The USC Trojans came to the Cotton Bowl knowing they were likely in for another shootout, another game in which the offense had to remain in control and not waste possessions. In the first half against the Tulane Green Wave, USC did waste one possession on a Caleb Williams interception, but that was the only drive in which the Trojans didn’t score. They put seven points on the board in their other four drives and grabbed a 28-14 halftime lead by converting 9 of 10 third downs, unofficially all 10 third downs if you treat fourth-down conversions and successful third-down conversions.
Caleb Williams wasn’t full-speed after his hamstring injury (suffered on December 2 in the Pac-12 Championship Game versus Utah), but he could definitely move around in the pocket, which is really the main thing he and Lincoln Riley need to be successful. As long as he can buy time in the pocket and move around to avoid the pass rush, he can make the plays we have seen from him all season.
USC did not punt in the Cotton Bowl. If you view fourth-down conversions as third-down conversions, USC was 13 of 15 on third-down conversions. This was a nearly perfect performance. In truth, USC had only two really, really bad offensive plays the whole game: the Caleb interception, and the safety which enabled Tulane to win. USC missed a field goal, meaning the Trojans could have scored 48 points, not 45, with a little more help from their special teams unit.
Caleb Williams deserved so much better, and that’s why Lincoln Riley’s loyalty to Alex Grinch can’t be the final story at USC. Riley’s loyalty needs to extend to Caleb, the USC offense, and the USC program. He owes it to those players, to the fans, and to the school to field the best possible defense.
I don’t think any Trojan fan would disagree.
While you ponder that point, let’s look at how good the USC offense truly was in the Cotton Bowl:
SEEMS VERY GOOD
ON THE FIRST DRIVE OF THE GAME
TEAMMATES HELPING TEAMMATES
FINGER ON THE LEFT (NON-THROWING) HAND GOT HURT ON A QB SNEAK
FEELS LIKE 63, OR 74, OR EVEN 85
NOT FULL SPEED, BUT CERTAINLY MOBILE ENOUGH IN THE POCKET
HUGE GAIN SETS UP THE TD
THAT WAS A MISTAKE BY LINCOLN RILEY, NOT THROWING ON 2ND AND 10 FROM THE 1-YARD LINE LATE
THE FINAL WORD