Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) throws against the Utah Utes during the second half in the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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USC QB Caleb Williams plays on after ‘popping’ hamstring

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, a heavy favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, played the last three quarters of the Pac-12 championship game against Utah on Friday despite sustaining a hamstring injury in the first quarter.

Williams got hurt on a 59-yard run late in the first quarter on a drive that gave USC a 14-3 lead in Las Vegas. The advantage grew to 17-3 in the second quarter but the Utes (10-3) turned it around and wound up winning 47-24, knocking the fourth-ranked Trojans (11-2) out of contention for the College Football Playoff.

Despite the ailment, Williams played on. He completed 28 of 41 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns with one interception.

“He popped his hamstring on the long run,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “I definitely thought about taking him. He … didn’t let me. He wouldn’t even let me take him out at the end.

“In terms of guys I’ve coached at that position, it was maybe the gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen. Most guys wouldn’t have even played. And he still gave us a chance.”

Williams said of his perseverance, “A person that I admire is Kobe (Bryant), and he always said, ‘The game is bigger than what you’re feeling.’ So I was in my head, and encouraging myself that the game was bigger than what I was feeling.

“I also had a group of guys that (were) looking at me to go out there and lead them to victory. That didn’t end up happening, but that’s what was going on.”

Williams, a sophomore who played last season at Oklahoma, entered play Friday ranked seventh in the nation in passing yards (3,712) and tied for sixth in passing touchdowns (34). He threw his fourth interception of the season in the fourth quarter.

The latest Heisman odds had him at -2800 at Caesars Sportsbook, -2500 at BetMGM, -1700 at FanDuel and -1600 at DraftKings. Most sites have TCU quarterback Max Duggan as a distant second on the board, at rates ranging from +1500 to +2000.

–Field Level Media

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