LOS ANGELES — No. 7 USC Football’s prolific offense finished with 517 total yards as the Trojans defeated Fresno State, 45-17, at United Airlines Field at L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Saturday.
USC (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12) has totaled 152 points in the first three game of the 2022 season. The last USC team to score more points through the first three games was the 2005 team which scored 178 points. That was also the last time USC scored 40 or more points in each of its first three games of a season. It is the first time USC scored 40 or more points in any three consecutive games since doing it the final 2 games of the 2016 season and the first two of the 2017 season.
“Great win against a good football team,” said USC head coach Lincoln Riley. “Very physical game on both sides, very competitive plays on both sides. Certainly a different challenge than we’ve faced. We said that all week with our team that we’re going to get tested and we’re going to be faced with some situations in this game that we haven’t been in yet as a team, and it was good to see us really respond.”
Austin Jones ran for 110 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown, while Travis Dye rushed for 102 yards on 11 touches and a score. Sophomore quarterback Caleb Williams rushed for two touchdowns. The Trojans finished with 233 rushing yards — their highest total of the season.
“I thought the run game was pretty good most of the night,” Riley said. “We were steady. I thought the line was really good in the run game. I thought the guys started seeing it pretty well.”
Mario Williams led all USC receivers in yards with 77 yards on six catches. Jordan Addison had 69 yards on six receptions with a touchdown. Caleb Williams completed 25 of 37 passes with 284 passing yards and two throwing touchdowns..
Tight end Malcolm Epps recorded a defensive interception in USC’s endzone at the end of the first half and caught a touchdown in Fresno State’s endzone early in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans dominated the time of possession in the first half. USC opened the game with a 12-play, 83-yard drive that led to Caleb Williams connecting with Addison for a 2-yard touchdown to start the game. After a three-and-out from the Bulldogs (1-2, 0-0 Mountain West), the Trojans went on another 12-play drive that finished with Williams’ 8-yard rushing touchdown.
Fresno State got on the board with a 23-yard field goal early in the second half. Williams then led the Trojans on a 15-play series and scored on a quarterback sneak.
The Bulldogs scored again on Erik Brook’s 39-yard reception. USC punted on its final two drives of the first half, but Epps intercepted Jake Haener’s hail-mary attempt on the Bulldog’s last play before halftime. The Trojans went into intermission with a 21-20 edge.
Solomon Byrd gave USC a quick boost out of halftime by forcing Haener to fumble, leading to Jones’ 3-yard touchdown run on the Trojans’ ensuing drive.
Malik Sherrod answered with a 32-yard touchdown run, but USC regained control with Dye scoring on a 25-yard run while breaking five tackles.
The Trojans reinforced their lead with Epps’ 10-yard catch from Williams. Denis Lynch scored the final points of the game with a 41-yard field goal.
USC stopped Fresno State at the goal line on the Bulldogs’ final drive of the game, a moment that satisfied Riley.
“I’m really proud of the way we played in the second half,” Riley said. “That was a very big point of emphasis throughout the week — especially coming off of the Stanford game — of putting together a more complete game, and I thought we did that very well.”
Jordan Mims had 114 receiving yards on six catches for the Buldogs. Haener was 10-of-18 with 117 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a leg injury during the fumble play.
The Trojans head back on the road next Saturday to face Pac-12 foe Oregon State (6:30 p.m. PT/Pac-12 Networks). USC then returns to the Coliseum for a two-game homestand against Arizona State and Washington State.
POST GAME QUOTES: HEAD COACH LINCOLN RILEY
“Great win against a good football team. Very physical game on both sides, very competitive plays on both sides. Certainly
a different challenge than we’ve faced. We said that all week with our team that we’re going to get tested and we’re going to be faced with some situations in this game that we haven’t been in yet as a team, and it was good to see us really
respond. I’m really proud of the way we played in the second half. That was a very big point of emphasis throughout the
week — especially coming off of the Stanford game — of putting together a more complete game, and I thought we did
that very well. I just told the team that probably my favorite play of the game or sequence of the game was the goal-line
stop there at the end. That’s what we’re about. No matter who thinks, ‘The game is over, this doesn’t matter,” it all matters
to us, and if you’re going to be a champion, it’s got to all matter. And so for our guys to get that stop right there at the end,
to close the game was as meaningful as anything that happened tonight. Proud of our guys. Great win. Obviously gotta get
back on it; we’ve got an important one coming up.”
