Three takeaways from USC's win over Arizona State to move to 5-0
The Trojans are 5-0 for the first time since 2006.
USC beat Arizona State 42-25 under the lights in the L.A. Coliseum on Saturday night. It was an uneven performance for the Trojans but a win is a win. The loss drops Arizona State to 1-4 on the year, the first time the Sun Devils have begun a season 1-4 since 1976.
Here are three takeaways from the game.
No. No! OK, nevermind
The ability of USC quarterback Caleb Williams to make excellent bad plays is uncanny.
He made multiple plays with his legs, squeezing a few extra yards out of runs when they didn’t look to be there. Some of the throws Williams made, though… I’d imagine coach Lincoln Riley had several moments where he thought, “No, no, please don’t throw that,” and then watched Williams throw that and complete that, and then just shook his head and smiled. Earlier this week, Riley shrugged off questions about concern over Williams’ performance against Oregon State, saying, “There ain’t five dudes in the country that can make” the throw Williams made to win the game.
Well, Williams made sure to back that comment up.
Look at this throw for USC’s second touchdown. He’s retreating and throwing back across his body and his target, wideout Mario Williams, doesn’t have to move an inch to catch the football. Williams put it on a laser to him, through traffic.
"Never do that … unless you're Caleb Williams." 😤
This TD pass was smooth‼️ pic.twitter.com/5goxFFiErF
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 2, 2022
Later, he had this kind of jump pass on a play that surely looked like it would end in a safety, and then surely looked like it would end in an interception, and then somehow ended with a first down for Jordan Addison.
— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) October 2, 2022
For USC’s third score, he somehow one-upped the second. Again drifting back, again throwing across his body, again threading a fine needle, and again putting the ball right on the money.
Make ‘em press rewind ⏮
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) October 2, 2022
Williams finished the game 27 for 37 passing for 348 yards and four total touchdowns. It’s becoming somewhat problematic how often Williams has to evade and dip and dodge around in the pocket — USC is flirting with danger if it relies on Williams to bail out inconsistent blocking every week — but Williams looks awfully comfortable when he’s on the move.
USC’s defense vs. Arizona State’s run game
The change week-to-week might have been enough to give Arizona State’s offensive line whiplash. A week ago, the Sun Devils were stuffed at the line of scrimmage time and time and time again by the Utah Utes. They had 51 rushing yards all game, (adjusted for sacks).
Against USC, the Sun Devils had 101 in the first half.
The Trojans’ defensive front just doesn’t push teams around. It has some individual talent (love Tuli Tuipulotu) but the whole doesn’t really explode off blocks or make life tough.
USC stiffened up in the third, yielding just 14 total yards in the frame, but it’s just hard to feel good about this run defense. The two ASU running backs — Xazavian Valladay and Daniyel Ngata — averaged a combined 5.2 yards a carry. Utah and UCLA loom. USC needs a ton of work before then, particularly around the edges where containment was a major concern.
I’d be very curious to know if Trojan fans think the Oregon State performance on defense was an aberration or a sign of something. Arizona State averaged 8 yards a play in the first half and that’s… not good.
Took a while, but the turnover showed up
USC almost lost the turnover battle. Its first interception of the season — just a bad decision from Williams on a fade ball in the endzone — looked like it would be the only turnover of the game.
The Trojans entered the evening with 14 takeaways through their first four games. They had multiple takeaways in each game. They had none Saturday night until Calen Bullock stepped in front of a bad Emory Jones pass.
We are all witnesses
— USC Football ✌️ (@uscfb) October 2, 2022
Jones played an interesting game for Arizona State. He moved the ball in the first half. At times, he found some space with his legs, something he hasn’t been able to do enough of this year. The interception will likely overshadow what was a decent performance for the ASU quarterback.