Mar 2, 2024; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams (QB14) during the 2024 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams greeted by Bears WR Keenan Allen at pro day

Quarterback Caleb Williams had a lot of eyes on him during Southern California’s pro day on Wednesday in Los Angeles, including those of new Chicago Bears wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Allen’s attendance is noteworthy considering Williams is the presumptive favorite to be selected by the Bears with the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft next month.

The two shared a quick embrace on the sideline Wednesday. If the Bears select Williams with the top overall pick on April 25 in Detroit, well, they’ll be spending even more time together.

“Hell of an athlete,” Allen said of Williams earlier this week. “Obviously, he can make tremendous plays with his feet, with his arm. Looks like he knows the game really well. Really good.”

Williams was quick to return the compliment on Wednesday.

“I’ve known Keenan for a little bit now, hung out,” Williams said, per NBC Sports Chicago. “He was at the Chargers. Now he’s at the Bears, he’s here for a fourth-round pick, which is crazy. He’s a beast, a good guy, and he can give you a lot of knowledge.”

Speaking of conversations, Bears general manager Ryan Poles was spotted talking with Caleb’s father, Carl, at the pro day, per the Chicago Tribune. Assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, head coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and quarterbacks coach Kerry Joseph also were in attendance on behalf of the Bears.

The Bears are in need of a starting quarterback after trading 2021 first-round selection Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. That pick could become a fourth-rounder if Fields plays at least 50 percent of the snaps for Pittsburgh.

Williams, 22, passed for 3,633 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 games last season. Those statistics are one year removed from his Heisman Trophy-winning season in 2022, when he threw for 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and five picks. He also rushed for 21 scores in his two seasons with the Trojans after transferring from Oklahoma.

Allen, who turns 32 on April 27, was selected to his sixth Pro Bowl in 2023 when he had a career-high 108 receptions for 1,243 yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2023; San Diego, CA, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Dorian Singer (15) stiff arms Louisville Cardinals defensive back Devin Neal (27) during the first half at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Trojans WR Dorian Singer enters transfer portal

Former Arizona and Southern California receiver Dorian Singer is re-entering the transfer portal, multiple outlets reported Wednesday.

Singer caught 24 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games during his lone season with the Trojans in 2023.

He was an All-Pac-12 selection with the Wildcats in 2022, catching 66 passes for 1,105 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games.

Singer, a St. Paul, Minn., native who finished high school in Phoenix, has 108 grabs for 1,695 yards (15.7-yard average) and nine TDs in 30 games.

–Field Level Media

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams talks with USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley during the first half of the game against No. 6 Oregon Ducks on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

USC QB Caleb Williams will not play in Holiday Bowl

The college career of Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is now complete after three seasons, with head coach Lincoln Riley announcing Monday that the former Heisman Trophy winner will not play in this month’s Holiday Bowl.

After winning the Heisman for his exploits at USC during the 2022 season, Williams’ 2023 campaign fell far below expectations, with the Trojans going 7-5 so far and 5-4 in the final season of Pac-12 Conference play, including a 38-20 defeat to rival UCLA.

In what is now his final college game, Williams was 31-of-42 passing for 384 yards against UCLA with one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked four times.

A potential No. 1 overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft, Williams passed for 3,633 yards, 30 touchdowns and five interceptions this season, compared to 4,537 yards, 42 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2022, his first season with the Trojans.

As a freshman in 2021 at Oklahoma, Williams passed for 1,912 yards, 21 touchdowns and four interceptions before making the jump to USC along with Riley.

Williams had said that playing in the Dec. 27 Holiday Bowl against Louisville at San Diego would be a game-time decision, but the plan not to play comes a full three weeks early.

Although Williams’ individual numbers were strong, the Trojans took a step back primarily due to a porous defense.

“I’ve never been in this situation, where I’m 7-5 and there are no playoff hopes at the end of the season,” Williams said last week, according to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m dealing with it emotionally, dealing with it spiritually and physically. It’s been one of the most important years I think I’ve had. It’s tricky.

