Minus Williams broke Mass Holiday Bowl TD-pass mark in USC win

SAN DIEGO — USC bid farewell to the Pac-12 Conference with a six-pack and an eggnog path.

With Caleb Williams watching from the sideline, Miller Moss threw a Holiday Bowl-record six touchdown passes in his first collegiate start and USC ended a disappointing campaign with a 42-28 win over No. 16 Louisville on Wednesday night. Afterward, Trojans coach Lincoln Riley poured eggnog on his head.

Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, walked out of the game, watching from the sidelines with his No. 13 jersey hanging around his neck. After the redshirt sophomore took a knee twice in the win at Petco Park, he ran onto the field and jumped on Moss in celebration.

While Williams was among several Trojans sitting out, others were playing, like redshirt senior wide receiver Taj Washington, who caught two touchdown passes.

“From a leadership standpoint, we had a strong senior group that wanted to come back and play this game, and I think that was really led by them,” Moss said. “They set the precedent, and then it was easy for me to get behind them.”

When asked if Moss had earned the starting quarterback job next year, wideout Kyron Hudson, who intercepted a punt and caught a scoring pass moments later, said: “What Miller did there, that's going to help us in the future, so, personally, yes, he did. I think about Miller. Very excited. He's bided his time and he's ready for it. He's the guy we need.”

When Williams, the first overall pick in the NFL draft, went undrafted, Moss took full advantage of his opportunity.

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Moss was 23-of-33 for 372 yards with an interception. He broke the Holiday Bowl record of four touchdown passes held by four players, including Jim McMahon, in BYU's miracle 46-45 comeback win over SMU in 1980. Moss threw a 12-yard pass late in the third quarter. Jacoby Lane in the back of the end zone. Lane's second TD reception of the night gave USC a 35-21 lead.

Moss made a beautiful 44-yard scoring strike to Deuce Robinson for a 42-28 lead with 10 minutes left.

The six TD passes were the most by a quarterback in his first start for USC (8-5), which has lost three straight games and lost five of six after opening the campaign with national championship enthusiasm. The scoring tosses also tied the Trojans' bowl record and Pac-12 bowl record.

The Trojans played their last Pac-12 football game. They join the Big Ten next season, along with Pac-12 exits UCLA, Oregon and Washington.

“We probably came into this game not worried about that,” Riley said. “Honestly, all the years and all the wins and stuff, it was as fun a win as I can remember as a head coach. With all the changes, back and forth, six weeks, 20-plus guys that didn't play in this game for different reasons.

“It's a good football team and we beat them.”

Isaac Guerredo rushed 23 times for 161 yards and three touchdowns for Louisville (10-4). Jack Plummer threw for 141 yards and no touchdowns. The right-handed quarterback dislocated the pinkie on his throwing arm early in the second quarter, and it came back inside. He said it didn't affect his throwing.

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Moss also threw scoring passes of 17 and 29 yards for Washington, who completed his first 1,000-yard receiving season. Hudson caught a 9-yard touchdown pass two plays after intercepting a Brady Hodges punt that went out of bounds at the Cardinals' 18-yard line.

“They had a matchup of two fast players on our defense and it wasn't one of our best days,” Louisville coach Jeff Brohm said. “A lot of them have played well all year; today wasn't their best day.”

Leading 28-14, the Trojans were driving early in the third quarter when Moss was intercepted at the goal line by Quincy Riley, who returned it 61 yards to USC's 39-yard line. Five plays later, Kerendo pulled the Cardinals within a touchdown on a 1st run.

Curendo scored on a 2-yard run on Louisville's first possession.

After USC kicker Dennis Lynch went wide on a 38-yard field goal attempt, the Trojans got the ball back when Solomon Byrd recovered and strip-sacked Max Williams Plummer at Louisville's 19-yard line. Moss threw a short pass to Washington, who dived past two defenders into the end zone to tie the score at 7-7.

USC took a 21-7 lead on Moss' second scoring pass to Washington and Hudson's subsequent TD. Evan Conley had a 9-yard run for Louisville before USC went 75 yards in five plays before Moss knocked off a defender, rolled right and made a 31-yarder into the lane to make it 28-14.

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