No. 6 USC defense clamps down, beats Washington State 30-14
LOS ANGELES (AP) Caleb Williams threw two touchdown passes to Mario Williams and No. 6 Southern California shut out Washington State in the second half of a 30-14 victory Saturday night.
Travis Dye rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown for the Trojans (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12), who stayed unbeaten in coach Lincoln Riley's first season. USC hadn't started a season 6-0 since 2006, near the height of coach Pete Carroll's powerhouse era.
Caleb Williams went only 15 of 29 for 188 yards, but made big throws when necessary in an up-and-down performance. The Trojans didn't need their quarterback to be brilliant this time, with Dye and the offensive line doing much of the damage in a workmanlike second half.
Cameron Ward passed for 172 yards while hitting Robert Ferrel and Nakia Watson for touchdowns for the Cougars (4-2, 1-2), who remained winless at the Coliseum since 2013. Washington State fell short of its second road victory over a Top 25 team this season when its offense bogged down on seven consecutive scoreless drives to end the game.
Although USC's defense somehow didn't add to its 15 takeaways this season, the Trojans impressively shut down an opponent that had scored 107 points in its previous three games. Washington State didn't score in the final 43 minutes, and Tuli Tuipulotu got three of the Trojans' five sacks.
USC even persevered through the absence of three significant players. Biletnikoff Award-winning receiver Jordan Addison left the Trojans' lineup during the second half with an undisclosed injury. USC already was without top linebacker Shane Lee due to injury, and it lost top safety Calen Bullock to a targeting call decided by video review in the second quarter.
Mario Williams caught a 38-yard TD pass on USC's opening drive, but Washington State put together back-to-back long touchdown drives to start the second quarter. The Cougars gathered momentum during that second TD drive after Ward threw a quick slant to Ferrel and Bullock was ejected for his hit on the lightning-quick play.
Washington State quickly drove for Watson's go-ahead touchdown catch, putting the Trojans behind at the Coliseum for the first time this season.
USC reclaimed the lead shortly before halftime, but the Trojans and Washington State both were called for game-altering penalties during the drive, which ended in Dye's 4-yard TD run for a 17-14 lead.
Dye had another TD run wiped out by a penalty in the third quarter before Mario Williams slid into the end zone to snag a pass inches off the grass for his second TD.
Denis Lynch kicked two of his three field goals in the final 9:09 as USC's offense used up most of the clock.
Washington State: The offense bogged down mightily in the second half, and while that's mostly a credit to USC's defense, fans won't like the mix of drops and unsuccessful play calls. The Cougars clearly have talent on offense, and they can do better than this.
USC: The Trojans have reached the halfway point of Riley's debut regular season with very few reasons for complaints, beyond injuries. The defense is relying less on turnovers and more on solid overall play, which is encouraging as the Trojans head to a showdown with the defending Pac-12 champion Utes.
USC won't hurt its ranking at all, and the Cougars are still in the mix to be a contender again in a couple of weeks after finishing just out of the Top 25 last week.
Washington State: At Oregon State on Saturday night.
USC: At Utah on Saturday night.