What Air Raid? Takeaways from USC win over Fresno State

Travis Dye won the Rose Bowl. He won two Pac-12 championships. He played for a third conference crown last year.

But this USC team can top all of those Oregon feats, the running back said.

Dye, a transfer from Oregon, doubled down on Saturday night by calling this team “the best team I’ve ever been on.” After the Trojans defeat Fresno State 45-17 at the Coliseum, Dye said he had “never played on a team like this before”. When asked what differentiated the Trojans’ collection of big-name transfers brought together by a new coaching staff, he pointed to the group’s selflessness.

“If we get the ball back it’s dangerous,” Dye said. “And so just learning to share the wealth, learning to be selfless, that’s a big part of that.”

Here are some other takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Ball carriers carry the load

Austin Jones runs down the field during a USC game.

USC running back Austin Jones escapes for a 44-yard gain against Fresno State on Saturday at the Coliseum.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

The Trojans got off to a flying start with 178 points scored in three games, the most for a USC team in the first three games of a season since 2005. Most came through the air against Rice and Stanfordbut running play drove the Trojans into the end zone on Saturday.

Austin Jones and Dye rushed for 110 and 102 yards, respectively, and each scored a rushing touchdown. Dye also added 36 receiving yards on three catches.

While Riley’s offenses at Oklahoma were known for their outstanding quarterbacks and talented receivers, the coach emphasized to transferred running backs how important their role would be at USC.

“He said, you know, the way you win games is with a solid running game,” Jones said. “We’re not just going to come out here and just be a one-dimensional offense. As you can see tonight, we’ve brought that into focus.

USC remained balanced with 233 rushing yards on 38 carries and 284 passing yards on 37 attempts.

The Trojans used their frantic running game to set up methodical 12-, 12-, and 15-play drives to open the game. Each ended with a touchdown. Relying more on its explosive offense in the first two games, USC had just two more nine-game practices against Rice and Stanford.

“We have to be able to win in different ways,” Riley said. “Whether we’re playing fast with explosive plays or slowing down with lots of plays, you have to be able to execute.”

Get a QB who can do both

Caleb Williams jumps with the ball to score a USC touchdown.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams scores a touchdown against Fresno State at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Caleb Williams may have had the worst passing game of his young USC career – a relatively unremarkable 25-for-37 pass for 284 yards and two touchdowns – but added the first rushing touchdowns of his USC career and finished with two scores on the ground. He scored on an eight-yard guard in the first quarter and a one-yard quarterback during which he lined up under center.

The quarterback proved his dual-threat ability with smart runs during critical moments, converting two fourth downs with his legs. He rushed for five yards on the fourth and two in the first quarter and 11 yards on the fourth and one in the second. The Trojans were three for three in fourth conversions on Saturday.

“I try not to use my legs, but that’s an ability I have,” Williams said. “I want to stay over there, I want to deliver. I want to be, as we always say, the best postman, the best delivery man there in the world, and I just had opportunities.

Williams had 79 carries for 442 rushing yards and six touchdowns at Oklahoma last season, but Saturday’s rushing totals were weighed down by three sacks for a loss of 29 yards, which counts for rushing yards at the college as opposed to the NFL, which deducts sack distance lost. of the total overrun yard. Williams finished with just one net yard on the ground on 12 carries with 284 passing yards and two touchdowns on 25 of 37 passes.

Solomon Byrd laughs

Solomon Byrd covers his face after recovering a fumble.

USC defensive end Solomon Byrd (51) celebrates after recovering a fumble from Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener. Byrd fired Haener and forced the turnover in the third quarter at the Coliseum on Saturday.

(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)

Two weeks ago, Solomon Byrd played five snaps against Rice. The former Wyoming starter languished on the third strings at USC.

After Saturday’s victory, I received the match ball.

Byrd forced and recovered a fumble on a backpack from Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener that helped USC gain momentum in his favor during the third quarter. Byrd had four tackles, including two for loss, against Fresno State, in addition to forcing USC’s 10th takeout of the season.

“That’s what we’re trying to build – a guy who, in the first game of the season, takes five reps and is a three, has an opportunity, keeps working, and now look at him,” Riley said. . “Now here’s an entry.”

The 6-foot-4 Palmdale native had 87 tackles and 10 sacks in three seasons at Wyoming. He made seven starts, including six last season, before moving to USC. He said it was difficult to go from starter to backup to backup, but the fact that he could rise so quickly at USC shows the depth of the team under Riley.