“… It was different. It was a learning process.”

USC started 11-1 in 2022 with Williams at the helm before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl. The Trojans have now gone 7-7 since earning their spot in last year’s Pac-12 title game.

USC is expected to use either Miller Moss or Malachi Nelson at quarterback in the Holiday Bowl. Both are candidates to be the starting quarterback next season when USC moves into the Big Ten Conference.

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) walks off the field after a game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Caleb Williams: ‘Game-time decision’ on 2024 NFL Draft

Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams is undecided about declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft.

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner told the Los Angeles Times that it will be “a game-time decision.”

The deadline to declare is Jan. 15. The draft is scheduled for April 25-27 in Detroit.

Williams entered this season as the presumptive No. 1 overall pick for 2024. Although his individual numbers were strong, the Trojans took a step back with a 7-5 season.

“I’ve never been in this situation, where I’m 7-5 and there are no playoff hopes at the end of the season,” Williams told the L.A. Times. “I’m dealing with it emotionally, dealing with it spiritually and physically. It’s been one of the most important years I think I’ve had. It’s tricky. I’ve had to have talks with (USC head coach) Lincoln (Riley) — because obviously I haven’t been through it — or with my family members or people like that, just how to deal with this and lead, how to stay the same person I was before the season or after our first loss or second loss.

“So, it was different. It was a learning process.”

Williams has completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 3,633 yards with 30 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 starts this season.

During his Heisman-winning campaign in 2022, he completed 66.6 percent of his throws for 4,537 yards, 42 TDs and five picks in 14 games. USC started 11-1 before losing to Utah in the Pac-12 championship game and to Tulane in the Cotton Bowl.

–Field Level Media

USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) talks with USC Trojans head coach Lincoln Riley during the first half of the game against No. 6 Oregon Ducks on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore.

Rivals UCLA, USC stumble into final Pac-12 showdown

Los Angeles rivals UCLA and host Southern California meet Saturday in the 93rd installment of their annual series.

Both the Trojans (7-4, 5-3 Pac-12 Conference) and Bruins (6-4, 3-4) come into the matchup — the last before each leaves the Pac-12 for the Big Ten Conference — on losing streaks.

USC dropped its second consecutive game last Saturday, 36-27 at Oregon. The Trojans lost the previous week at home to undefeated Washington, 52-42.

“We’ve been … right on the doorstep of getting it done, but haven’t quite been able to get over the hump here in the second half of the season,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said on his radio show Monday. “When you set out big goals and you go for it, every now and then, you’re going to come up short.”

USC is out of contention for the Pac-12 championship heading into its regular-season finale. Defense has plagued the Trojans throughout their turbulent 2023, with opponents scoring at least 34 points in each of the last seven games.

Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was dismissed before last week’s visit to Oregon, but USC still gave up passing touchdowns of 77 and 84 yards against the Ducks.

UCLA, meanwhile, has struggled on the other side of the ball in consecutive losses of 27-10 at Arizona on Nov. 4 and 17-7 at home last week to Arizona State.

The Bruins had three consecutive possessions deep in Arizona State territory end without producing any points.

Quarterback injuries have impacted UCLA offensively.

Dante Moore did not play against Arizona State, but Bruins coach Chip Kelly said on Monday he is practicing. The freshman is 91-for-75 on the season for 1,344 yards with 10 TDs but has been intercepted seven times.

Fellow Bruins QB Ethan Garbers is 64-for-94 for 786 yards with six touchdowns and three picks, while Collin Schlee has operated primarily as a ball-carrier when he has been under center.

“They all can throw the ball very well, so that’s not a problem,” UCLA wide receiver Logan Loya said. “Sure, maybe the timing’s a little different, you can say the same thing for the quarterbacks about each receiver, too.”

USC quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, meanwhile, is tied with Oregon’s Bo Nix for the second-most passing touchdowns in the country this season with 29. Williams has also rushed for 11 scores.

