Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeSportsCaleb Williams makes up for USC defense, but for how long?

Caleb Williams makes up for USC defense, but for how long?

BOULDER, Colo. — For a brief moment Saturday at Folsom Field, Caleb Williams found himself in a place he’s never been in the past year: on the fringes of the spotlight, not In the center.

After winning the Heisman Trophy last December, Williams has become a focal point in the college football world, and the next great thing may very well be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. He was everywhere on Saturday, on the field and probably on your TV. But as Williams warms up for the much-anticipated showdown between the Trojans and Deion Sanders’ Colorado Buffaloes, the focus, like it has for much of the season, turns to Sanders and the hoopla surrounding him.

The prime-time parade out of the tunnel and onto the field for pregame warm-ups has become its own event, and the walk also featured a star-studded opening act before he took his customary walk on Saturday. Former NBA players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, rappers DaBaby and Lecrae, DeSean Jackson and CC Sabathia all emerged from the tunnel and onto the sidelines, their every step attended by photographers, fans, The response from photographers and the media. Finally, Sanders emerged, all cameras focused on him, and he sent the crowd into a frenzy, with celebrities in attendance flocking to him. He is the highlight.

Then, the game began and Williams took the stage.

He went to bed earlier than usual the night before, the only adjustment he made to his routine after the 10 a.m. kickoff. Everything else being equal, so is Williams’ consistent efficiency and jaw-dropping performance. Williams watched from the lone press box during the game, accompanied by his father, Carl, who was also in contention. He took off, reached across his body with one foot or the other, and attempted long and short slant passes to 10 different receivers, making them look effortless, as he was wont to do.

“This kid plays like this all the time. I’ve never seen him play bad,” Sanders said. “That kid is a total player, man. He’s a difference-maker. He makes them better. His thought process, even just directing traffic and putting them in the right plays and the right situations, he does it all. Got to be really good. Check in and change situations and get the ball out of his hands. I’m excited to play against him and their head coach. It’s a lot of fun.”

A red-faced Williams jogged off the field as USC won 48-41, having thrown for 403 yards and six touchdowns (tied for career highs) on 40 carries and 30 completions. ). Aside from his lone interception — his first of the season — USC needed every interception to beat Dallas in this game, another piece of the paradox for this Trojans team Example: Talented and winning, but not without ability which has its worrisome issues, especially on defense.

“Of course, we’re always with Kaleb,” senior safety Bryson Shaw said. “But we want it to fall on us. We want to be defensive. We want to make plays.”

Defense has been an issue for this USC team and still is. Players and coaches know this. Despite some progress, they know the pressure that comes with being in trouble again. On Saturday, Shaw went out of his way to push back against the idea that defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was to blame, pointing to them as the ones who didn’t execute.

“As players, we let him down,” Shaw said. “He put us in the right spots. We didn’t make plays. We were short on tackles. We didn’t do our job.”

While Riley said he believes the team’s issues have evolved and improved this season, the script for most of USC’s games since his arrival seems to have been laid out in a similar rhythm: strong start , an unstable end. Riley always pointed out that a win is a win, and he was right. USC has learned, out of sheer necessity, to win in ugly ways. The question, of course, is how sustainable this situation will be in the future.

The answer seems to be that as long as Williams is under center, anything is possible.

On a day when many were focusing on Deion and Shaddell Sanders, Williams once again made a solid statement that he is the best quarterback in the game. Before this game, Williams had basically completed the first four games of USC. Sometimes he did not need to play in the fourth quarter or even the second half, but he could still play video game data. Against Colorado, the game asked more of him, and he delivered.

When asked about his performance, Williams said matter-of-factly: “It’s been going great.” “You’ve got to keep going and keep working hard. That’s the only way to keep things going and keep that feeling going.”

After the game, Scheidel, who finished with an impressive 371 yards and four touchdowns, was asked about facing Williams.

“I feel like my stage is my stage,” Scheider said when asked about sharing the stage with Williams. “He’s a great player, but it’s not on his stage or anything like that.”

If Williams has shown the college football world anything over the past two seasons, it’s that he can make any stage his own. On Saturday, that stage is Folsom Field. But going forward, these stages will only get tougher. Home games against Utah State and Washington State await. Road challenges loom for Notre Dame and Oregon State.

Can the defense improve? Does the offense have to outdo everyone? Can Williams continue this momentum?

“As the season goes on, it’s going to take some experience,” wide receiver Taj Washington said. “(We) would rather have them now than have them later.”

For Riley, the trip to Colorado was a productive and positive reminder that no game in this environment will be easy, and further confirmation that they are capable of winning even if they fall.

“Listen, we’re a team that’s going to get talked about every week, so yeah, to win these games on the road, you’ve got to figure it out,” Riley said. “I guarantee you, by the end of the year, no one is going to look back on this and care, right? They’re going to look back and see a dub.”

Five games into the season, USC had five wins, and although the record was in two dimensions, everyone watched the 3D version. A win is a win, but in order to earn a spot in the College Football Playoff and beyond, USC will have to overcome its flaws or eliminate them entirely. The former is difficult, the latter feels almost impossible.

However, for every ailment, there’s Williams working wonders in the backfield and pushing his ceiling higher every game.

“People definitely take what he does for granted,” wide receiver Brendon Rice said. “It’s not until he leaves that people really realize the great work they’re watching and what they really get out of it every day they come here and see it.”

USC knows how much greatness is in front of them. The challenge at hand is not to waste it.

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