LOS ANGELES — On Saturday afternoon, USC easily handled Nevada 66-14 at the Coliseum.
It was, by all intents and purposes, a relatively boring affair. The Trojans led 35-7 at halftime, and played their backups for the majority of the second half. Star quarterback Caleb Williams exited the game in the third quarter, even pumping up the USC student section as they chanted, “Miller Time!” for backup Miller Moss.
By no means was Saturday’s contest the most entertaining to watch. And for USC, that’s exactly what they needed.
Far too often in years past, the Trojans would let inferior opponents hang around for much longer than they should before finally pulling away in the fourth quarter. This occurred on a regular basis under embattled former coach Clay Helton.
This continued into the first season of the Lincoln Riley era last year, as USC continued to struggle to pull away from less talented opposition. Riley’s 2022 Trojans beat Stanford by just 14 points, Arizona by just eight, and Cal by just six—all teams that failed to make a bowl game last season. Moss, a former blue-chip recruit good enough to start at a lot of Power Five programs, only attempted 14 passes all of last season, as the Trojans’ inability to close out games forced them to frequently play Williams well into the fourth quarter.
Even in last week’s season-opening win over San Jose State, the Trojans led by just seven points at halftime, before breaking the game open with a third quarter surge.
On Saturday, USC finally came out and did what USC is supposed to do. The Trojans put their foot on the gas early and did not let up until the game was well out of hand for the overmatched Wolfpack.
For those watching the game, it was relatively boring. But for Riley and his team, it was exactly what they needed to do.
The Trojans’ 2023 schedule is extremely back-loaded. After facing just one ranked opponent in the first half of the season (hello, Deion Sanders and Colorado), four of USC’s final six games will come against teams currently ranked in the top 13 of the AP Poll.
It is important that the Trojans find opportunities to give Williams and their other rest, while providing Moss and other key backups/younger players the opportunity to earn meaningful game snaps. And based on the schedule, the majority of those opportunities are going to have to come in the first half of the season.
It may be boring. But right now, it’s exactly what USC needs.