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Game analysis: Lincoln Riley has USC playing winning football

The Trojans struggled to move the ball against Oregon State, but they did not make fatal mistakes

Through the first four games of the Lincoln Riley era, this much is clear: the No. 6 USC Trojans will not beat themselves.

After seven years of mostly inconsistent, mistake-filled football under Clay Helton, Riley has quickly put his stamp on the program. USC has shown an explosive offense, yes. And yes, their defense is vastly improved under Alex Grinch.

Bur more than anything, the Trojans are playing within themselves and not making fatal mistakes. 

The juxtaposition on Saturday night in Corvallis could not have been any more stark: Oregon State had four turnovers and USC had zero. That was the difference.

USC quarterback Caleb Williams struggled with accuracy and reads, and was clearly out of sorts all night. He had his worst game as a Trojan, completing just 44-percent of his passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.

But Williams didn't throw an interception, and didn't fumble. And when the game was on the line, Williams led an 11-play, 84-yard drive that culminated in a 21-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Jordan Addison. 

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His counterpart, Chance Nolan, threw four interceptions. The final pick pick came on a 50-50 throw when the game was on the line and the Beavers had a chance to drive for a game-tying field goal. Final score: USC 17, Oregon State 14.

Williams mostly took what the Beavers gave him and rarely forced anything into double coverage. He rushed nine times for 27 yards, and most of the carries came on scrambles where he smartly ran out of bounds.

After the game, Riley talked about how proud he was of his team's resilience.

"I'm probably more proud of this win than the previous three," Riley said. "We found a way, and it feels damn good."

"You know, how many times do you see a really good team go down and get upset or beat in a tougher atmosphere like tonight? I mean it happens all the time. That's where you separate yourself from really great teams and find a way no matter what the circumstances, and we found a way to do that."

Through four games, USC has forced 14 turnovers - and has not committed a single turnover. That leads all of college football by a wide margin, and it's the primary reason the Trojans are 4-0.


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