–Field Level Media

Apr 23, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Southern California Trojans defensive coordinator Alex Grinch during the spring game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Southern California fires DC Alex Grinch

Southern California fired defensive coordinator Alex Grinch, Yahoo Sports reported Sunday.

The Trojans have lost three of their last four games and tumbled out of the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll Sunday afternoon. The most recent dismal showing was a 52-42 home loss to No. 5 Washington on Saturday night.

The Trojans also allowed 48 points in a loss to Notre Dame, 34 in a defeat to Utah and 49 in a one-point win over Cal.

USC ranks No. 121 among 130 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense, yielding 34.5 points per game. The team is 119th in total defense (436 yards allowed per contest).

Grinch, 43, followed head coach Lincoln Riley from Oklahoma to USC ahead of the 2022 season. He had spent three seasons as the Sooners’ defensive coordinator and was co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Nov 4, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Washington Huskies running back Tybo Rogers (20) carries the ball against USC Trojans safety Calen Bullock (7) during the second quarter at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon Johnson powers No. 5 Washington past No. 20 USC

Dillon Johnson rushed for career highs of 256 yards and four touchdowns, Michael Penix Jr. passed for two scores and No. 5 Washington remained undefeated with a 52-42 defeat of No. 20 Southern California on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Johnson’s standout performance concluded when he scored his fourth touchdown with 2:20 remaining, giving Washington the first and only two-score advantage either team held in the shootout.

The Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) broke the back-and-forth stalemate when, after a 43-yard Grady Gross field goal put Washington ahead 45-42, the defense forced USC to punt for the first time since late in the first quarter.

Voi Tunuufi sacked Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams for a 12-yard loss that pushed USC out of field-goal range, setting the scene for Washington to deliver the decisive blow with its eighth scoring drive of the night.

Johnson broke a 53-yard run on the next offensive play, later carried for another 11 yards down to the goal line, then punched in the touchdown.

Johnson also scored on a 52-yard carry in the second quarter and a pair of short rushes in the first half — the second of which gave Washington its first lead of the game.

Zion Tupuola-Fetui’s strip of Williams deep in USC territory with 67 seconds remaining in the first half led to a Johnson goal-line touchdown carry.

With Washington taking possession to start the second half, the Huskies had an opportunity to open up a two-score lead. They drove to the USC 21-yard line before Eric Gentry’s deflection of a Penix pass turned into a Christian Roland-Wallace interception in the end zone.

USC (7-3, 5-2) forced ties in the second half on Williams touchdown passes of 25 yards to Brenden Rice and 20 yards to Mario Williams.

Caleb Williams also threw a 41-yard touchdown to Tahj Washington in the first half. Caleb Williams finished 27-of-35 passing for 312 yards with the three scores and a fourth touchdown rushing. Darwin Barlow and Raleek Brown each ran for a score for the Trojans.

Penix ended the night 22-of-30 passing for 256 yards, with his touchdown throws going 4 yards to Ja’Lynn Polk and 22 yards to Devin Culp. Penix also rushed for a TD.

Rome Odunze led Washington with 82 yards on five receptions.

Washington paced USC with 122 yards on eight catches. Austin Jones rushed for 127 yards on 11 carries in the loss.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) drops back to pass against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 USC out to end No. 5 Washington’s unbeaten season

Looking to continue its perfect season, No. 5 Washington travels to Los Angeles on Saturday for a Pac-12 showdown with 20th-ranked Southern California.

The Huskies (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) arrive with a streak of four consecutive single-digit victories after holding off Stanford last Saturday, 42-33. The nine-point margin was Washington’s widest over the recent stretch, which also includes wins of 31-24 on Sept. 30 at Arizona; 36-33 on Oct. 14 vs. Oregon; and 15-7 on Oct. 21 vs. Arizona State.

With its positioning in Tuesday’s first College Football Playoff rankings, Washington is just outside the coveted top four needed to earn the first Pac-12 bid to the national semifinals since the 2016 Huskies did so.

