No. 7 USC survives tough road challenge from Oregon State as Caleb Williams leads late rally

USC quarterback Caleb Williams drops back to pass against Oregon State on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)
USC quarterback Caleb Williams drops back to pass against Oregon State on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Corvallis, Ore. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

It wasn't a banner night for the USC offense, which had carved through opponents in the first three weeks of the season. But Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams put together a gutsy drive in the closing minutes to rally past a much-improved Oregon State team 17-14 in Corvallis.

Trailing by 4 points in front of a hostile crowd at Reser Stadium, Williams connected with highly touted transfer receiver Jordan Addison on a 21-yard touchdown strike with 1:19 remaining for the deciding score.

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It capped an 11-play, 84-yard drive that included a wild fourth down conversion in which Williams needed a push from teammates to barely get past the line to gain.

Max Williams picked off Beavers QB Chance Nolan on the ensuing drive to seal it. It was Nolan's fourth interception of the night.

That makes USC an incredible +14 in turnover margin this season, which is a big reason they're 4-0 (2-0 in Pac-12) and off to a strong start in Lincoln Riley's first year as head coach.

For Oregon State, now 3-1 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play, it's a big missed opportunity to get a win over a top 10 team and prove how much progress the program has made under coach Jonathan Smith.

OSU led for most of the game despite its offensive struggles. Deshaun Fenwick got the scoring started with a 4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to make it 7-0 Beavers.

The Trojans, who scored 152 points in their first three games, only mustered a field goal in the first three quarters, trailing 7-3 at that point. Oregon State's defensive backs were plastered all over USC receivers and they made life difficult on Williams throughout.

Williams finished 16-for-36 for 180 passing yards and the one touchdown. It was by far his worst game of the season so far.

But OSU couldn't capitalize. Offensive drives routinely stalled out either due to interceptions or penalties. A missed field goal early in the fourth quarter also proved costly for the Beavers.

It wasn't until early in the fourth quarter that USC got its first lead, 10-7, on Travis Dye's 7-yard TD rush.

Oregon State then retook the lead on Jam Griffin's 18-yard score with 4:41 to play to make it 14-10. Naturally, that score was set up by the defense, which pinned USC on its own 2-yard line, leading to a short punt that set up the Beavers offense at the USC 22.

The lead was short-lived as Williams and Co. put together their best drive of the night when they needed it most. After three dominant wins for USC, this was the first real test for a team led by a new coach and several transfer players. The first test was passed.