Alex Bauman’s touchdown catch gives Tulane stunning win
Sixteen points in the final 4:03 of the Cotton Bowl.
That’s what it took for USC to turn a 45-30 advantage into a stunning 46-45 defeat at the hands of the Green Wave.
The final blow was a six-yard touchdown pass by Michael Pratt to Alex Bauman with nine seconds to go. With the ensuing extra point, Tulane (12-2) stormed all the way back to win the Cotton Bowl.
USC (11-3) dropped its second straight game despite a Cotton Bowl record five touchdown passes by Caleb Williams and holding a 15-point lead with 4:30 to go, the Trojans’ first bowl win in six years seemingly within sight.
Instead, USC allowed Tyjae Spears’ fourth touchdown only 23 seconds later. Then, a fumbled kickoff pinned the Trojans at their 1-yard line, leading to a safety. And after Tulane got the ball back on the ensuing free kick, the Green Wave went 66 yards in 12 plays to score the winning touchdown.
USC’s last-ditch drive came up short, and Tulane secured its first bowl win since the 2019 season.
Tulane safety trims USC’s lead late in fourth quarter
USC is hanging on for dear life.
After Tulane scored quickly to cut the Trojans’ lead to eight points, USC’s Mario Williams fumbled the ensuing kickoff out of bounds at the 1-yard line. After Austin Jones was tackled for no gain, Jones was tackled in the end zone by Patrick Jenkins for a safety to make it 45-39 with 3:20 to go in the fourth quarter.
Tyjae Spears’ fourth touchdown draws Tulane closer
It only took Tulane 23 seconds to answer USC’s last score.
Tyjae Spears punched in his fourth touchdown of the day, this time on a four-yard run, with 4:06 to go to trim USC’s lead to 45-37.
Spears, who fumbled earlier in the quarter, has 16 carries for 195 yards.
Denis Lynch field goal adds to USC’s lead
A 43-yard field goal by Denis Lynch gave USC a 45-30 advantage with 4:30 to go in the fourth quarter.
The drive was set up after Solomon Byrd recovered a fumble by Tulane running back Tyjae Spears with 10:46 to go in the fourth quarter. The ball was jarred loose by the Trojans’ Mekhi Blackmon.
Caleb Williams’ fifth touchdown pass extends USC’s lead
There’s a reason Caleb Williams won the Heisman.
The USC quarterback directed another scoring drive that was capped by his four-yard touchdown pass to Kyron Hudson that put the Trojans up 42-30 with 12:09 to go in the fourth quarter. It was his fifth scoring pass of the game, a Cotton Bowl record.
Williams has 418 yards on 31-of-45 passing.
Tyjae Spears’ third touchdown keeps Tulane close
Tyjae Spears cannot be stopped.
The Tulane running back took another direct snap near the goal into the end zone to pull the Green Wave to within 35-30 of the Trojans with 40 seconds to go in the third quarter. (A two-point conversion pass failed.) Earlier in the drive, Spears had a 47-yard scamper.
Spears has 152 yards rushing on 13 carries to go with his three touchdowns.
Caleb Williams-Brenden Rice combination hits paydirt for the Trojans
Brenden Rice struck again.
The USC wide receiver made another acrobatic play along the sideline on a pass by Caleb Williams to complete a 19-yard touchdown reception that gave the Trojans a 35-24 lead with 1:24 to go in the third quarter.
Rice has six catches for 174 yards (a career high) and two touchdowns against Tulane.
Tulane field goal trims USC’s lead further
The game continues to tighten in the third quarter.
Valentino Ambrosio converted a 42-yard field goal with 4:02 left in the third quarter to make it 28-24 in favor of USC.
The Green Wave moved into position to score for the second time in the quarter after the Trojans’ Denis Lynch missed on a 52-yard field goal attempt, giving Tulane good field position.
Tulane opens second half with touchdown drive to pull closer
Tulane put itself back in the game to open the second half.
The Green Wave went 76 yards in seven plays, capped off by a seven-yard run by Tyjae Spears that cut USC’s lead to 28-21 with 11:55 to go in the third quarter.
It was the second touchdown for Spears, who is up to 84 yards rushing on 10 carries and had a 47-yard run on the drive.
Brenden Rice touchdown catch extends USC’s lead
Brenden Rice is having himself a day.
