USC opened Year 2 under Lincoln Riley with a 56-28 victory over the San Jose State Spartans.

It wasn’t the prettiest victory for the sixth-ranked Trojans, but it was certainly one stuffed full of highlights. Quarterback Caleb Williams reminded the country of just how ridiculously talented he is. A handful of newcomers showed out. There were big plays and a score on special teams.

The Trojans (1-0) closed things out with 501 yards of offense. Williams completed 18 of his 25 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns. Austin Jones led the way on the ground with 54 yards and two scores on six carries.

But there was also a ton of focus on the USC defense and, well, there will continue to be.

The Trojans will next turn their attention to Nevada, who comes to town next Saturday, Sept. 2, for a 3:30 p.m. PT kick.

But first, here are three takeaways from the season-opening win.

A deserving No. 1

Zachariah Branch is that dude.

My goodness.

The freshman wide receiver — just minutes after scoring his first career touchdown for USC — turned on the jets to take a kickoff 96 yards to the house in the third quarter at a crucial juncture. San Jose State had just scored on an explosive to cut the USC lead to 14. Branch immediately bumped it back to 21.

That is a special talent right there.

That is a player you just get the football to.

Branch needs to be involved for USC this season. His speed is next-level. The patience he showed to let his blockers create a lane, that’s not something you see every day from a young guy. Branch knows he can turn on the afterburner and beat anyone. Pairing that ability with vision makes him an immediate threat.

He also had a handful of impressive returns on the punt team. No one else should kick it to Branch. He looked that capable.

Branch closed out the game with four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, one rushing attempt for 12 yards, three punt returns for 66 yards, and one kick return for 96 yards and a touchdown. That’s 232 all-purpose yards for a first-year player in his first game.

The Trojans said throughout the offseason they were expecting to have the former 5-star recruit involved. It was clear right away why.

Lincoln Riley, Alex Grinch do themselves no favors

If the first half of the first game of the season was any indication, it’s going to be a long year on the Trojans’ beat.

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was under the gun right away. It was an uneven performance from the Trojans — not just on defense. Give some credit to the San Jose State Spartans, whose quarterback made some big-time plays and showed off his experience in key moments.

And a couple of USC newcomers flashed. Anthony Lucas had a stop on the first play of the game that highlighted his potential as a disruptor. He was able to get some pressure on Chevan Cordeiro on a third-and-17 that flushed the SJSU quarterback from the pocket and led to a third-down stop. Lucas worked all night.

Jamil Muhammad looks promising off the edge. That duo, along with Solomon Byrd, could do some things.

But you hoped to see USC impose its will on a team with a fraction of the talent. That didn’t happen.

Tackling was still suspect. Grinch brought a blitz on a third-and-22 that Cordeiro was able to beat and scramble for 28 yards. (San Jose State scored on that drive to tie the game at 7-7.) A coverage bust led to SJSU receiver Nick Nash being left completely alone in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown that cut the game to a seven-point USC lead eight seconds before the halftime break.

The Spartans closed things out with 28 points. They averaged 6.0 yards per play (national average last year was 5.7). They didn’t turn the football over and they generated 12 explosive plays.

Lincoln Riley and Grinch have done themselves no favors. The USC defense will be under the hottest of magnifying glasses all year. Every little mistake will be picked apart. Every poor half will lead to calls for Grinch’s job.

Maybe this first game can be chalked up to nerves and newcomers. That excuse won’t last long. USC can help itself with better decision-making both on the field and on the sideline. A weekly game of “let’s blast Grinch on social media” will take its toll quickly.

Give the offensive line some time

Protection isn’t there yet. USC still has position battles being waged at the guard spots on the offensive line and, to get a few more data points, the Trojans rolled out a bunch of different line configurations against the Spartans. Alani Noa and Gino Quinones started. Emmanuel Pregnon and Jarrett Kingston came in after them.

USC experimented, and didn’t wait to get the game in hand first either.

This is not the same kind of offensive line USC had a year ago. That group played a ton of football together. Bobby Haskins came in as a transfer, but the nucleus of Andrew Vorhees, Brett Neilon, and Justin Dedich was a strong one made with time.

This group is different. Bringing in players like Kingston and Pregnon and Michael Tarquin were necessary, but they’ll need some time to coalesce, especially if the coaching staff is going to deploy this kind of rotation.

It needs to. Caleb Williams has to stay healthy. He makes the whole thing go.

And to be fair to the group, the scripted stuff worked well. USC went 80 yards in 10 plays to open the game with a touchdown, then it went 75 yards in 10 plays to open the second half. But the offense didn’t ever really look in sync outside of those drives. There were pockets of brilliance thanks in large part to USC’s outstanding individual talent. It will be interesting to hear Riley’s take on the debut after diving into the film.