The Huskies have won 15 consecutive games, the second-longest active streak among FBS teams behind No. 2 Georgia (25).

Like Washington, USC (7-2, 5-1) has also had its share of nail-biting finishes in recent weeks. That includes a 34-32 loss on a last-second field goal Oct. 21 vs. Utah for the Trojans’ second loss of the season, complicating their aspirations for a playoff bid.

No team has ever made the field with more than one loss, but USC can move into the conference lead with a win on Saturday.

The Trojans’ run of close finishes also include a 43-41, three-overtime defeat of Arizona on Oct. 7, and last weekend’s 50-49 rally from down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win at Cal.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams went 23-for-40 for 369 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for a pair of scores vs. the Golden Bears. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner has passed for 25 touchdowns against just four interceptions — three of which came in the Trojans’ Oct. 14 loss at Notre Dame — and has rushed for nine scores on the season.

“Elite playmaker,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said of Williams. “(His) eyes are downfield and (he) buys time (using his feet).

“(He) will not be afraid to make any throw on the run, deep down the field, so we’ve got to do a really good job staying on the receivers, or any skill player.”

Williams’ ability to connect with a variety of targets beyond just receivers has been evident the last two weeks with tight end Lake McRee’s uptick in production. McRee caught three passes for 35 yards against Utah, then hauled in four catches for a season-high 71 yards at Cal.

USC’s top two targets, however, are receivers Tahj Washington and Brenden Rice. Washington has 35 receptions for 711 yards and five touchdowns, while Rice has produced 519 yards and nine TDs on 30 receptions.

Washington’s Rome Odunze and Ja’Lynn Polk, meanwhile, rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the Pac-12 in yards per game with 113.4 and 104.5.

Pass-catchers should play a prominent role in Saturday’s showdown of Heisman hopefuls. As Williams looks to join Ohio State’s Archie Griffin as the only two-time recipients of the award, Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. may be the leading contender to wrest the trophy away.

Penix went 21-of-37 passing for 369 yards with four touchdowns and one interception last Saturday. His nation-leading 368.1 passing yards per game are almost 40 more than the next-most prolific quarterback, and he has thrown 24 touchdowns — third most nationally — for the nation’s ninth-highest scoring offense at 40.4 points per game.

“Runs the offense really, really well,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said of Penix on Monday’s Trojans Live radio show. “You can tell he’s got a lot of experience with Kalen and his system, and you can tell. It shows up.”

USC ranks among the eight teams producing more points per contest than Washington, however, with the nation’s second-leading output of 45.9 per game.

Saturday’s matchup is the first between USC and Washington since 2019, and the first in Los Angeles since 2015. Both were Huskies wins.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) carries the ball against the Utah Utes in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 24 USC searches for offensive stride against Cal

Cal and No. 24 Southern California both come into their Saturday Pac-12 Conference matchup in Berkeley, Calif., looking to pull out of two-game losing streaks.

USC (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) followed its first defeat of the 2023 season — a 48-20 rout on Oct. 14 at then-No. 21 Notre Dame — with its first conference loss last week, falling 34-32 to then-No. 14 Utah.

The Trojans fought back from a 14-point, third-quarter deficit to pull ahead 32-31 of the Utes with 1:46 left in the game thanks to an 11-yard touchdown run by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. That was the only TD Williams accounted for in the contest.

Utah’s ensuing drive ended with Cole Becker’s 38-yard field goal that sent USC to a fourth consecutive loss against the Utes.

The latest setback all but ended the Trojans’ College Football Playoff aspirations. USC has never reached the four-team field since the CFP’s inception in 2014-15.

“It’s always that one little niche off,” Trojans assistant head coach and offensive passing game coordinator Dennis Simmons said, filling in for coach Lincoln Riley on Monday’s “Trojans Live” radio show. “We may overrun a zone here or not quite be in the right space there or not quite pick up something on a protection. It’s just getting all 11 things to click at the same time.

“From an offensive standpoint, that’s vital. Because if one piece breaks down, it has a chance to muck up the whole picture.”

