The grand opening of the Lincoln Riley era at USC began with a new logo on his familiar visor and plenty of fireworks on the field.
USC scored its most points in a game since 2008 thanks to a clinical debut by quarterback Caleb Williams and three interception returned for touchdown by the defense as the USC trounced Rice 66-14 in the season opener.
"We understand that this is just the beginning and there's so much more we can do," Riley said. It's a great start and not anything more than that.
The game went well for Riley even if he didn't want to inflate it. USC finished with 538 total yards, 27 first downs and a single punt that came with 12:21 left in the fourth quarter just after Williams and a host of other starter on offense had left.
Williams said that they have a lot of confidence. We built that confidence by being excited for the first game.
Williams' debut brought the most anticipation of any new USC player, but it was difficult to see how much pressure or expectations would affect him. He was comfortable in a pocket that allowed him to take his time and complete 19 of his 22 pass attempts (best for a USC quarterback since Matt Barkley in 2012), including throws to 12 different receivers and two touchdown to the other highly touted transfer the USC snared this winter: Biletnik
It was almost as if we've been throwing to each other for a year since he arrived. It has been simple.
Williams was able to use his ability to dance through the Rice defense to the tune of 69 rushing yards on six carries. It appeared as if Williams barely broke a sweat through three quarters, and when he realized it was time for Riley to pull him out of the game, he tried to stay in the game.
Williams said that he was trying to play as smart as possible by going down. Riley told him he was trying to stay in the game.
Riley made a joke in the media room.
The defense of USC was the surprise of the game. The unit came into the season with the most questions surrounding its depth and talent, and though it began the game by allowing two long drives for touchdown, it woke up in a big way.
Alex Grinch said that it got real. It's critical that you do a lot in practice. I will talk about practice more than anyone else. You have to perform on the stage.
A lot of other transfers and even some incoming freshmen made an immediate impact on the program. While true freshman Raleek Brown had eight electric touches that bode well for the USC's depth at the position, true freshman Austin Jones fromStanford had two rushing touchdown
USC didn't look like a team that had undergone a lot of changes in the off-season when it played an inferior opponent. The USC put it all together and scored more points than they had in any other game.
"This is definitely a statement that we wanted to make," he said. This wasn't just no hype, we had to show it. We're ready to go.
Riley and the players were aware of the significance of the journey to the first game under the new regime. USC announced over 60,000 fans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which has a capacity of 78,194.
Riley said that it was fair for them to prove who they were as a team. We're going to do everything we can to get people to come to a USC football game, even if it's just for a practice.
Mario Williams said that this is a new era.