Caleb Williams passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score while playing only the first half, Zachariah Branch returned a punt 75 yards for a TD, and No. 6 Southern California routed Stanford 56-10 Saturday night in this decades-old rivalry’s final chapter for the foreseeable future.
MarShawn Lloyd and Austin Jones also rushed for scores, and Dorian Singer, Brenden Rice and Lake McRee caught TD passes while their Heisman Trophy winner led USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) to one of the most prolific first halves in school history.
The Trojans racked up 433 yards of offense and got seven touchdowns by seven players while building a 49-3 halftime lead — the third-largest in Pac-12 history — in the conference’s final opening game, at least in its current configuration.
USC is headed to the Big Ten and Stanford will join the ACC next year after the collapse of the conference they’ve called home in various forms since 1922. This was also the last scheduled meeting between USC and its oldest rival in a series that began in 1905, although the private schools could resume it in the future.
USC generously used backups in the second half of their blowout of the Cardinal (1-1, 0-1), who lost for the first time under new coach Troy Taylor.
Ashton Daniels got hurt while getting sacked early in the second quarter of his second career start for Stanford. Backup Justin Lamson passed for 121 yards and rushed for the Cardinal’s only touchdown with 3:35 to play.
Williams only got seven offensive series, but he showed off every aspect of the talent expected to make him the No. 1 pick in the next NFL draft. He made a 21-yard TD run on USC’s first drive, and he threw a spectacular 75-yard TD pass to Rice in the second quarter to put USC up 42-3.
USC’s defense also performed well in the first half, forcing two turnovers and holding Stanford to 146 yards after having stretches of inconsistency in the Trojans’ first two blowout wins this season.
The Trojans got another spectacular play by Branch, the freshman from Las Vegas who fielded a punt early in the second quarter and split the Stanford coverage unit down the middle. Branch returned a kickoff for a TD in his electrifying debut two weeks ago.
USC had a 14-0 lead less than six minutes in. After Williams pushed Stanford’s Zahran Manley the final 3 yards into the end zone on his opening TD run, Max Williams intercepted Daniels’ second pass and returned it inside the Stanford 5, leading to Lloyd’s TD.
Branch’s punt return TD put the Trojans up 28-0. After Jamil Muhammad forced a fumble for USC, Williams ended another drive with another brilliant effort, extending a play with his elusiveness before throwing a 19-yard dart to Singer 10:42 before halftime.
Stanford: The impressive offense displayed at Hawaii last week disappeared against an elite opponent. The Cardinal appear to have a talent deficit after two straight losing seasons and a coaching change, but Taylor is just at the start of his rebuilding process.
USC: This rivalry game clearly meant plenty to the Trojans, who celebrated every big play on the sideline and poured it on throughout the first half. Lincoln Riley’s team has a week off before the schedule gets tougher, and the Trojans appear ready to take the next step.
Alabama’s loss to Texas could clear a Top 5 spot for USC, or the Longhorns could leapfrog the Trojans despite this impressive victory.
Stanford: Hosts Sacramento State on Saturday, Sept. 16.
USC: At Arizona State on Saturday, Sept. 23.
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Source: NBC Los Angeles