May 25, 2024

Lincoln Riley’s Trojans outlast Buffaloes to remain undefeated

USC Trojans Football

USC Coach Lincoln Riley congratulates his offense after a play in the fourth quarter against Colorado Saturday September 30, 2023 at Folsom Field. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

BOULDER, Colo. — The Trojans invaded Folsom Field Saturday, and left with a 48-41 victory over the Buffaloes, but a lackluster second half nearly cost Lincoln Riley’s boys.

No. 8 USC came out on fire in front of a crowd of 54,032. Not to mention the Trojans scored 34 points in the first half. Quarterback Caleb Williams lit up Colorado’s secondary like a Christmas tree. The Trojans held the Buffaloes scoreless in the first quarter too. However, Riley wasn’t as aggressive with his play-calling in the second half, and USC’s defense had trouble tackling down the stretch. That allowed Colorado to pull within a touchdown with under two minutes left in the game.

It was too close for comfort for Riley, but he was relieved that the Trojans outlasted the Buffaloes. Too many mistakes were made by his team throughout the contest though, and that can’t happen on the road.

After all, Colorado (3-2) led USC in total offense, time of possession, number of plays and first downs. Riley understands his team nearly collapsed in the fourth quarter. Which is why he’s grateful they persevered in a hostile environment. At the end of the day, a win is a win in Riley’s eyes. It’s no mystery that USC gets every opponent’s best.

“We’re a team that gets circled every single week, and to come win these on the road, you go find a way,” Riley said. “I promise you, at the end of the year nobody’s going to look back on this and care, they’re going to look back and see it was a dub.”

There were several bright spots for the Trojans to build on. Williams threw for a season-high, six touchdowns. Wideout Tahj Washington generated a team-high, eight catches for 117 yards and a score. Brendan Rice, who was a former Colorado Buffalo, hauled in two touchdown passes. Running back Marshawn Lloyd averaged 6.5 yards per carry, and found the end zone. Riley’s offense basically scored at will in the first half.

The negative part was the fact that Colorado held USC to 498 yards of total offense. It was the Trojans’ lowest mark of the season. USC (5-0) couldn’t effectively run the ball on a consistent basis, and that frustrated Riley at times.

“We weren’t great on the offensive line, I didn’t think we played our best game up front,” he said. “We missed a couple of holes, I don’t think I called it very well in the run game, so it was not a very good effort by the o-line.”

Alex Grinch’s defense got exposed. The final score made the game look like a shootout. It’s mind-boggling that his unit was on the field for 90 plays. The players were obviously fatigued, and that allowed the Buffaloes to execute.

If it wasn’t for a failed onside kick, the Buffaloes would’ve likely stormed back and tied the game. Still, Riley has complete confidence in Grinch, and his ability to lead the defense.

“We had opportunities to get the quarterback down, tackle hitches for five-yard gains, the things we did in the first half,” the 40-year old coach said. “When you stop doing that, especially on the road against a team that has some talent like they do, they’re going to make a run.”

Regardless, the Trojans are still unscathed, have three conference victories, and beat the Buffaloes for a 17th-straight time. Riley knows there’s still plenty of work to do as USC approaches the gauntlet of its’ schedule. Above all, Riley feels winning a game like this is going to help his team down the road in close battles.

“We’re going to own the win, we’re going to own the mistakes, we’re going to own the good, and we’re going to get back to work.”