When coach Lincoln Riley bolted from the University of Oklahoma after last season, and his star freshman quarterback Caleb Williams followed, together with a boatload of other transfers to the University of Southern California, the expectations were that U.S.C. would return to the upper echelon of faculty football.
Expectations were met — after which some. U.S.C. won 11 games, seven greater than last season, its highest win total since 2017. If it had not been for a loss within the Pac-12 championship, U.S.C. could be within the College Football Playoff for the primary time, with a likelihood to win its first national title since 2004.
The national championship will evade the Trojans this season, but Williams, who won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in Latest York, gives U.S.C. a consolation prize. Williams earned 544 first-place votes, ending comfortably ahead of the opposite quarterback finalists: Max Duggan of Texas Christian (188), C.J. Stroud of Ohio State (37), and Stetson Bennett of Georgia (36).
“I’ve watched it, to now be an element of it and be an element of this fraternity, it’s a blessing,” Williams said. “It’s the whole lot I dreamed of.”
As Williams began his speech, he identified that the opposite three players had something he didn’t: a spot within the College Football Playoff.
“Guess you possibly can’t win all of them,” Williams said, as the gang burst out laughing and Bennett nodded in agreement. Williams invited eight of U.S.C.’s offensive linemen to the ceremony, asking them to face as the gang cheered for them. He thanked his family, calling his mother “a very powerful woman in my life,” and his father for “making sacrifices in your life so I could make mine.”
“It could seem to go unnoticed and unappreciated, but you mean the world to me,” Williams said. “We’re on this together and I wouldn’t want it every other way.”
Williams, who has been celebrated for his pregame outfits and painted nails, wore a custom tan suit designed by Gucci and Adidas, together with “boots that appear to be loafers,” and clear nail polish.
Williams was good all season, beating defenses together with his legs and arms, ending with 4,075 passing yards and 47 total touchdowns. His value was never more apparent than in U.S.C.’s Pac-12 championship loss to Utah, by which he suffered a leg injury that left him hobbling. Though Williams managed to remain in the sport, U.S.C.’s offense couldn’t muster anything with him injured.
Despite ending his sophomore season as college football’s most eminent player, Williams didn’t start out as the favourite. Late-night television starts for West Coast teams, at the side of a Pac-12 conference that historically has been lackluster, could have kept Williams’s name off early-season Heisman favorite lists.
But after a game against rival U.C.L.A., then ranked No. 18, by which Williams willed his team to victory by amassing 503 total yards (470 passing, 33 rushing), together with three total touchdowns, he looked as if it would have the Heisman secured. (The sport also began at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)
“It took a complete season for the remainder of the country to catch on,” said Carson Palmer, the previous U.S.C. quarterback and the 2002 Heisman winner.
It was the second 12 months that Stroud smiled and clapped as one other finalist won the Heisman Trophy. Last 12 months, Stroud was a finalist, but he finished last in the ultimate round of voting, as Alabama’s Bryce Young took home the award. Young was not a finalist this 12 months, and Stroud was the favourite to win for a lot of the season, especially after a game against Michigan State by which he threw for 361 yards and 6 touchdowns. But Stroud struggled over the ultimate stretch of the season, including in a 45-23 loss to Michigan.
This might need been Stroud’s last likelihood on the Heisman. He shall be eligible for the N.F.L. draft after this season, and he’s projected to be a first-round pick.
Of the finalists, Duggan seemed essentially the most improbable before the season. He was a three-year starter, but he was benched in favor of the redshirt freshman Chandler Morris, then push back into the starting lineup after Morris was injured in the primary week. Duggan led Texas Christian to a 12-1 record and a College Football Playoff berth, and his numbers were stellar — 3,321 passing yards, 36 total touchdowns — yet still a step behind Williams.
Bennett was aiming to be Georgia’s first winner since Herschel Walker in 1982. Bennett, a former walk-on, was the one finalist to win his conference title game, but he didn’t have the gaudy statistics of the opposite finalists.
Williams is U.S.C.’s eighth Heisman winner — technically — however the N.C.A.A. vacated Reggie Bush’s 2005 win after determining that he and his family had accepted a whole bunch of 1000’s of dollars in gifts from two California agents while he was in college. Bush returned the award in 2010, and he was initially banned from associating with U.S.C. permanently, however the ban was reduced to 10 years in 2017.
Williams said he had hung out with Bush earlier within the week, and that Bush had advised him on what the night could be like. On Saturday morning, Williams had breakfast with the previous Heisman winners Palmer and Mike Garrett.
“The craziest part to me is that the fellows that I used to be talking to, the Heisman winners, prior to now, all of them have their jerseys retired,” Williams said. “And now once I leave U.S.C., it’s probably the good thing to me that my jersey shall be retired.”
Williams’s outstanding season brought championship aspirations to a football program that had not won a title since Bush and Matt Leinart led U.S.C. to consecutive national championships in 2003 and 2004. (The 2004 win was later vacated after Bush’s sanctions.)
“It was hard to look at, it was difficult to look at,” Palmer said. “Getting beat by a bunch of teams you don’t see U.S.C. get beat by.”
Palmer added: “This 12 months I couldn’t wait for Saturday morning, turn the TV on, and watch him play. Little doubt he’s modified the extent of pleasure and the expectation of watching U.S.C. play.”
Williams said he grew up watching the Heisman ceremony, noting that wins by Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III and Joe Burrow were essentially the most memorable. In his speech, with Griffin III and other Heisman winners standing behind him, Williams thanked Riley, his coach, whom Williams left his hometown of Washington D.C. to follow to Oklahoma, and now California.
“We’ve committed to one another on two separate occasions, but with the identical dream,” Williams said, adding: “But even with a sudden change from Norman, Oklahoma, to the University of Southern California, our dreams didn’t change. They are saying either change your dreams or change your habits, and I rattling sure wasn’t going to alter my dreams; glad you didn’t change yours, either. Though we each know the job’s not done.”