Caleb Williams’ Heisman showcase carries USC to win the Irish

ANGELS — Caleb Williams had better nights statistically. He scored more touchdowns, passed for more yards and completed more passes in other competitions. But on Saturday night against a big Our Lady prime-time defense, Williams showed why the story of his season requires a three-dimensional explanation.

Despite the fact that his numbers are exploding USC Single-season records, in a crucial 37-28 win over Notre Dame that kept USC in the hunt for the playoffs, Williams cemented his position as the Heisman leader by showing, not telling.

On his biggest stage at this point, the second-year quarterback danced, spun, circled and evaded everything the Irish defense threw at him. Williams turned near sacks into explosive plays on the court and potential disasters into highlights. The result was a dazzling performance that left the Coliseum in awe with every play before the fans broke into singing “Heisman” in unison.

“That’s what happens when you have a Heisman quarterback,” running back austin jones said. “I mean, it was unreal.”

Williams finished with four touchdowns on the night — three of them rushing — with 232 passing yards and a season-high 97.6 QBR.

At various times this season, Williams has shown just how efficient and explosive he can be with his arm, but Saturday’s story was just how elusive he can be with his legs, too. The Irish defensive line made its way into the backfield a couple of times, but other than a sack, Williams was able to stay upright and avoid any mistakes. the old Oklahoma the quarterback didn’t really throw him either — he only had four misses.

Instead, he always found a way to give a receiver a chance to catch one, or put his head down and do it on his own.

“I obviously saw him do that a lot,” Lincoln Riley said after the game, before joking that he only liked one decision he made: sacking. “I think there’s just a confidence because a high percentage of the time he makes the right play on it.”

The trust Riley and Williams have between them helped produce a dream season that saw USC 11-1 with a chance to win a conference title and earn a playoff berth. It’s a stark turnaround from what was a 4-8 season for the Trojans last season. Having a Heisman contender at Williams was a crucial part of it all, but Williams tried not to lean into the chatter. This week, however, it was unavoidable.

“It’s kind of like everybody lets everybody talk about it,” Jones said. “We don’t really talk about it, but we all know it. I mean, I’ll talk about it straight away, I think he’s the best player in the country.”

Earlier this week, USC posted a campaign video online as Williams’ teammates were poetic about him in practice. USC released the video on the Jumbotron before the game on Saturday, urging fans to vote for Williams, who showed at least some recognition of the award during the game. On his touchdowns, Williams struck the Heisman pose not once, but three times.

Asked after the game about the pose, Williams deflected, saying his teammates urged him to, so he obliged. At one point wide receiver Jordan Addison mimicked placing a crown on Williams’ head on the sidelines.

“It’s him, so I had to crown him myself,” Addison said. “The bigger the stage, the more he’s going to play.”

Addison previously mentioned how well the USC offense practices these scrambling plays in practice. The mentality that every skilled player and offensive lineman has had to adopt is simple: you never know where Williams is going to go, but you know the game is never over when the ball is in his hands. On Saturday, every third game seemed to have a stampede. At one point during a play, Williams’ back faced the rest of his team as he was nearly knocked down by a Notre Dame defender before turning the play into a 20-yard gain.

“It’s tiring,” Jones said with a smile from the scramble. “I’m like ‘fro, where are you going?'”

It’s not just escapism that Williams makes easy. It’s the throw that ensues – which often has to be on the run and through his body – or the run that ensues where he turns a bad play into a great one.

“Extended plays are part of football,” Williams said. “My dad always talks about it, ‘take off, take off, take off.'”

It’s those instincts that have kept practices and games alive for USC all season and now have them poised to achieve not just individual rewards, but team successes as well. Williams, more than most players on his team, is well aware of this.

“Last year, I came from a team that competed for parts of the season and we finished pretty well,” Williams said. “But most of the guys here didn’t know what that feeling was, getting to the last part and being in a position to do something that you’ve always dreamed of. … Now is the time.”

After the match, Williams took advantage of the atmosphere. He toured the Colosseum, signed autographs for the kids, snapped photos and greeted his dad, Carl, in the stands, who seemed to know what everyone had achieved on Saturday night: the Heisman trophy is within reach. Williams.

Williams’ final regular season tally is 3,712 passing yards and 44 total touchdowns with just three interceptions. But whatever highlight reel they play at the Heisman ceremony in New York will do more to make their case for the sport’s top individual award than any combination of numbers.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *