


USC officially launched the quarterback’s Heisman platform this week, releasing a website and social media campaign leading up to No. 6 USC’s regular-season finale against No. 15 Notre Dame at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Coliseum.

The platform highlighted Williams’ multicultural background and philanthropy alongside his record-setting play with the tagline “He is He13man,” a play on Williams’ jersey number. He posed between former USC stars Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, holding Bush’s jersey while the former Heisman winners each held autographed versions of Williams’ No. 13.

USC receiver Michael Jackson III didn’t need the hype video and media blitz. Williams was already No. 1 in his book.

“We knew before the season started, he was that guy,” Jackson said this week. “He’s proven himself so far this season, he’s had a great season, so it’s no question that he should be Heisman.”

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‘We were the greatest team ever.’ Anthony Davis, 1972 USC Trojans savor their legacy

USC running back Anthony Davis holds a newspaper highlighting his six touchdowns against Notre Dame on Dec. 6, 1972.
USC running back Anthony Davis holds a copy of the L.A. Times highlighting the six touchdowns he scored against Notre Dame on Dec. 6, 1972.
(Wally Fong / Associated Press)

Fifty years after the game that changed his life, Anthony Davis sits in an office surrounded by a museum of his USC memorabilia, wondering what might’ve been if his biggest moment never materialized.

The six touchdowns Davis scored on Notre Dame that day in December 1972 would go down as one of the greatest single-game performances in college football history, the piece de resistance of a storybook ’72 season for USC that still ranks among the best the sport has ever seen. On that particular subject, there’s no debating with Davis, whose infamous swagger as a star Trojan running back remains very much intact at 70 years old.

“We set the standard. No one has lived to that standard yet,” Davis declared.

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USC vs. Notre Dame betting odds and point spreads

USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates with teammates after beating UCLA
USC quarterback Caleb Williams celebrates with teammates after beating UCLA at the Rose Bowl.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Oddsmakers have made the No. 6 USC Trojans a 5.5-point home favorite in their regular-season finale against No. 15 Notre Dame at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Coliseum.

USC (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12) has already clinched a berth in the Pac-12 championship game Friday at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, but the Trojans are still trying to get into the College Football Playoff semifinals.

The Trojans are coming off a thrilling 48-45 win over UCLA as quarterback Caleb Williams had 470 passing yards and two touchdown passes while adding 33 more rushing yards and another touchdown. Running back Austin Jones took over for injured Travis Dye and had 120 rushing yards and two touchdowns as coach Lincoln Riley’s offense keeps the Trojans rolling.

Notre Dame started the season 0-2 with losses at Ohio State and at home against Marshall, but the Fighting Irish have gone 8-1 since then, including five straight wins. Notre Dame is 3-0 against the spread as an underdog this season as it covered in a 21-10 loss at Ohio State in the season opener a 17.5-point dog and then pulled outright upsets at North Carolina (45-32 win as a 3-point underdog) and at home versus Clemson (35-14 rout as a 3.5-point underdog).

Early bettors have been mostly split on this matchup, with 53% of the bets and 55% money on Notre Dame +5.5 at DraftKings sportsbooks as of Tuesday afternoon. For the most up-to-date betting trends, see VSiN’s CFB Betting Splits page.

The over/under has been set at 64.5 points with 54% of the early bets on the over and 51% of the money on the under. USC has been an over team all season at 8-3, including five in a row. Notre Dame is 6-4-1 with the over, also hitting five in a row.

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For USC, the path to a CFP berth is clear, if focus can shift quickly from UCLA to Notre Dame

USC quarterback Caleb Williams gets a hug from coach Lincoln Riley after the Trojans beat UCLA
USC quarterback Caleb Williams gets a hug from coach Lincoln Riley after the Trojans beat UCLA.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

There were tears of joy and roars of elation, years worth of pent-up emotions all packed into one raucous, postgame celebration.

The realization seemed to sweep over USC’s sideline all at once in the final seconds of its 48-45 victory over UCLA on Saturday: Not only would the rivalry win send the Trojans to the Pac-12 title game, but also the College Football Playoff, a goal that seemed entirely preposterous at this point last year, was now in play.

It was a lot to take in for a team that finished 4-8 last season.

“Competing for the College Football Playoff, it’s a unique experience for some of us old-heads here,” senior guard Justin Dedich said jokingly.

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