Sep 24, 2022; Corvallis, Oregon, USA;  USC Trojans running back Travis Dye (26) runs against the Oregon State Beavers in the first half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 Southern Cal ekes out 17-14 win over Oregon St.

Caleb Williams’ late touchdown pass to Jordan Addison and four interceptions made the difference as No. 7 Southern Cal escaped with a 17-14 win over host Oregon State on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.

The Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) came into Oregon State averaging 50.7 points through their first three games, but they did not reach the end zone until Travis Dye’s 7-yard touchdown scamper early in the fourth quarter.

The score, which punctuated Dye’s 19-carry, 133-yard performance, gave USC its first lead of the night in a defensive struggle.

Oregon State (3-1, 0-1) struck first with Deshaun Fenwick’s 4-yard touchdown carry in the second quarter, then nursed the narrow advantage with an outstanding defensive effort.

The Beavers limited Williams — who came into Saturday completing better than 74 percent of his pass attempts for the season — to 16-of-36 passing for 180 yards.

Williams was under constant pressure from a tenacious Oregon State blitz much of the night, but avoided potential sacks with his mobility. Williams finished with 27 rushing yards but came through carrying the ball in the clutch.

No such play was bigger than his fourth-and-6 run on USC’s game-winning drive.

The Trojans trailed 14-10 following an 18-yard Jam Griffin touchdown run, set up after the Oregon State defense forced a punt from deep in the USC end zone. The Beavers quickly capitalized on short field position for the score and appeared poised for a game-winning defensive stand on the ensuing possession.

But Williams slipped through would-be tacklers and got some help when his blockers pushed him through for a first down. The game-saving play extended the drive, culminating in Williams’ 21-yard strike to Addison.

Max Williams’ interception of Oregon State quarterback Chance Nolan sealed the win. Nolan was picked off previously by Eric Gentry, Ceyair Wright and Mekhi Blackmon.

USC, which came in with the nation’s best turnover margin at a season-long plus-10, added another 4-0 performance to its credit.

USC nearly gave away its first turnover of the season when Dye fumbled carrying out of the Trojans’ end zone, but Bobby Haskins’ recovery just beyond the goal line prevented an Oregon State score.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Auburn, Alabama, USA;  Akron Zips quarterback DJ Irons (0) avoids Auburn Tigers edge Romello Height (37) during the fourth quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Southern California DE Romello Height has shoulder procedure

Southern California defensive end Romello Height underwent shoulder surgery earlier this week and could miss the rest of the season.

Height missed Saturday’s game against Fresno State after being hurt during a contest against Stanford on Sept. 10.

Trojans coach Lincoln Riley said, “it’s going to be a long-term recovery.”

Height transferred to USC in the offseason after spending two seasons at Auburn.

Solomon Byrd, a transfer from Wyoming, is likely to play a larger role. He is off to a good start with three sacks in three games.

Byrd had 10 sacks in 23 games for Wyoming over parts of three seasons (2018-19, 2021).

USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) visits Oregon State (3-0) on Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 17, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) is pressured by Fresno State Bulldogs defensive end David Perales (99) in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 7 USC dominates visiting Fresno State 45-17

Austin Jones and Travis Dye each eclipsed 100 yards rushing to fuel a balanced offense, and No. 7-ranked USC overwhelmed visiting Fresno State, 45-17, Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Trojans (3-0) surpassed 500 yards of total offense for the third time in as many games, piling up 517. But while quarterback Caleb Williams stole the show in USC’s first two outings with his passing, this was the Trojans run game’s turn to shine.

Jones went for 110 yards, while Dye added 102, marking the first time since November 2018 two USC ball-carriers reached 100 yards in the same contest. Both scored a rushing touchdown, and both averaged more than nine yards per carry on the night.

Williams, meanwhile, carried for more touchdowns with two than his total net yards of one. He also threw for a pair of scores, including a 2-yard score to Jordan Addison to kick off the game’s scoring.

Addison has caught at least one touchdown in each of his first three games as a Trojan.

Williams also connected with Malcolm Epps on a 10-yard score, part of the quarterback’s 25-for-37, 284-yard passing performance. The USC offense was also excellent on third and fourth downs, going a combined 9-of-15 on conversion attempts.

Fresno State (1-2) came in looking to assert its passing attack behind Jake Haener, but the Bulldogs quarterback went down awkwardly on a sack-fumble by Solomon Byrd in the third quarter.

Haener finished 10-of-18 with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Erik Brooks and an interception. Reserve Logan Fife completed 11-of-12 attempts for 140 yards, but failed to lead a Bulldogs scoring drive.

