Caleb Williams lifts USC past Arizona in triple overtime – Orange County Register
LOS ANGELES — He had been bruised and battered, tossed aside spread-eagle on the sidelines like a rag-doll, smothered and scattered and made to look decidedly mortal.
But when it mattered most, Caleb Williams became Hercules himself.
At the start of the fourth quarter in a dogfight against Arizona, previously-nonexistent USC momentum buoyed by heaps of yellow laundry, the Trojans expended two full minutes of gametime starting a drive from the one-yard line. This was not battle but war in the trenches, end-zone pushes from Austin Jones and MarShawn Lloyd and Williams ending in a fruitless pile of bodies.
And on a first down from the one, Williams took a snap and pushed, hitting a wall of Wildcats defenders and seemingly disappearing. Arizona cornerback Treydan Stukes’ arm was around his neck, and there was nowhere to go, the Heisman winner seeming dead to rights.
Except Williams turned 360 degrees, angling back, keeping his feet moving as Stukes clung like a barnacle, clawing and churning and full-body extending until miraculously he thumped to the turf with the ball across the goal line.
It was an awe-inspiring display of heart, Williams’ second rushing score of the day giving USC an eight-point lead in a game that had felt like chewing with a mouth full of peanut butter, a summation of a gritty effort in his worst game of the year that was somehow going to be enough to drag the Trojans, yet, again, across the finish line.
And even as it seemed as if a win would nearly slip away from USC — did, nearly, slip away from USC in one of the most unbelievable botched-field-goal plays you’ll ever see — Williams and USC survived a truly unimaginable triple-overtime game to put Arizona away 43-41, the Trojans’ demigod becoming immortal yet again with one final two-point conversion run before USC’s defense finally held to shut a final Wildcat two-point conversion away.
In a moment, the Coliseum exploded, lights flickering away and a stream of USC red-and-goal swarming the field in a game that was thankfully, at long last, finished.
With seconds left to play, tied 28-28 on a final drive, Williams had done his part, hitting Tahj Washington for a 26-yard gain over the middle of the field and recovering a late fumble to preserve possession. Lloyd had done his part, breaking off a couple runs to set USC up. All the Trojans had to do to seal a win, to escape the Coliseum 6-0 and earn about a six-hour ice bath, was dump through a 25-yard field goal and send home fans into a frenzy.
Except in a play that’ll live in infamy in this 2023 USC season, a play so unbelievable it seemed to take a few seconds to set in, a field-goal snap went slightly high to punter Will Rose. And for a moment, time froze, Rose seeming unsure of whether to place the snap down or try and run, eventually placing it and kicker Denis Lynch completely whiffing — bringing an already-grueling game to overtime.
But as USC’s defense broke, completely, as all momentum dictated the Trojans simply were destined to lose this game on pure bad omen, Williams would not quit. Back and forth they dueled, Williams scrambling for an 18-yard score only to be matched by a quick bomb from Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita, Arizona coming back and scoring again before Austin Jones matched them with an 11-yard touchdown run.
Williams darted in for a two-point conversion in the third overtime, Arizona’s two-point conversion was swallowed by USC’s defense, and Williams went bounding up the tunnel in glee after one of the craziest collegiate football games a rocking crowd at the Coliseum had ever seen.
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