Rice — who earlier connected with Caleb Williams on a highlight catch after a long scramble — made two receptions late in the first half, including one for a four-yard touchdown with 12 seconds to go in the second quarter to give USC a 28-14 advantage over Tulane.
That increased Rice’s tally to four receptions for 81 yards.
In the first half, Williams was 20 of 29 passing for 253 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
Trojans strike back, retake lead on Raleek Brown touchdown run
A first half of big plays continues.
The Trojans regained the lead on a 39-yard touchdown run by Raleek Brown with 2:21 to go in the first half to give USC a 21-14 advantage.
After Tulane scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions in the second quarter, the Trojans went 75 yards in six plays. Thanks to his touchdown run, Brown is up to 52 yards rushing on three carries. Caleb Williams is up to 190 yards on 16-of-25 passing.
Caleb Williams interceptions leads to Tulane touchdown drive
And just like that, the Cotton Bowl is tied.
After Tulane defensive back Jarius Monroe intercepted a pass by Caleb Williams at the Tulane 8 one play after Monroe had been called for pass interference, the Green Wave needed only two plays to get in the end zone.
Jha’Quan Jackson took a pass over the middle from Michael Pratt and took off down the right sideline to complete the 87-yard scoring play and tie the score at 14 with 5:42 to go in the first half.
The Trojans also held a 14-point lead early in the second quarter of the Pac-12 championship game (leading Utah 17-3) before their opponent caught up late in the first half.
Tulane responds with touchdown drive
Tulane is on the board and back in the Cotton Bowl.
Tyjae Spears took a direct snap three yards and rushed into the end zone to make it 14-7 in favor of USC with 9:30 to go in the first half.
The Green Wave, which only had possession for 3:12 in the first quarter and had yet to touch the ball in the second quarter, moved 75 yards in eight plays.
Trojans add to their lead on Caleb Williams’ touchdown pass
Two possessions for USC, two touchdowns.
Caleb Williams hit Terrell Bynum for a three-yard touchdown pass to give the Trojans a 14-0 lead with 12:33 to go in the second quarter.
Williams had his left hand looked at in between possessions, according to the ESPN broadcast, appeared no worse for wear on USC’s second drive, moving the team 95 yards on 12 plays. Among the highlights: a 59-yard pass to Tahj Washington from the USC 11, and a 30-yard pass to Brenden Rice after a holding penalty had pushed the Trojans back to the Tulane 31.
Through the two possessions, Williams has passed for 154 yards and two touchdowns while completing 11 of 18 pass attempts.
Michael Jackson III touchdown caps off Trojans’ opening drive
The Trojans made their opening drive count.
Taking up more than nine minutes, USC took the game’s opening kickoff and went 75 yards in 17 plays, capped off by a nine-yard touchdown reception by Michael Jackson III with 5:58 to go in the first quarter.
Caleb Williams went 5 for 8 for 45 yards passing on the opening drive while also carrying three times for 10 yards — including a two-yard run on fourth-and-1.
USC defensive coordinator Alex Grinch won’t sugarcoat defense’s struggles
DALLAS — Alex Grinch isn’t the kind to sugarcoat. It’s part of the reason, players say, that the USC defensive coordinator commands respect. He shoots it straight. Even if it means putting himself in the crosshairs.
So when he was asked Thursday to take stock of what he accomplished with USC’s defense in his first season as coordinator, Grinch stepped into the line of fire once again.
“The answer is, ‘Not enough,’” he said. “You’re charged with having a championship-level defense at USC. You signed up for that. We played good enough defense 11 times. We didn’t play good enough defense two times, but I don’t take a lot of solace in that. We were expected to have a championship-level defense, and we weren’t able to do that in the ‘22 season.”
Those shortcomings were laid bare in its Pac-12 title defeat as USC gave up 533 yards and a season-high 47 points to Utah in what was easily its worst tackling performance of the season. Ever since, any finger-pointing from outside the program has trained on USC’s coordinator and the direction he’s taken the Trojans defense.
USC’s offensive line bracing for the ‘harsh reality’ that awaits in 2023
After five years together, Justin Dedich hadn’t given much consideration to the fact that one day two staples of USC’s offensive line would be gone. After all the games playing alongside Brett Neilon and Andrew Vorhees, all the practices and meetings and random outings spent together, it always felt as if he’d have one more.
