TUCSON, Ariz. — Jordan Addison, USC’s top receiver, stood on the Arizona Stadium sideline in street clothes. Close by, the receiver expected to seamlessly step into his place, Mario Williams, would never step on the field. He wore pads and a uniform, but wound up a surprise late scratch due to a pre-game injury tweak.
Their absences left the Trojans without any obvious answers at wideout, where their top two targets had accounted for 42.5% of the team’s receptions. But in their stead, what might’ve been a nightmare scenario ended in a Caleb Williams career-best passing night as USC beat Arizona 45-37.
Kyle Ford set his mind on a breakout before he knew Addison and Williams would be out of the lineup. Two weeks ago, soon after USC suffered its first loss of the season at Utah, Ford called Caleb Williams and told the quarterback he was going to make an impact.
“He said no more,” Williams said. “He wants to be on the field. He wants to make those catches for me, and he got his opportunity.”
Ford made the most of it on Saturday, catching six passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. After a long road back from two ACL tears, Ford described his performance as “a big happy feeling for me.”
“It’s a lot of work put in, a lot of ups and downs of what I’ve been through,” Ford said, “but at the same time, I know I can do this. It wasn’t really a surprise to me. I know I can help my team the way I did tonight going forward.”
He wasn’t the only reserve receiver to make a statement. Tahj Washington led the team with seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Brenden Rice caught his first touchdown at USC, with a toe-tapping score in the back of the end zone. Kyron Hudson, Michael Jackson III and Terrell Bynum all had multiple catches as well.
“They just stepped up and made some big plays, and we had to have them,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “When you have two or your top receivers out, you test the depth of your group. And our group responded.”