It wasn’t a great night for USC’s offense, which had worked its way 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 outlast a much-improved Oregon State team 17-14 in Corvallis.
Trailing 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 shot with 1:19 remaining for the deciding score.
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 over the line to win.
Max Williams cut Beavers quarterback Chance Nolan on the next trip to seal it. It was Nolan’s fourth interception of the night.
That makes USC have an incredible +14 rotational margin this season, which is a big reason why they’re 4-0 (2-0 in the Pac-12) and off to a strong start in Year One. of Lincoln Riley as head coach.
For Oregon State, now 3-1 and 0-1 in Pac-12 play, it’s a huge missed opportunity to earn a win over a top-10 team and show how much progress the program has made under coach Jonathan Smith. .
OSU led most of the game despite their offensive problems. Deshaun Fenwick started the scoring with a 4-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter to make it 7-0 for the Beavers.
The Trojans, who scored 152 points in their first three games, only managed one field goal in the first three quarters, trailing 7-3 at the time. The Oregon State defensive backs were glued to the USC receivers and made life difficult for Williams at all times.
Williams finished 16 of 36 for 180 passing yards and a touchdown. It was by far his worst game of the season so far.
But OSU couldn’t capitalize. Offensive units routinely stalled 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 touchdown run.
Oregon State then retook the lead on Jam Griffin’s 18-yard touchdown with 4:41 left to make it 14-10. Naturally, that marker was set up by the defense, which pinned USC at its own 2-yard line, leading to a short punt that set up the Beavers’ offense at USC 22.
The lead was short-lived as Williams and company delivered their best performance 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 transferred players. The first test was passed.