Washington beats USC in the run game  

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (News4usonline) – The college football game between USC and Washington came down to the fourth quarter. Tied after three quarters, the Huskies did their part to close the game out. The Trojans did not.

With USC’s defense focused all night trying to stop Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. from going wild, the Trojans gave up 316 yards rushing to the Huskies. Washington running back Dillon Johnson busted a 53-yard run late in the fourth quarter, which eventually led to his 1-yard touchdown plunge. That was pretty much the ballgame.

USC running back Austin Jones (6) rushed for 127 yards on 11 carries against Washington during a Pac-12 Conference football game played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 4, 2023. The Huskies defeated the Trojans, 52-42. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

Washington outscored USC 10-0 in the final period to create the final margin of victory and the Huskies walked away with a 52-42 win at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“We didn’t play very well tonight,” USC head coach Lincoln Riley said about his team’s defensive performance after the game during a postgame press conference. “ Biggest thing was the run game. Way too many big plays, and then some of our worst ball was on some of the biggest plays of the game. Like the third and extra-long where we had a chance to sack him and he gets out and makes a crazy play there in the end zone. A couple other key third-down plays where we had chances to get off the field and we didn’t. We did not make enough plays obviously to get enough stops to win.”

The Pac-12 Conference game between the Trojans and Washington was viewed as a showdown between reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of USC and Penix, a player who has led the Huskies to an unbeaten record thus far this season.

Penix, who leads the nation in passing, has played well enough this season to be in the conversation as a sure-fire Heisman Trophy candidate. But while the Trojans were worried about the Penix aerial show, it was Johnson who shined the brightest for the Huskies.

Johnson rushed for a game-high 256 yards (net) and scored four touchdowns for Washington to steal the spotlight from both Penix and Williams as the best player on the field.

“It’s a special game,” Johnson said. “I don’t even know how to put it into words. It’s just God’s plan, and God’s timing. We were kind of struggling in a run game the last two weeks. The whole goal this week was to establish the run game and that’s what we did.”

Johnson averaged 9.8 yards per rush on his 26 carries. In a nutshell, the USC defense had no answer for Johnson or Washington’s running attack. With Johnson and Washington going wild running the football, the Huskies accumulated nearly 600 yards (572) in total offense. 

USC linebacker Mason Cobb said the Trojans simply gave up too many big plays against Washington.

“I would say the biggest issue maybe was just too many explosives,” said Cobb. “You guys can notice the difference between when guys are there to make the play and when guys are not. That’s kind of the biggest thing for me was explosive runs. It just kind of looked like guys weren’t ready to make the play. That’s something that we have been trying to work on and were just biting ourselves again.” 

The loss to Washington dropped USC to third place in the Pac-12 football standings and just about washed away any hopes for the Trojans to play in the conference championship game. The defeat also hampers the chances of Williams repeating as the Heisman Trophy winner. That said, Williams had another special performance, completing 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns through the air. 

Williams also scored a rushing touchdown for a total of four scores in the ballgame. That didn’t hold water with Williams, who was not too thrilled about the defeat.     

USC quarterback Caleb Williams (13) rushed for 46 yards on 10 carries and a score against the Washington Huskies in a Pac-12 Conference football game played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 4, 2023. Williams also completed 27 of 35 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-42 defeat to the Huskies. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline

“I want to go home and cuddle my dog and watch some shows,” Williams said. “We lost the game, something we work hard for throughout months, years, for big games like this, to try and go win and play your best – each and every one of us. We came out with a loss today so emotionally, I want to go home and I want to lay with my dog.”

The frustration for Riley and the Trojans is that the team dropped two conference games they had an opportunity to. USC lost on a last-second field goal to Utah. The Trojans then pushed Washington to its limits before falling to the Huskies. 

“Everybody wants to write the whole story of the whole thing and all that’s happened,” Riley remarked. “Every week is its own season for us. We were in the moment right now to try to go beat a top-five team here, and we were agonizingly close — maybe one holding call from getting that done. So we’re just fighting like crazy every week to play as good as we can and not get too wrapped up in all the big-picture stuff right now.” 

Top photo: Washington Huskies running back Dillon Johnson (7) rushed for 256 yards (net) and four touchdowns against the USC Trojans during a Pac-12 Conference football game played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 4, 2023. Johnson and the Huskies ran their way to a 52-42 win against the Trojans to stay unbeaten. Photo by Melinda Meijer/News4usonline