It did not go as planned if this was Caleb Williams’ last game wearing a USC uniform.
Williams and the Trojans’ record fell to 7-5 on the season after losing badly to crosstown foe UCLA 38-20 at home.
This was USC’s regular season finale, having begun play in Week 0. The Heisman Trophy winner and probable first choice in the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams, has the option to play in the bowl game, but it is unclear whether he will do so. The Trojans are bowl eligible.
Lincoln Riley’s Trojans had a terrible second half of the season, which was culminated by their defeat on Saturday. Prior to dropping five of six games to end the regular season, USC had a 6-0 start to the season. During that time, the sole victory was a one-point triumph against Cal. Besides the 50-49 triumph in Berkeley, USC suffered defeats at the hands of Notre Dame, Utah, Washington, Oregon, and UCLA.
Following a 48-20 setback at Notre Dame, the loss against UCLA on Saturday was the second-most lopsided of the season. Despite an amazing 74-yard touchdown throw from Williams to Brenden Rice in the first half, UCLA led 14–10 at the half.
The Bruins dominated the second half, going from a 14-10 advantage midway through the third quarter to a 28-10 lead halfway through with two touchdowns in 16 seconds. Ethan Garbers’ seven-yard touchdown throw to T.J. Harden was the first of those touchdowns.
That two-score hole proved to be insurmountable against the resilient UCLA defense. The fabled USC offense was shut down the rest of the way by the fierce UCLA pass rush, which teed off on Williams and his outmatched offensive line, except for a field goal in the third quarter and a score in the closing minutes when the game was already decided.
Williams would go 31-of-42 for 384 yards on the day, but it was insufficient.
UCLA maintained its advantage throughout because to Garbers’ wise decisions and a forceful rushing assault. Riley dismissed Alex Grinch, the Trojans’ defensive coordinator, a few weeks ago, but the team’s defensive problems remain. UCLA ended the game with 199 total rushing yards, despite three touchdown throws from Garbers. This is the fifth time this season that the USC defense has given up at least 190 running yards to the opposition.
Riley’s hiring by USC from Oklahoma was a huge coup, and although Williams put together a Heisman Trophy-winning season last year, he guided the Trojans to the edge of the College Football Playoff. However, the Trojans have lost 7 of their previous 14 games after their 11-1 regular season record from last autumn. Riley has never had a three-game losing skid as a head coach—he has held head coaching positions at USC and OU—after Saturday’s defeat to UCLA.
Riley has a lot to learn in order to get the Trojans back on the right track as they prepare to enter the Big Ten. Furthermore, Williams will be in the NFL and won’t be available to save the USC defense going forward, barring a major shock.