LOS ANGELES — Caleb Williams and seventh-ranked Southern California showed off different aspects of their offense Saturday night, all while continuing to pile up points and yards.
Williams threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for two more scores. Travis Dye and Austin Jones each ran for more than 100 yards as the Trojans beat Fresno State 45-17.
“A very big point of emphasis throughout the week, especially coming off to the Stanford game, was putting together a more complete game and I thought we did that,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “I think we’re growing each week. There’s a few less mistakes and a few more things right.”
Williams completed 25 of 37 passes for the Trojans, who have scored at least 45 points in each of the first three games for the first time since 2005. Dye had his second straight 100-yard game with 102 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown while Jones had 12 carries for 110 yards and a score.
It is the first time since 2018 that USC (3-0) has had a pair of running backs reach the century mark in a game. The Trojans had 233 rushing yards and averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
The Bulldogs (1-2) suffered a bigger loss though than the game. Quarterback Jake Haener was carted off in the third quarter with what coach Jeff Tedford said was high ankle sprain. The Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year had his right leg bend awkwardly while being sacked by Solomon Byrd at the Fresno State 46. Byrd also recovered Haener’s fumble.
Haener returned to sideline the on crutches and with his right foot in a boot. The senior was 10 of 17 for 117 yards with a touchdown and interception before the injury. Jordan Mims had 114 yards rushing.
The Bulldogs also lost defensive back Evan Williams to a knee injury.
“Well it hurt to lose your two captains, your leader on offense and on defense. It’s our job to step up,” Tedford said. “We’re playing a very good 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.”
USC scored on its first three drives to build a 21-3 advantage midway through the second quarter. After the Trojans won the coin toss, Williams rolled right and connected with Jordan Addison for a 3-yard TD to complete a 12-play opening possession that took nearly five minutes.
The sophomore then scored his first two rushing TDs in a USC uniform. Williams had an 8-yard scramble late in the first quarter to make it 14-0. Following a field goal by Fresno State’s Abraham Montano, Williams capped a 15-play drive with a 1-yard sneak.
After having six scoring drives of five plays or less their first two games, the Trojans first three scoring drives against the Bulldogs were at least 12 plays.
“I try not to use my legs but that is an ability that I have,” Williams said. “I want to stand back there and deliver. I just had opportunities that opened up.”
Fresno State closed within 21-10 with 6:30 remaining in the first half after Erik Brooks scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass. Brooks caught a quick slant from Haener at the 35, caused Calen Bullock to miss a tackle and then outran the USC defense into the end zone.
USC tight end Malcolm Epps not only had his first touchdown of the season but also added an interception.
Epps caught a 10-yard strike from Williams 13 seconds into the fourth quarter to extend the Trojans’ lead to 42-17. On the last play of the first half, the senior picked off a Hail May attempt from Haener in the end zone. That snapped Haener’s streak of 219 passes without an interception.
Fresno State: Logan Fife completed his first 11 passes and was 11 of 12 for 140 yards, but Haener’s loss could put the Bulldogs at a crossroads.
USC: The Trojans had to punt twice in the first half, but shook off an early malaise to cruise comfortably in the second half.
The Trojans entered the Top 10 for the first time since 2017 last week and should remain there after posting another easy victory.
Fresno State: Has next week off before a road game against Connecticut on Oct. 1.
USC: Travels to Oregon State next Saturday.
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