Trojans tame Wolf Pack to start season 2-0

USC remains undefeated all-time against Nevada after racking up its sixth win.

Two players celebrating on the field.

It only took USC four plays from scrimmage to score a touchdown, a drive indicative of the rest of the game as the Trojans (2-0, 0-0) beat the Nevada Wolf Pack (0-1, 0-0) 66-14. The USC offense, with 668 yards from scrimmage, outgained Nevada by 308 yards.

USC, who scored 56 points last week against San Jose State, had not scored 50 or more points in back-to-back games to open a season since 2015.

Freshman wide receiver Zachariah Branch opened up the scoring for USC, hauling in a 22-yard touchdown pass to give USC a lead less than three minutes into the game. Branch was one of three Trojan freshmen to score in the game.

“I thought our young players in particular, really, you could tell this one wasn’t their first game,” head coach Lincoln Riley said. “The eyes weren’t quite as big at the end and you saw some guys really settle in there and make plays.”

Nevada quickly responded to Branch’s score with a four play touchdown drive of its own, highlighted by a 73-yard catch from redshirt senior wide receiver Spencer Curtis, to tie the game up at seven apiece.

USC regained the lead for good on its third drive as redshirt junior running back MarShawn Lloyd scampered into the endzone after a 24-yard run to put his team up 14-7. Lloyd had 34 all-purpose yards on the drive for USC, as he ended up leading the Trojans in all-purpose yards with 135.

“Patience, that’s my main thing,” Lloyd said. “Just patience and being able to just take coaching, being able to be put in the right positions. Coming into this game, just being in the moment, not worrying about anybody else, focusing on nothing on the outside.”

The Trojan defense tightened up after the first Nevada score, forcing three consecutive punts and allowing only four total yards across those drives. After giving up 85 yards on Nevada’s first offensive series, USC only allowed 96 yards for the rest of the first half.

USC spent much of the afternoon in the Wolf Pack backfield, recording five sacks — one each from redshirt senior rush ends Jamil Muhammad and Solomon Byrd, freshman rush end Braylan Shelby, redshirt senior defensive lineman De’Jon Benton and redshirt senior inside linebacker Shane Lee — and five additional tackles for loss.

“I think [the defensive linemen] are really explosive man,” junior safety Jaylin Smith said. “They move around, they get to the quarterback super fast.”

Shelby accentuated the defensive performance by forcing a fumble on his sack, which redshirt senior defensive lineman Stanley Ta’ufo’ou recovered and ran into the endzone to complete the scoop-and-score.

“When big people score, football is more fun,” Riley said.

After allowing San Jose State’s quarterback, junior Chevan Cordeiro, to rush for 80 yards last week, the Trojans held Nevada’s starting signal-caller, redshirt sophomore Brendon Lewis, to -15 rushing yards. Prior to this game, the mobile Lewis had five career games with 30 or more rushing yards dating to his time at Colorado.

“We were just more consistent with our techniques and just being more disciplined,” Byrd said. “I don’t think we did anything outside of ourselves … It was being very mindful of it. We just figured it out.”

For USC, junior quarterback Caleb Williams came out firing as he completed his first five pass attempts en route to finishing the game 18-for-24 for 319 yards and five touchdowns. Williams’ stats might have been even more impressive, but he came out of the game in the third quarter as USC had a 35-point lead.

The reigning Heisman winner threw his five scores to four different Trojans, showcasing USC’s receiving depth. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Miller Moss, who replaced Williams, threw a touchdown of his own.

Wide receivers senior Brenden Rice, redshirt senior Tahj Washington, freshman Duce Robinson and junior Michael Jackson III joined Branch as touchdown pass-catchers for the Trojans. Washington caught two of the scores, as he led USC in receiving yards for the second week in a row. Dating to last season, Washington has led the Trojans in that stat in three of USC’s last four games.

“There are so many things that you don’t see that [Washington] does,” Moss said. “It’s no surprise to see that he shines in the way he does. Dude never complains, never whines about not getting the ball. Always does his job at a super, super high level.”

The Trojans look to continue their strong start to the season when they start Pac-12 play against Stanford next Saturday at the Coliseum, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.