Amid the frenzy, Caleb Williams calmly climbed, rung by rung. Soon enough, it was the USC quarterback standing tall with the crowd in front of him as it roared in excitement.
These are the types of moments he came to USC for. At this point in time, he was leading the Trojan marching band. But on the field, Williams stood tall, his performance head and shoulders above all others Saturday night. He captivated the crowd with a 503-yard, three-touchdown masterpiece.
In the seventh-ranked Trojans’ exhilarating 48-45 victory over their 16th-ranked crosstown rival, UCLA, Williams displayed why he should be at the forefront of the Heisman conversation.
Fewer players nationally are asked to do more for their team than Williams, the former five-star prospect and one-time Oklahoma quarterback. Whether it’s playing with a less-than-stellar defense that requires him to score 45 points a game or with an offense that has missed key pieces due to injury or behind a makeshift offensive line, Williams always finds a way to deliver.
The Trojans don’t really have a roster that should be in contention for a College Football Playoff spot. As one Pac-12 assistant coach told The Athletic recently: “If you take No. 13 off the field, they’d probably be a 6-4 kind of team, not 9-1 (now 10-1) and in the hunt.”
But they do have Williams, and they are in the hunt for a Playoff berth. And, thanks to Saturday’s win, they will be in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas.
This was another step forward for a USC program that has returned to national prominence just one year after winning four games. And it seems as though Williams surely took another step toward New York and an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony.