LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Caleb Williams threw for 384 yards against crosstown rival UCLA in the final 2023 regular season game for the USC Trojans. Those yards didn’t amount to much for Williams or the Trojans as the Bruins walked into the Los Angeles Memorial Stadium and handed USC a 38-20 defeat.
After absorbing consecutive defeats two weeks in a row to both Arizona and Arizona State, the Bruins used a 14-0 start in the first quarter and never looked back.
The best part about football is football, and they got a chance to play against their crosstown rival and everybody knows how important this game is and what it means,” UCLA head coach Chip Kelly said. “But I thought we got it in all three phases. Our defense obviously was outstanding. I thought special teams wise, especially our punt team pinning them down and making them go long fields, they did a really good job there. They have a dynamic kick returner, and besides the one on the penalty, I thought we did a good job there. On offense, we had to score in the red zone and did today.”
While they gave up a ton of yardage to USC through the aerial game, the Bruins kept Williams in check with constant pressure most of the afternoon on the USC signal-caller. The defense of UCLA sacked Williams four times and forced the Trojans’ quarterback into some passes (31 of 42) that he normally makes.
“He’s as good a football player as I’ve seen in person, and I’ve said it before, he and Andrew Luck are the two best players I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach against,” Kelly said. “I told him that after the game. Our front is relentless. They put so much pressure on him and even when he was able to complete some things, it was him being the magician that he is.”
Williams showed off his Harry Houdini skills when he wiggled his way out of a potential sack to throw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Rice in the second quarter. That big pass turned out to be the highlight of the day for Williams and the Trojans.
After being hit in the mouth with that big play from the Trojans, UCLA’s defense went back to work and kept USC out of the endzone until a filler score near the end of the game.
“I loved the way our guys responded,” Kelly said. “They just said let’s play the next snap, let’s come back out and let’s continue to get after him. I know their final rushing total wasn’t very high. I think we made them a very one-dimensional team today, and credit to our defensive coaches and credit to our defensive players, they were outstanding.”
The Bruins put an end to the USC Trojans’ regular season with their lopsided win. It was the Trojans’ fifth defeat in their last five games during the regular season. The Bruins’ victory against the Trojans was more than a little disappointing for USC.
Riding the coattails of Williams, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, USC had high hopes for this season, including a possible College Football Playoff berth. The Bruins put the Trojans out of their misery with the emphatic rout. It’s too bad that the Bruins couldn’t muster that kind of effort against other Pac-12 Conference teams.
In the last two weeks, the Bruins lost games against Arizona and Arizona State. The Bruins have four conference defeats, a caveat that keeps the Bruins from being among the elite teams in the nation. The final Pac-12 Conference football game between the Trojans and the Bruins was played the way that it should have: close. At least for a half. And then things spiraled out of control for the Trojans.
“Very, very disappointed, no other way to put it. I told the guys in the locker room, ‘I’ve clearly not done a good enough job here in the second half of the season getting this team ready to go.’ Didn’t do a good enough job today getting our offense ready to go,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said. “The game was very similar to Notre Dame; missed opportunities. A ton of turnovers offensively, the turnovers and the fourth down stops, a turnover for a touchdown.”
After the game, a USC spokesperson said that Williams elected not to speak to the media.
UCLA linebacker Laiatu Latu, who had seven tackles and two sacks in the game, came to the podium and spoke about how the Bruins were able to put together a strong gameplan and come away with the road win.
“It was a whole team effort and everybody was bought in this week,” Latu said. “We know how much this meant. We really just wanted to focus on getting this win and you see the outcome. So just having the mindset for this game to take it day-by-day and play-by-play.”
Dennis has covered and written about politics, crime, social justice, sports, and entertainment. Dennis currently covers the NFL, MLB, NBA, NCAA, and Olympic sports. Dennis is the editor of News4usonline.com and serves as the publisher of the Compton Bulletin newspaper. He earned a journalism degree from Howard University.