Jordan Mims rushed for 114 yards in the loss, and Malik Sharrod carried for a 32-yard touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Stanford, California, USA;  USC Trojans wide receiver Tahj Washington (16) and running back Travis Dye (26) celebrate during the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Strong first half propels No. 10 USC to win over Stanford

Tenth-ranked Southern Cal capitalized on four turnovers and built a 27-point cushion, which was enough to endure a sluggish second half in a 41-28 win over host Stanford on Saturday.

The Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference) scored touchdowns on all five of their first-half possessions, four coming on Caleb Williams passes. Williams hooked up with Jordan Addison for two of those scores, including a 75-yarder.

Williams finished 20-of-27 passing for 341 yards in the league opener for both teams.

Addison hauled in seven receptions for 172 yards to lead USC, while Mario Williams added four catches for 74 yards and a 15-yard scoring reception. Tight end Lake McRee got the Trojans’ early scoring deluge started with a five-yard touchdown catch.

USC took advantage as three of Stanford’s first four possession ended with turnovers. Max Williams intercepted Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee, Max Williams also forced an E.J. Smith fumble at the goal line, and Mekhi Blackmon picked off a pass in the end zone.

USC led 35-14 at the half.

The Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) never recovered from their three unsuccessful trips into the red zone and fell behind 41-14 late in the third quarter.

Stanford shut down the USC offense after intermission, however, allowing only two Denis Lynch field goals in the second half.

Stanford gained 441 yards of offense with an almost 50-50 split of 220 McKee passing yards and 221 rushing yards, paced by Smith’s 88. Smith rushed for a touchdown and Casey Filkins, who carried for 77 yards, added another.

McKee rushed for one touchdown and passed for another to Smith. Stanford converted 33 first downs to USC’s 24, but the Trojans outgained the Cardinal, with 505 yards.

Travis Dye rushed for 105 yards and scored a touchdown for USC. Stanford transfer Austin Jones added 38 yards on eight carries.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) carries the ball against the Rice Owls in the second half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 USC puts up new look against pesky Stanford

No. 10 Southern California will open Pac-12 Conference play against one of its most vexing rivals in recent years, traveling to Stanford for a prime-time matchup on Saturday at Palo Alto, Calif.

The Trojans (1-0) scored 52 points over the second and third quarters to cruise to a 66-14 rout of Rice last week. The blowout marked the debut of Southern Cal head coach Lincoln Riley, as well as the first appearance in a Trojans uniform for a variety of highly anticipated transfers.

Quarterback Caleb Williams, who followed Riley from Oklahoma, completed 19 of 22 passes for 249 yards and two touchdowns — both of which went to Pitt transfer and reigning Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Jordan Addison.

Williams also rushed for a team-high 68 yards on six carries.

“We know the type of player we’re playing this week at the quarterback position, (and) you better bring your feet when you get your hands wrapped around this guy,” Stanford coach David Shaw said of containing Williams in the run game.

The Cardinal (1-0) opened the season with a 41-10 romp over Colgate, an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. Stanford outgained the Raiders 497-218, with quarterback Tanner McKee going 22-of-27 passing for 308 yards and two touchdowns.

Stanford’s 169 rushing yards last week marked the program’s most in a game since accruing 204 in a win over Vanderbilt last September – though 87 came on a single run by running back E.J. Smith.

Smith’s 87-yard carry 18 seconds into the game culminated in the first of his two touchdown runs. He had 118 yards on 11 total carries.

Running-game woes hampered the Cardinal in a disappointing 2021, as Stanford’s 86.9 rushing yards per game were the third fewest among Power 5 conference teams and the fewest in the Pac-12.

Stanford eclipsed 100 yards rushing just four times last season, and one such occasion came in the Cardinal’s 42-28 win at USC, also in the second game on the schedule.

The loss was the final game of then-coach Clay Helton’s tumultuous tenure at the helm of the program. For Stanford, it was the first of just two conference wins in an uncharacteristically down season for the program.

Before finishing the 2019 season at 4-8 overall, Stanford concluded on the right side of .500 every season from 2009 through 2018. Last year’s 3-9 finish was the second time in three seasons the Cardinal fell out of the bowl picture.

During its sustained run of success beginning in 2009, however, Stanford went 8-4 against USC. Shaw’s record in the series since becoming head coach in 2011 is 7-5. Riley is the fifth Trojans head coach or interim head coach Shaw will face in that time.

“It’s a coaching matchup; just trying to get our team ready,” Riley said. “We’re excited about going and playing on the road (in the) first conference game. As a program, (if) you want to be championship level, you’ve got to embrace going and playing on the road. And these conference road games are like gold.”

Last season, USC won its first two road games, against conference foes Washington State and Colorado. The Trojans lost their next three away from home.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans receiver Max Williams (4) carries the ball against the Rice Owls at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams, Jordan Addison help USC cruise past Rice

Caleb Williams threw a pair of touchdown passes to Jordan Addison, Austin Jones rushed for another pair of scores and No. 14 USC rolled past Rice 66-14 on Saturday at Los Angeles in the season-opening game for both teams.