USC came into the month of October having scored no fewer than 42 points in each of its first five games. The Trojans head to Cal still ranked third nationally in scoring offense among FBS teams at 45.4 points per game but have averaged 26.7 in regulation over the past three contests.

The Trojans went into the first of three overtimes tied at 28 on Oct. 7 in what ended up being a 43-41 win over Arizona.

Cal (3-4, 1-3) is coming off a bye week after also dropping a game to Utah, 34-14 on Oct. 14. That came after a 52-40 shootout setback vs. then-No. 15 Oregon State on Oct. 7.

Golden Bears coach Justin Wilcox said Cal used the extra date, in part, to “get a head start on USC.”

Wilcox believes the Trojans’ defense, which has allowed 30.5 points per game, is better than what the stats show.

“They have excellent edge players. They create a lot of negative plays on their own, either sacks or tackles for loss,” Wilcox said. “They have a guy inside (Bear Alexander) who’s a very, very talented, gifted player.”

A Cal offense that has experienced ups and downs from week to week will not have to see USC’s standout defensive lineman Alexander in the first half. Alexander was penalized for a targeting penalty on Utah’s final drive and will therefore miss the opening two quarters on Saturday.

The Golden Bears’ offense, ranked third in the Pac-12 with 195.4 rushing yards per game behind running back Jaydn Ott, will attempt to take advantage of Alexander’s absence.

Ott averages a conference-leading 100.5 rushing yards per game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Utah Utes running back Ja'Quinden Jackson (3) carries the ball against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

No. 14 Utah sneaks past No. 18 USC on game-winning FG

Bryson Barnes went 14-of-23 passing for 235 yards with three touchdowns, and his 26-yard run set up Cole Becker’s game-winning, 38-yard field goal as time expired to lift No. 14 Utah to a 34-32 win over No. 18 Southern California on Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Utah (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) fell behind 32-31 with 1:46 remaining, moments after Zachariah Branch set up USC in the red zone with a 61-yard punt return.

The Trojans (6-2, 4-1) scored on their first snap of the ensuing possession when Caleb Williams ran 11 yards for a touchdown. It was Williams’ first and only score of the night, as Utah limited the reigning Heisman Trophy winner to 256 yards on 24-of-34 passing and 27 rushing yards.

The Utes denied the Trojans on their two-point conversion attempt before taking over for the game-winning drive.

Bear Alexander was flagged for targeting on a third-down hit on Barnes, resulting in a Utah first down near midfield. Shortly after a fourth-down conversion to extend the drive, Barnes broke loose for the long carry that set up Becker’s game-winning field goal.

Alexander committed another costly penalty, unnecessary roughness, in the third quarter to give Utah a fresh set of downs, which resulted in a 6-yard Barnes TD pass to Landen King.

Barnes’ third touchdown pass came on a 15-yard connection with Sione Vaki, capping a possession that was set up by Cole Bishop’s recovery of a MarShawn Lloyd fumble at the Utah 45. The ensuing 55-yard drive gave Utah a two-touchdown lead at 28-14.

The scoring reception was Vaki’s second of the night after a 53-yarder that began the game’s scoring. Vaki, a safety who stepped in at running back on Saturday, caught five passes for 149 yards.

He added 68 yards rushing on nine carries, complementing Barnes’ 57 yards on 10 rushes and Ja’Quinden Jackson’s game-high 117 yards on 26 touches. Utah outgained USC 247-145 on the ground.

Lloyd led USC with 86 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. Branch scored on a goal-line carry.

USC cut into the two-touchdown deficit with a 44-yard Denis Lynch field goal, then Calen Bullock returned an interception of Barnes 30 yards for a Trojans touchdown.

The USC defense held Utah to a 33-yard Becker field goal on a Utes drive into the red zone, which kept the Trojans within a one-possession margin. Lynch’s 36-yard field goal on the following drive helped set the stage for the raucous finish and late lead changes.

–Field Level Media