But Neilon, the Trojans longtime center, was carted off the field with an injury in the Pac-12 title game, and Vorhees, having battled nagging injuries all season, bowed out of the bowl to prepare for the NFL draft. Suddenly, there was no last hurrah and Dedich was playing center ahead of the Cotton Bowl, and Jonah Monheim had kicked inside to guard. An era had ended without warning.
“This is it,” Dedich said with a sigh. “It’s a harsh reality you gotta face. I’m glad we have a new group, and we’re playing well together, but those are my brothers. It makes me sad. It does.”
USC strength coach Bennie Wylie teaching players toughness through life lessons
Everything Bennie Wylie would ever learn about toughness, every lesson he would one day try to pass down as USC strength and conditioning coach, started first with his mother.
Velvia Wylie was always grinding, working as many as three jobs in their small town of Mexia, Texas, just to make ends meet. Whatever it took to care for her three kids, whatever it took to protect them, she did without hesitation. She never complained either. Barely even raised her voice. “I never heard her use a cuss word my whole life,” Wylie says.
Everything would be OK, she always assured her youngest son, even when it wasn’t clear it would be. “She was an angel who walked the earth,” Wylie says now.
‘We were the greatest team ever.’ Anthony Davis, 1972 USC Trojans savor their legacy
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.
Not even the 2004 Trojans with Reggie Bush? Davis shakes his head. He wonders if the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who finished 17-0 that NFL season, could keep up.
“Pound for pound, we were the best team ever,” he says.
Caleb Williams still coming to grips with being a Heisman Trophy winner
From the moment he lifted the iconic trophy last Saturday night, Caleb Williams hasn’t had much time to let the reality of his Heisman win sink in, let alone get the sleep he so desperately needs.
USC’s star quarterback — and the school’s record eighth Heisman winner — has been running on fumes from that night’s adrenaline rush. And there was no respite once he returned from New York. Not even winning the most coveted award in all of college sports could get Williams out of finals, for which he spent all of Monday through Wednesday this week cramming.
“To be in that moment, no matter how much sleep I had,” Williams said, “I was really grateful.”
USC’s Eric Gentry feeling confident and healthy ahead of Cotton Bowl
Eleven weeks after he burst from the injury tent in Utah on a severely sprained ankle, hopping his way into USC’s defensive huddle for an impassioned, impromptu speech, Eric Gentry said his ailing ankle was finally back to normal.
The USC sophomore linebacker still gutted his way through games against Notre Dame and Utah at the end of the season, never letting on that the injury was still seriously bothering him. But Gentry acknowledged he wasn’t the same when he returned from a four-game absence.
“[The injury] was way worse than people understood,” Gentry said. “And it was a mental toll, just trying to fight back. It was really hard not being able to play against UCLA. Notre Dame, it was bothering. Utah, it was bothering. Just maybe, like, two weeks ago, it started to feel like I was 100% able to plant off of it and do stuff. I won’t make excuses for the performance or any of that, but getting back the confidence with my ankle is helping me with my play, being able to tackle, being able to burst with speed, stuff like that.”
USC football transfer portal tracker: Who is in and who is out?
It’s portal season!
A 45-day window for college football players to enter the transfer portal opened Dec. 5, and the movement has been swift.
As players contemplate their next destination, coaches are making wish lists and snatching up new arrivals to bolster their rosters.
Who’s joining USC?
P Eddie Czaplicki
Size: 6-1, 200
Class in 2023: Junior
Seasons of eligibility remaining: Two
Buzz: A two-year starting punter for Arizona State, Czaplicki was named All-Pac-12 as a sophomore. He verbally committed to USC on Dec. 10 after leading the Pac-12 in punt average at 46.06 yards per punt with a long of 75 yards.
OLB Jamil Muhammad
Size: 6-2, 245
Class in 2023: Redshirt senior
Seasons of eligibility remaining: Two
Buzz: Muhammad could be a valuable playmaker up front for a much-maligned USC defense. He led Georgia State in sacks with six in 2021 and tallied a team-high eight quarterback hurries in 2022 along with 44 tackles, an interception and five tackles for loss. Muhammad originally signed with Vanderbilt but transferred to Georgia State in 2019 and took a redshirt year.