The highly anticipated debut of the transfer duo did not disappoint from the start. Williams — who followed Trojans coach Lincoln Riley, also making his debut, from Oklahoma — completed 19 of 22 pass attempts for 249 yards.

Addison, the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner while at Pittsburgh, caught five passes for 54 yards. Ten Trojans in total caught passes, including Tahj Washington’s four receptions for a game-high 65 yards, and Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams’ two grabs for 43 yards.

Caleb Williams also paced USC in rushing with 68 yards on six carries. Jones’ touchdown carries of four and 28 yards highlighted a 48-yard day, while Raleek Brown added 36 yards rushing and a score from 14 yards out.

USC scored on its opening drive when Williams found Addison for a 5-yard touchdown.

Rice answered USC’s initial score with one of its own, consuming more than eight minutes of first-quarter clock before Ari Broussard’s goal-line touchdown carry capped the 16-play, 74-yard drive.

The 7-7 tie was as close as the Owls would get, as USC scored three touchdowns less than seven minutes into the second quarter.

Broussard reached the end zone a second time just before halftime, punching it in from two yards out to cap a 10-play, 75-yard Rice drive that ate 6:30 of game clock.

Any hope the Owls had of mounting a comeback from their 31-14 halftime deficit evaporated when USC’s Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth returned interceptions of Rice quarterback TJ McMahon 40 and 31 yards, respectively, for touchdowns less than a minute apart.

McMahon was picked off three times in total and reserve quarterback Wiley Green threw a fourth interception. Xamarion Gordon and Calen Bullock had the Trojans’ other two interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lincoln Riley during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Lincoln Riley, Caleb Williams make debuts for No. 14 USC vs. Rice

No. 14 Southern California officially kicks off the Lincoln Riley era Saturday when it welcomes visiting Rice to Los Angeles for both teams’ 2022 season opener.

The Trojans scored perhaps the most surprising coup of the offseason coaching carousel when it hired four-time Big 12 Conference champion Lincoln Riley to replace Clay Helton.

Riley led Oklahoma to three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances from 2017 through 2019, following in the impressive footsteps of College Football Hall of Fame predecessor Bob Stoops.

At USC, Riley inherits a much different situation with the Trojans coming off a 4-8 finish, the program’s worst record since 1991. Helton’s turbulent tenure — which peaked with a Rose Bowl win in the 2016 season and Pac-12 title in 2017 — ended after a Week 2 loss to Stanford.

USC limped to its second sub-.500 finish in four years, including a brutal 62-33 defeat to rival UCLA, but opens the new season with reason for optimism. Credit the transfer portal.

In addition to Riley, the Trojans added a pair of imports from Oklahoma in quarterback Caleb Williams and wide receiver Mario Williams. Caleb Williams entered into the Heisman Trophy conversation after winning the Sooners’ starting quarterback job in October, and concluded the 2021 campaign with 1,912 yards passing, 21 touchdowns through the air, and another 442 yards and six scores on the ground.

His rotation of pass-catchers include 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison, who caught 100 passes for 1,593 yards and 17 touchdowns at Pitt; and Brenden Rice, son of Jerry Rice, who hauled in 299 yards and three scores last season at Colorado.

Running back Travis Dye also comes in via transfer. Dye rushed for 1,271 yards and 16 touchdowns along with 402 yards and two scores receiving for Oregon a year ago.

The defense also got a boost with the transfer of linebacker Shane Lee from Alabama, but that side of the ball is a question mark for the Trojans after surrendering 31.8 points per game.

“I like what I’ve seen up to this point,” Riley said of the defense Tuesday. “We’ve developed a nice core of guys that we trust doing their job … We want to add more to that group.”

Rice opens 2022 having last finished above .500 in 2014, when they played in the Hawaii Bowl for the program’s third-consecutive bowl bid. The wait to appear in another one continues.

The Owls are coming off their best finish in Mike Bloomgren’s tenure as head coach, going 4-8 in 2021.

Rice returns leading rusher Ari Broussard, who posted 560 yards last season, and receiver Cedric Patterson III off a six-touchdown campaign. On the other side of the ball, defensive backs Gabe Taylor, Kirk Lockhart and Miles McCord combined for six interceptions.

Pressure from the front seven contributed to the takeaway opportunities, and the return of defensive end Ikenna Enechukwu and linebacker Josh Pearcy give the Owls pass-rushers with a combined 8.5 sacks last year.

In his press conference on Tuesday, Bloomgren also lavished praise on Rice’s veteran offensive line. The Owls coach noted Shea Baker “has played 2,784 snaps for the Rice Owls … holy cow, that’s a lot of football.”

