SAN DIEGO — USC quarterback Miller Moss passed for a Holiday Bowl-record six touchdown passes in his first career start to lead USC to a 42-28 victory over No. 15 Louisville.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
Moss with 4 TD’s in the first half
The first half of the game was quite interesting, as it started with USC having possession of the ball but quickly experiencing a three-and-out. Though there were some missed opportunities on offense, the Trojans managed to get back on track without much delay. Notably, Tahj Washington and Austin Jones, among other returning players, chose to play in the bowl game.
Moss took advantage of all his receivers making plays out there for him as Hudson, Lane and Washington caught passes from the Holiday Bowl MVP.
Washington made an excellent move on offense by dodging a few defenders after catching a ball from Miller Moss. This resulted in a 17-yard touchdown score. During his first few drives in the first quarter, Moss looked calm. He had his team in scoring position during his second drive of the game. However, USC decided to kick the field goal, and Dennis Lynch kicked it off to the right side, which was no good. In the first quarter, USC allowed 7 first downs to the Cardinals, while the Trojans only had 3.
USC’s defense was exceptional, limiting Louisville to only 60 passing yards in the first half. Jaylin Smith and Eric Gentry led the Trojans with a total of 13 tackles in the first half. Louisville’s quarterback, Jack Plummer, got injured after completing 8 out of 11 passes and getting sacked twice. Backup Brock Domann entered the game and completed only one pass.
At halftime, USC was leading 28-14, thanks to Moss’s three touchdowns in the second quarter. This was a rare occurrence as USC’s past few games had been disappointing on both sides of the ball. However, they had about four weeks off since their loss to UCLA at the Coliseum.
Miller Moss delivered an outstanding performance
Moss got the start due to 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams opting out of the game and he was up to the task, completing 23 of 33 passes for 372 yards with one interception while setting the school’s bowl record for passing touchdowns.
Williams was seen on the sideline, cheering on his teammates. He has not yet announced whether he will enter the NFL Draft this spring. Calen Bullock and Brenden Rice, who have both declared for the draft, were also in attendance to support the Trojans in the Holiday Bowl. Ja’Kobi Lane had an impressive performance throughout the night, making multiple catches and scoring two touchdowns. Coach Riley has previously stated that Lane will have an important role to play in the team’s success in the upcoming season.
Tahj Washington caught seven passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns for the Trojans (8-5), who won for just the second time in their past seven games. Duce Robinson had one and Kyron Hudson caught one while also blocking a punt.
After the game, Moss and Williams shared a moment together on the field and Moss stated after the game on how important his relationship has been with Williams over the years.
“I think people are always trying to pit quarterbacks against each other, especially in the same room in college these days. But we had a really positive experience working together. I’ll always appreciate Caleb for what he did, not only for me but for this program.”
What’s next for USC in 2024?
Coach Riley expressed his thoughts on what will be coming for the Trojans next year but he was asked whether Moss will be his QB1 after a stellar performance.
“Shoot, he may have scared off anybody that would want to come here anyway.” Riley said postgame.
When Moss took to the field, his performance was nothing short of extraordinary. He was so impressive that any potential quarterback who ever dreamed of playing for USC would have been intimidated by his skills.
When Moss was a child, he had a big dream of being the quarterback for the Trojans. Finally, he got the chance to show off his skills on national television. His performance was outstanding and it proved that all the years he spent as a backup, and all his hard work and dedication, had paid off. It was clear that he was a natural born leader on the field.
During the 2023 season, Moss had played in three other games before making his very first start at the Holiday Bowl. He had appeared in five games during the 2022 season, and two in 2021. Altogether, he had thrown for 542 yards and three touchdowns. The performance he displayed at the Holiday Bowl was one that he will never forget.
During his high school years, Moss was a talented football player who played for Bishop Alemany High School in Mission Hills, California. Bishop Alemany is known for producing some great players, and Jaylin Smith, who earned the defensive Most Valuable Player award in the 2023 Holiday Bowl, is one of them. Both Moss and Smith have contributed significantly to the school’s proud football legacy. It’s worth noting that Bishop Alemany has a long-standing reputation for producing top-notch athletes, and its football program is considered to be one of the best in the state.
After the game, reporters asked Moss’s teammates if they thought he would keep his starting quarterback position in 2024. Their answer was clear. Moss played in front of a crowd of 35,317 at PETCO Park, including former USC quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Caleb Williams on the sidelines. This game proved that Moss is not afraid of pressure. He had talked about his confidence in the weeks leading up to the game, and he proved it on the field on Wednesday night. This victory ended a three-game losing streak for his team.