Lincoln Riley reveals USC's Caleb Williams 'popped' hamstring, refused to exit Pac-12 Championship Game
Lincoln Riley said after USC’s 47-24 loss to Utah that his quarterback, Caleb Williams, delivered one of the gutsiest performances he’s ever seen by a quarterback in a game.
According to Riley, Williams “popped his hamstring” on the Trojans’ second drive of the game — the 59-yard run down the left sideline that saw him tackled awkwardly.
“I asked him at one point, Are you 50%? He was not even close to 50%,” Riley said. “I definitely thought about taking him out. He wouldn’t have let me, and he didn’t let me. He wouldn’t even let me take him out at the end.
“Yeah, in terms of guys I’ve coached at that position, maybe the gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen. Most guys wouldn’t have even played. He still gave us a chance. We had to change the game plan, had a change lot of things on the fly. He just kind of kept battling and willed us.”
Williams finished the game 28-for-41 passing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He added 21 rushing yards.
The second-year quarterback was asked after the game about the injury, and likened it to an old rubber band snapping.
“Yeah, kind of felt like that,” he said. “The rest of the game I felt it, but I had something that … I have watched and admired, a person that I admire, Kobe. He always said the game is bigger than what you’re feeling. I was in my head encouraging myself that the game is bigger than what I was feeling. I also had a group of guys that were looking at me to go out there and lead them to victory.”
Williams’ injury changed things. Riley alluded to it. His dual-threat ability has been a danger defenses have had to work around all season. On the Trojans’ first two drives Friday night — both touchdowns — Utah defenders were caught out of position with all of their attention fixed on Williams.
When he was forced into more of a one-dimensional role, Utah pinned its ears back and went after him. The Utes sacked him seven times in the game and put constant pressure on him.
Said Riley: “Shit, that’s as gutsy of a performance as you’ll ever see.”