Added Bloomgren: “I think our offensive line is the best it’s ever been. A pretty solid group there … I think up front is going to be fun on both sides of the football.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Kedon Slovis (9) throws a pass during the third quarter against the Utah Utes at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Kedon Slovis to start at QB for Pitt

Kedon Slovis will start at quarterback for Pitt when the No. 17 Panthers open the season against rival West Virginia on Sept. 1.

The Southern California transfer beat out Nick Patti, who backed up starter Kenny Pickett last fall. Pickett was a first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in April.

Coach Pat Narduzzi said Wednesday that he and his staff considered the “whole body of work” from summer camp.

“We’ve looked at every tiny, little detail of every statistic, from third down, red zone, team,” Narduzzi told reporters. “It was not an easy decision.

“They both have a high IQ at that position. Both of them can lead our football team into an ACC schedule. We have confidence in both of them. Unfortunately, at the quarterback position, there’s one guy. It becomes a one-man show.”

Slovis entered the NCAA transfer portal earlier this winter after three seasons under center for USC.

In 27 career games, Slovis has thrown for 7,576 passing yards, 58 touchdowns and 24 interceptions on 68.4 percent passing. His stats have ticked down each year after an impressive freshman campaign in 2019, when he threw for 30 TDs against just nine picks in 12 starts.

The Trojans overhauled their program with the hire of coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma, who was able to flip Class of 2023 five-star quarterback Malachi Nelson from the Sooners to USC. Oklahoma starter Caleb Williams also followed Riley, narrowing the opportunities for Slovis.

Slovis ended the 2021 season with a lower leg injury, finishing the year with 2,153 yards, 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2021; San Francisco, CA, USA; Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks to the media during the Pac-12 men   s basketball media day. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Pac-12 commissioner cautions of ‘harm’ from USC, UCLA departures

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff took an optimistic approach in his address at the opening of the conference’s media day Friday, while also chastising Southern California and UCLA for what he characterized as a money grab over their impending moves to the Big Ten.

While USC and UCLA will continue to participate in Pac-12 athletics for the next two academic years, their conference opponents starting in 2024 all will reside in the Midwest or in the East.

“Increased revenue can help us support our student-athletes but a singular focus on money will certainly cause more harm than good,” Kliavkoff said.

Some of that harm for student-athletes, according to Kliavkoff, could come in the form of longer travel for the departing programs, which now ill be subject to more difficult travel requirements.

“Our long-term measure for the success of college athletics cannot be how much money we consolidate into 10 or five or two conferences, but rather should be our ability to support the largest number of student-athletes while still facilitating competition between schools and conferences,” Kliavkoff said in prepared remarks. “We should be measuring how many lives we can change.”

But he stopped short of burning a bridge in the relationship with both Los Angeles-based schools, particularly with UCLA.

“There are a lot of constituents related to UCLA who are very, very, very unhappy with the decision,” he said. “Student-athletes, the families of student-athletes. The faculty, the staff. The politicians, the fans, the alumni. There’s a lot of really, really upset people with that decision …

“I think it is unlikely. But if they come back, we welcome them back.”

While the Pac-12 is actively exploring the addition of new member schools, it also is not done with the Los Angeles area despite the upcoming departure of the only two Division I football programs in the region.

“Southern California is really important to us,” Kliavkoff said. “I think there are different ways of approaching staying part of Southern California. We may end up playing a lot of football games in L.A.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans coach Lincoln Riley during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten adding UCLA, USC in 2024 as full members; chasing others?

UCLA and USC are being welcomed to the Big Ten in 2024 without the customary waiting period to be recognized as vested members of the conference.

The move runs counter to the six-year vesting period the Big Ten established when Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska were added.

Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said Tuesday at media days in Indianapolis that the decision reflects the importance of adding the Pac-12 powerhouses from Los Angeles to the vast league, which will have teams in three time zones.

“USC and UCLA will come in as members,” Warren said. “We think that’s important for various reasons. They bring a lot of value to our relationship. They bring a lot of panache to our relationship, and we look forward to welcoming them into the Big Ten family here in 2024.”

The share of league revenue for each institution will be determined when the conference begins a new media rights deal in 2023. Los Angeles is the No. 2 media market, and the expectation is the league’s take could grow beyond $1 billion annually.

“I don’t want to guess what that would be. I know we’ll reach that decision here pretty quickly,” Warren said Tuesday.

Warren said the Big Ten would not apologize for the “strength, power, boldness” of expansion, nor would the commissioner rule out adding other schools.

“We will not expand just to expand. It will be strategic. It will add additional value to our conference,” he said.

“We are currently in a landscape in college athletics that is changing on a daily basis. … The Big Ten conference will not languish in bureaucracy.”

–Field Level Media