On the defense:
“We just held a really, really good offense and offensive staff and talented guys to 17 points. Can it get better? Absolutely.
Do we expect it to get better? Yes. But we’re finding ways to allow people to not score very many points and win games
and make the big plays when we need to make and so absolutely something we’ll continue to build on. But I think we’re
growing. We’re learning. Each week there are a few less mistakes, a few more things right. I thought this group offensively
really presented some challenges. Proud of the way we handled it — you got to kind of get in our personality now, too —
we’re always going to love and appreciate winning. A lot to get better at; a lot of ball left to play.”
On the opportunistic defense:
“Great units make big-time plays at big moments, and I would say we’re a very good defense that I expect is going to get
better and better.”
On the running game:
“I thought the run game was pretty good most of the night. We were steady. I thought the line was really good in the run
game. I thought the guys started seeing it pretty well. It’s important; you’ve got to run the ball to win and win consistently
and win different ways.”
On the performance of DL Solomon Byrd:
“It’s huge. We gave him a game ball in there which was very much deserved. Two weeks ago, he was a three and he wasn’t
getting very many reps. He took five reps in the Rice game. That is what we’re trying to build — a guy that in the first game
of the season takes five reps and, as a three, gets an opportunity, keeps working, and then now look at him. Now he’s a
starter, came in and really impacted the last two weeks, was even better this week than he was last week from what I saw
on the field. And we would expect them to continue to get better, but it’s been huge.”
On QB Caleb Williams’ response in the third quarter:
“I love that he’s taking care of the ball. I thought we had to make some adjustments there after the second quarter and I
thought the adjustments were well received. He went out and executed them well. He’s learning to win and progress in
different ways. And that’s what quarterbacks do as they get older and more experienced. He’s seeing it well and has a really
good grasp what we’re doing. I thought he trusted it even more this week than he did last week. We just got to continue
to go to work together and improve.”
On defensive mentality after Fresno State’s QB Jake Haener was injured:
“Just keep playing. We have too much respect for the other players on that team, for Coach Tedford and his staff. Obviously
the quarterback’s a tremendous player, but for us to sit there and think they’re not gonna have another guy ready? Jeff
Tedford’s one of the best quarterback coaches our game’s ever seen. So he’s gonna have somebody else ready to go, and
they still got all those other good players that had been a big part of their success. So, it was business as usual. On to the
next one. And they still presented a challenge, and we had to rise up.”
POSTGAME QUOTES | VISITOR
USC vs. Fresno State
HEAD COACH JEFF TEDFORD
On the guys who stepped up on the team:
“Well it hurt to lose your two captains, your leader on offense and on defense. It’s our job to step up. Fife came in and
did an admirable job handling that situation. Obviously on defense we have to get off the field. We’re playing a very good
football team with a lot of athletes. They made us miss way too many times in space and then we tried to spread out and
they ran it right at us, so there’s a lot to improve on.”
On USC’s overall strategy/special plays:
“I didn’t think there were a lot of special plays. I saw a lot of screens outside that we missed tackles on that they made big
plays on. Their running game was really good. They were very balanced. They spread us out to cover their speed in space,
they hit us inside with the run, they had a good game plan, and then they executed very well. There’s a lot of talent, a lot of
ability over there, and a lot of speed on the field. We just couldn’t get off the field. I think about the first half. I don’t know
what the time of possession was, it wasn’t good, it was like 20 to 10 or something like that. We couldn’t get off the field.”
On what you have to work on the most before the next game:
“Just fundamentals and execution. I have to see who we play as far as scheme, but we need to get back to some fundamentals. We need to tackle better because we missed way too many. But give them credit. They’re very hard to tackle in
space. We need to work on getting them stopped before they get started. Fundamentals are really important to trying to
get our confidence back. Today we just got beat by a better team. That’s just kind of evident. Their speed is really hard to
From USC Athletic Department