The largest crowd for a USC spring football game on record saw Caleb Williams throw two short touchdown passes to fellow Oklahoma transfer Mario Williams Saturday in coach Lincoln Riley’s unofficial debut on the Trojans’ sideline.
Williams completed 10 of 12 passes, including each of his first nine, for 98 yards, including 5- and 9-yard touchdown passes in the first half before a crowd at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum announced at 33,427, the most at a USC spring game since records were available in the late 1990s, the university announced.
Admission was free for the only chance for the public to see the Trojans in the spring. Spring practices began March 22, but were closed to the public. The game was televised by ESPN.
“That was a great day,” Riley said. “Today was a great example of a lot of progress that has been made in a really short time. There were some big plays on both sides of the ball. We threw and caught the ball pretty well. The offensive line battled well. And the defense tackled well, a lot of open field tackles.
“Obviously, this is just the beginning, this is just a step. We’re really excited about our progress and the opportunity today to put it on display for our fans.”
The offense beat the defense, 34-30. Morton Moss threw a 48-yard touchdown pass Kyle Ford on the second half’s opening play and Stanford transfer Austin Jones ran 6 yards for a touchdown in the second half.
USC’s other offensive points in the 68-play scrimmage came on field goals by Alex Stadthaus (55 yards) and Denis Lynch (30 yards).
In the game’s scoring system, the Trojan defense started with a 21-0 lead and was able to add three points for turnovers, fourth-down stops and missed field goals and seven points for defensive scores and safeties. The defense posted three fourth-down stops, all in the second half, for nine points.
Riley, 38, was hired in November in an attempt to revive the Trojans program. He replaced Clay Helton, who was fired Sept. 13, two days after a 42-28 loss to Stanford. Helton was 46-24 in four full seasons, along with the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, parts of two others and a one-game stint as interim coach in 2013.
Riley was 55-10 in five seasons as the Sooners’ coach, including Big 12 Conference championships in each of his first four seasons.
The Trojans will begin their regular season on Sept. 3, hosting Rice.