A strong debut for Riley and Trojans

(News4usonline) – Lincoln Riley is undefeated as the head coach of the USC Trojans. Riley made his debut as the head man for the Trojans against Rice. It turned out to be a rout for Riley and the Trojans in the team’s season opener at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Trojans didn’t work too hard to put this game away, putting up 66 points in a 66-14 win.

A good chunk of the scoring for USC came by way of the team’s defense. The Trojans had three interceptions returned for touchdowns in the win, tying both a school and Pac-12 Conference record.

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USC defenders put the squeeze on this Rice ballcarrier during a college football game played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 3, 2022. The Trojans made it a blowout, recording a 66-14 win. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

“Great first win,” Riley said. “Really, really proud of the team. It’s a fun moment to finally be here. I think the team was anxious and excited just with all the buildup, just ready to finally go play, and I thought we responded well.

“Obviously, how do you start with anything but the three pick-sixes? I was told its a Pac-12 record and a USC record,” he added. “They’ve been playing ball around here for a long time. You don’t break records very often. So that was a really cool thing for us defensively.”

After scoring a single touchdown in the first quarter, the Trojans unleashed 24 points in the second period to put the game away. The third quarter turned out to be an avalanche for the Trojans against the Owls. USC added 28 more points in the third quarter to make the game an official blowout. The defense didn’t get all of the shine for the Trojans.

Quarterback Caleb Williams, who transferred to USC from Oklahoma, also made his first appearance as a Trojan. Williams showed off his marksmanship with the ball, completing 19 of 22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball six times for 68 yards. That’s not a bad start for the Trojans’ new signal-caller.

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USC linebacker Shane Lee (53) returns an interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter of the Trojans’ 66-14 win against Rice at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

“I thought he played well,” Riley said of Williams. “I thought he was in control, in command, and I thought he saw the field well. Our guys up front did a really good job protecting him, and he didn’t have to move around a ton. I thought he played very much in control and very much at ease. Which, I think, when quarterbacks are playing at a high level, oftentimes it looks like that to me. He threw the ball accurately, managed it. So it was a really good first start for him, I thought he played well.”

Williams, who completed his first five passes of the game, spoke to reporters after the game about the level of confidence he has running Riley’s offense.

“I think we have a lot of confidence and we didn’t just build that confidence coming out here and being excited for the first game.,” Williams remarked. “We built that through workouts. We built that through PRPs. We built that through spring ball. Coming together with one heartbeat, that’s the best way to do it. It takes a lot of reps, a lot of maximum effort and second efforts to make it look like that for our first game.”

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Trojans celebrate. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

USC totaled 538 yards on offense while holding Rice to only 14 first downs in the game. USC linebacker Shane Lee, who had one of the three picks returned for a score, said the defensive unit’s big plays were major contributors to the Trojans’ first win of the season.

“It was huge,” said Lee. “I think that’s what we set out to do as a defense is to play together, play hard, just run into the ball and be physical, and I think we did. I think we accomplished that today. Especially by playing together. This is the first day we got to step on the field against an opponent, someone that wasn’t in the same color as us.”

Featured Image Caption: USC quarterback Caleb Williams on the move against Rice on Sept. 3, 2022. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline