This is one parting gift Stanford won’t soon forget.
In the last Pac-12 matchup between longtime conference rivals, No. 6 USC hammered Stanford 56-10, sending the Cardinal into the ACC with its largest margin of defeat in the series since a 42-0 drubbing in 2006. With a spot in the Big Ten waiting next season, the Trojans (3-0, 1-0 Pac-12 Conference) had their best scoring night in the rivalry since hanging 51 on the Cardinal in 2005.
It was the most points USC has scored against Stanford and the 46-point difference marked the Trojans’ biggest win over the Cardinal since 1977 (49-0).
While the Trojans kept Stanford’s new-look offense under first-year head coach Troy Taylor out of the end zone until the 3:35 mark of the fourth quarter, quarterback Caleb Williams continued his early-season dominance. The junior threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns on 19-for-22 passing. Through three games, Williams has led 25 drives that resulted in 18 touchdowns.
On Saturday, the Heisman winner just kept making magical plays look routine. He did it on the ground, rushing 21 yards while bulldozing a Stanford defender at the goal line for USC’s opening touchdown. He did it through the air, throwing a perfect pass 65 yards that hit a sprinting Brenden Rice in stride for a 75-yard touchdown. And he did it off script, dancing in the pocket for six seconds until he scrambled to his right and fired a 19-yard touchdown strike to a crossing Dorian Singer.
Then he went to the sideline.
With a comfortable 49-3 lead, Williams stepped aside for the entire second half as backup Miller Moss appeared in his third consecutive blowout win.
Aided by a 75-yard punt return for touchdown by freshman Zachariah Branch, the Trojans were so potent in the first half that by their sixth touchdown, mascot Traveler was too tired to make the customary celebration run around the field. They still tacked on a seventh before the break as Lake McRee caught a one-yard pass from Williams with 10 seconds left in the second quarter.
With 178 combined points against San José State, Nevada and Stanford, USC has scored the most points through the first three games of a season since 2005, when the Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush-led Trojans hung 178 against Hawai’i, Arkansas and Oregon.
The Trojans locked down the Cardinal with a stout defensive front that tallied eight tackles for loss.
Bear Alexander, a 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle, finished with two tackles and one pass breakup, but impacted the game in ways beyond the stat sheet. His pressure in the face of Stanford quarterback Ashton Daniels on second-and-seven on Stanford’s first drive led to a wobbly throw that safety Max Williams easily picked off for USC’s first interception of the season.
Daniels left the game early in the second quarter after he was injured on a strip sack by Solomon Byrd, who led the Trojans with two tackles for loss and one sack. The Cardinal recovered Daniels’ fumble, but Byrd’s rush end running mate Jamil Muhammad secured another takeaway on the next drive, sacking backup Justin Lamson and forcing a fumble that linebacker Tackett Curtis recovered.
After no takeaways in the first game, USC had three in the next two.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.