3 takeaways from USC's 66-14 demolition of Nevada
USC dismantled Nevada on Saturday night, 66-14, to move to 2-0 on the season.
Quarterback Caleb Williams completed 18 of his 24 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns, making highlight plays all over the place. The Trojans, as a unit, piled up 668 yards of total offense and limited Nevada to just 49 rushing yards. Even including sacks, Nevada was held under 100 rushing yards.
It was an impressive outing from the No. 6 team in the country, which now moves to 2-0.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
USC looks the part
Before you go off on me about the defense, just hear me out.
USC looks like a team that knows it can get to a Pac-12 championship game, like a team that knows it has a chance to make it into the College Football Playoff.
The Trojans gave up 5 yards a play to Nevada on Saturday. It was an improvement over Week 1 by a full yard, and that came with Mason Cobb and Eric Gentry sitting out the entire game and Tackett Curtis getting ejected for targeting early on.
USC had five sacks and 10 tackles for loss against an overmatched Nevada team.
USC got its playmakers the football on offense and then got its stars out of the game early.
The ground game produced 223 yards and two scores on 19 carries. The pass game went for 453 yards and six touchdowns on just 34 attempts. Fourteen receivers caught a pass. Four running backs toted the rock.
USC had a turnover and it had more penalties than Nevada and it only converted two of its six first downs.
But the Trojans didn’t play with their food.
As they were cruising to points — touchdowns on five of the first six offensive possessions, with nine scoring drives out of 12 — USC looked like a team that has larger ambitions and knows these games are about handling your business.
Quarterback Caleb Williams looks like a man on a mission. The defense looked… good?
The Trojans go into Stanford week at 2-0 with a plus-80 scoring margin and touchdowns on 15 of their first 23 drives. The offense has run 123 plays and scored 122 points.
Will USC win a championship this season? Too early to tell.
Does USC look like a team that fully intends on playing for one? Yup. Given where this program was two years ago, I think that’s worth something.
The backfield looks promising
Austin Jones had two touchdowns and paced the Trojan backfield in the opener.
Jones had two total carries on Saturday.
Instead, it was MarShawn Lloyd, the former South Carolina back, who carried the room. He did so both on the ground and through the air. Lloyd finished with 76 rushing yards and a score on seven carries. He added another 59 yards on two receptions.
Lloyd had a 54-yard reception with 40 yards after the catch. And he had a 30-yard carry.
Lincoln Riley offenses have, at their best, leaned on a dynamic tailback. Go back through all the offenses Riley has coordinated both as a head coach and an assistant. There are incredible runners darn near every year.
If Lloyd can be that guy — he came to USC for exactly that reason — this team has a chance to have a special season so long as the defense doesn’t completely crater.
And there isn’t just Lloyd in the room. Jones proved last year he was capable of being a crutch in the absence of Travis Dye. Quinton Joyner ran for 65 yards and a score on just four carries Saturday. USC also has Darwin Barlow and a slotback in Raleek Brown who is just waiting on the sideline for a chance to make a play.
Riley has options.
I’d like to see Lloyd get a chance to be the guy.
A new way to get off the field
USC allowed just one third-down conversion on Nevada’s first six attempts Saturday night.
The Wolf Pack converted just two of their first 10 third downs.
For the game, Nevada was just 5-for-18 on third down.
Though they faced an average of 7.5 yards to go on third, seven of those third-down attempts came within 4 yards of the line to gain. USC held them to just two conversions on those seven attempts.
USC had eight defensive takeaways in the first two games of the 2022 season. It was, statistically speaking, very lucky in the turnover department last year both at recovering opponent fumbles, retaining its own fumbles, and picking off passes.
So far this season, USC has one takeaway in two games.
I wondered if the luck would flip back the other way.
So far, though, it has not cost USC. The Trojans have been getting off the field in other ways. San Jose State was 5-for-13 on third down. Nevada was 5-for-18.
Turnovers are fickle. They’ll come if you’re really committed to hunting the football, which Alex Grinch is.
Being stout on third down, though? That’s sustainable. And it’s a good sign through two weeks.
Bonus: Caleb Williams, man
The Heisman Trophy winner is unreal.
caleb williams…lol…what do you even say? pic.twitter.com/lJLdBBzXDg
— Kyron Samuels (@kyronsamuels) September 2, 2023
And Exhibit B:
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) September 2, 2023
What a guy.