LOS ANGELES (News4usonline) – It’s hard to believe that USC quarterback Caleb Williams has room for improvement. After all, Williams won the Heisman Trophy for the way he played during the 2022 college football season.
Last season, Williams completed a little over 66 percent of his passes for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns. He also added 442 yards and six more scores on the ground in his first full season as a Trojan after transferring from the University of Oklahoma.
Williams is off to another fantastic start for the 2023 campaign with 597 yards and nine touchdowns through the first two games of the season. His eye-popping numbers have guided the Trojans to a 2-0 start.
Following the Trojans’ 66-14 win against Nevada at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum the first weekend in September, a game in which Williams completed 18 of 24 passes for 319 yards and five touchdowns, USC head coach Lincoln Riley had nothing but praise for his star quarterback.
“He’s been pretty steady the first two games and obviously his mobility, you know, shows up at times, so it’s been good,” Riley said about Williams. “I do think the O-line was much steadier today. Offensively, you could point to penalties as a big negative. We had a couple up front, we played much steadier, communicated better, and had the makings of a good group today. And we’re a little more in sync, so positive steps.”
Riley is not the only coach who has admiration for Williams. Nevada head coach Ken Wilson is impressed by the play of Williams.
“I mean he’s the best quarterback in the country,” Wilson said. “You can be in good (play) calls and he can make you miss and make a play. There were several times where we had him on blitzes and adjustments, where we had guys free, and he’s able to slide, throw it to an open guy, and let his players make plays. Couple times he got out of the pocket, and we’re trying to get him out of bounds, and he threw for big gains.”
Besides another routine great performance by Williams, the USC defense came to play as well. After giving up a touchdown to Nevada in the first quarter, the Trojans defense played lights out in the second and third periods. Nevada was able to add another score in the final quarter, but USC put the clamps on the Wolf Pack’s offense.
The Trojans limited Nevada to 49 yards rushing on 38 attempts and held the Wolf Pack to just 12 first downs for the entire game.
“I thought guys stepped up,” Riley said. “Shane Lee stepped up and played well. Raesjon (Davis) stepped up and played well. Tackett (Curtis) was doing some really nice things before the ejection. I thought the guys really stepped up and communicated.
“You saw the run defense was really stout all night. Really, we gave up two fade balls. You don’t discount those; those can’t happen. We have to get better than that, but played pretty clean football.“
After dispatching San Jose State and Nevada, the Trojans now get into the teeth of their 2023 schedule, beginning with a home game against Stanford and then hitting the road against Arizona State and Colorado before returning back to the Coliseum to play Arizona.
USC then plays Notre Dame and Utah (Pac-12 Conference champion) in back-to-back games. With Williams and the passing game clicking, USC ran away early from the Wolf Pack. The score was 35-7 by halftime. The Trojans added 31 more points in the second half, including dropping another 24 in the fourth quarter. USC wound up amassing 668 yards in total offense against Nevada.
“I think we made a lot of improvements throughout the week,” Riley said. “We really challenged these guys on all parts, challenged ourselves as a staff, and I thought that really showed up. The guys played well. It was great to see. A lot of guys were able to play — we saw playmakers on all sides. I thought for our young players in particular, you could tell this one wasn’t their first game. The eyes weren’t quite as big at the end and you saw some guys really settle in there and make plays.”
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.