Caleb Williams passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for two more scores, and No. 8 Southern California overcame an apparently serious injury to top running back Travis Dye in a 55-17 victory over Colorado on Friday night.
Williams accounted for five total touchdowns in his fourth consecutive outstanding game for the Trojans (9-1, 7-1 Pac-12), who warmed up for season-defining games against No. 9 UCLA and No. 20 Notre Dame in the next two weeks with a slow start followed by a blowout victory over the Buffaloes (1-9, 1-6).
Former Colorado receiver Brenden Rice had 70 yards receiving and a touchdown for the Trojans, while Tahj Washington and Austin Jones caught TD passes from Williams in the third quarter. Jones threw up a 2 and a 6 after his score to honor the jersey number of Dye, the Pac-12’s second-leading rusher with 884 yards.
Dye left the field on a cart with an air cast on his left leg after getting tackled awkwardly in the second quarter. The Oregon transfer and Los Angeles-area native has been a key component of the Trojans’ immediate transformation from a four-win program to a College Football Playoff contender.
Dye’s teammates all gathered around the cart in support before it left the field, and Dye flashed USC’s signature V for Victory to his cheering fans. Dye then watched the second half from the sideline on crutches while the Trojans scored at least 41 points for the fourth consecutive game with a prolific offense led by Williams, who had another standout game despite throwing only his second interception of the season.
Alex Fontenot rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown for the Buffaloes, who have yielded 188 points during their four-game losing streak under interim head coach Mike Sanford.
J.T. Shrout passed for 124 yards and rushed for a late TD while Colorado fell to 0-16 against USC in a series that began in 1927 and includes 11 straight Pac-12 losses for the Buffs.
USC’s defense had its best game in a month, with Tuli Tuipulotu recording 2 1/2 sacks to increase in FBS-leading total to 11 1/2, but the Trojans actually trailed 3-2 after an ugly first quarter.
USC’s second drive ended when Williams’ underthrown long pass was wrestled away from Rice by Nikko Reed, but USC’s defense scored the game’s first points on a safety moments later when Tuipulotu pressured Shrout into an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone.
Williams quickly took control, and he excelled even with a third straight week of minimal help from his top two receivers. Jordan Addison made only one reception in limited action during the Biletnikoff Award winner’s return from a two-game injury absence, but receiver Mario Williams missed his third straight game with an injury.
Colorado: The Buffs’ first quarter will look good on film when interim coach Mike Sanford tells them they’ve got a chance to win one of their final two games. This lost season is a motivational challenge, but Sanford’s team clearly is still playing hard with what it has.
USC: Dye’s absence is a blow to the Trojans’ leadership and heart, but they’ve got talented backups in Jones and Raleek Brown, who had a 25-yard TD catch from Miller Moss in the fourth quarter. USC’s defensive play almost certainly will determine where the Trojans finish this regular season.
Colorado: At Washington on Saturday, Nov. 19.
USC: At UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Source: NBC Los Angeles