Pac-12 ultimate travel guide: Where we love to eat, sleep, have fun and watch football
Before UCLA and USC leave the Pac-12 in 2024, fans have a chance to hit the road and check out the conference’s best outposts.
Our panel of four college sports writers have traversed Pac-12 country for years, arriving early and leaving late. They explored the Arizona desert, mountains of Utah and Colorado and vast landscape along the Pacific coast.
We’ve ranked every Pac-12 city and shared hidden gems that help convert them from quick game-day getaways to ultimate road trip weekends.
We omitted the Los Angeles schools from our rankings because it’s too difficult to evaluate the place we live as a road trip. However, we included L.A. recommendations in our guide in case you’re hosting out of town visitors or planning a visit.
Will Pacific Northwest gem Seattle rank No. 1 or will the elite mountain town of Boulder, Colo., take the top spot? And how much will one sports writer’s love of a Washington winery skew our rankings?
USC eager to atone for defensive lapses with a stingy Cotton Bowl performance
Three weeks later, it all still haunts Alex Grinch. The missed tackles, the dropped interceptions, the blown lead.
The defensive collapse against Utah that cost USC a Pac-12 championship and its spot in the College Football Playoff is still fresh in the defensive coordinator’s mind.
“We didn’t finish,” Grinch said Thursday after practice. “And we haven’t done that for 13 games, by and large. It didn’t hurt us in 11 of them and it hurt us in two and that’s why we’re not champions right now. So it’s really disappointing and sometimes you gotta lose a game to maybe land the message but man, championship ball games, you don’t get a lot of those opportunities.”
The Trojans get a chance to atone for their defensive sins by finishing their season on a positive note against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2.
Caleb Williams eager to lead USC in Cotton Bowl: ‘I want to play with my guys’
ARLINGTON, Texas — His limp would linger long after USC’s Pac-12 title game heartbreak, the pain in his left hamstring a lasting reminder of all that was lost that night in Las Vegas. In the weeks that followed, his coach would caution about the significance of his injury, laying the groundwork for the quarterback to bow out of a bowl game, which, on paper, meant little in the grand scheme of a terrific turnaround season.
Yet to Caleb Williams, there was never a question. USC’s Heisman Trophy winner had assured — and reassured — in the aftermath of the loss to Utah that he’d return, and on Sunday morning, his coach would finally confirm his quarterback’s plans to play against Tulane in the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
“He’s ready to play,” Lincoln Riley said. “He’s progressed maybe a little faster than what we anticipated. Certainly very fortunate on our part that we had the opportunity to have a month before this game. Had it been even two weeks, I doubt he’d be available.”
USC vs. Tulane in Cotton Bowl: Betting odds, lines and predictions
Sportsbooks have USC as two-point favorites over Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.
We’re assuming this line would be higher if both teams were 100 percent (and Tulane is as close as any team in the major bowls), but even if Caleb Williams’ hamstring injury is OK enough for him to play, the Trojans are also without wide receiver Jordan Addison (ankle injury), offensive lineman Andrew Vorhees and Brett Neilon (opt outs for NFL draft), plus linebacker Ralen Goforth (transfer portal).
The other concern for USC is the motivation factor as the Trojans were on the cusp of a College Football Playoff berth in coach Lincoln Riley’s first year before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game, so the Cotton Bowl is an obvious letdown. Meanwhile, the Cotton Bowl was the reasonable best-case scenario for Tulane as a Group of 5 program.
Williams threw for 4,075 yards and 37 touchdowns while adding another 372 rushing yards and 10 more TDs in leading the Trojans to the No. 3 scoring offense at 41.1 points per game. Tulane had the No. 23 defense, allowing just 20.5 points per game, and the No. 18 pass defense at just 188.5 yards per game.
Tulane was also 11-2 against the spread this season — a result of exceeding preseason expectations — and coach Willie Fritz is 12-8 ATS (60%) in bowl games.
Early bettors still appear to think the Trojans are the right side as 82% of the bets and 72% of the money was on USC at DraftKings as of Friday morning. However, as South Point sportsbook director recently wrote on VSiN.com, with the exception of the College Football Playoff games, the vast majority of bets on other bowl games doesn’t come in until gameday. For current figures, see the VSiN betting splits page.
The Over/Under is at 64 points. As of noon Friday, 63% of the bets and 76% of the money was on the Over.