Dillon Johnson rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns, Michael Penix Jr. passed for 256 yards and two scores and No. 5 Washington’s prolific offense kept the Huskies unbeaten with a 52-42 victory over No. 24 USC on Saturday night.
Devin Culp and Ja’Lynn Polk caught TD passes from Penix, who also rushed for a score while the Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) won a high-octane thriller featuring two elite offenses and two deficient defenses.
Johnson had the fifth-biggest rushing performance in Washington history and its first 200-yard game or four-TD game since 2017 while the Huskies racked up 572 total yards.
Caleb Williams passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans (7-3, 5-2), who have lost three of four to derail their championship hopes despite another prolific outing from the Heisman Trophy winner and his offense.
“I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows,” the Heisman Trophy winner said when asked how he felt after yet another big performance wasn’t enough.
“Like, we lost the game,” Williams added. “I work hard throughout months, years to have big games like this, try and go win and play your best, each and every one of us. We came out with a loss today, so emotionally I want to go home and I want to play with my dog.”
Raleek Brown, Darwin Barlow and Williams rushed for TDs, while Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice and Mario Williams caught scoring passes in front of a sold-out Coliseum for USC’s 100th Homecoming weekend.
The offenses combined for 1,087 yards, but Washington repeatedly made bigger plays at key moments. The Huskies never trailed in the second half after Williams’ fumble deep in USC territory allowed Washington to take a 35-28 lead on Johnson’s third TD run 20 seconds before halftime.
Mario Williams caught a 20-yard TD pass from Caleb Williams to make it 42-42 late in the third quarter, but Washington’s Grady Gross made a 43-yard field goal with 12:25 to play. Caleb Williams then took a long sack that put the Trojans out of field-goal range on their next drive, and Washington marched 91 yards for Johnson’s fourth TD with 2:20 left.
USC gave up at least 40 points for the fifth time in its last six games, increasing the pressure on head coach Lincoln Riley’s longtime defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch.
USC played without Pac-12 rushing leader MarShawn Lloyd, who sat out with a previously undisclosed injury, but the Trojans are loaded with skill-position talent: While Austin Jones ran for 127 as the backfield starter, Brown scored in his first game since Week 0 and Barlow added 44 yards and a score on his first carries since Week 2.
Big, bold offensive plays happened regularly in this meeting between two longtime Pac-12 rivals heading to the Big Ten together next season.
Penix threw a spectacular 22-yard TD pass to Culp while running out of bounds in the second quarter. USC answered with a 95-yard drive capped by two electrifying runs from Barlow, but Johnson made an untouched 52-yard TD run moments later.
USC went ahead on Washington’s 41-yard TD reception off a sublime flea-flicker that almost looked improvised by freshman Zachariah Branch when he lateraled back to Williams. But after Polk’s TD catch tied it, Zion Tupuola-Fetui forced a fumble by Williams on USC’s next snap, and Johnson rushed for his third TD 20 seconds before the half.
Tupuola-Fetui, whose father died last week, was visibly emotional on the sideline after his big play.
Christian Roland-Wallace intercepted Penix’s tipped pass in the end zone on Washington’s opening drive out of halftime, and Williams led an 80-yard scoring drive capped by Rice’s 25-yard TD catch on fourth and 1. The Coliseum crowd was frenetic, but the Huskies calmly reclaimed the lead with a 75-yard drive ending in Penix’s TD sneak.
Washington: The Huskies remain unbeaten, but they’ve struggled to finish all three opponents since their victory over Oregon. They’re still not completely convincing as a College Football Playoff contender, and they’ll almost certainly find it harder to move the ball in their final three games against defenses much better than woeful USC.
USC: The Trojans’ second season under Lincoln Riley is officially a failure, and the defense deserves nearly all of the blame for not supporting a team that has scored at least 32 points in nine of its 10 games. A fan mutiny could occur if Grinch sticks around next season.
Washington: Host Utah on Nov. 11.
USC: At Oregon on Nov. 11.
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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