LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dillon Johnson had never rushed for more than 100 yards in any game in his four seasons of college football. The Washington tailback surpassed triple digits well before halftime Saturday night, and he kept running all the way to a landmark performance for his unbeaten Huskies.
Johnson knew he was just one cog in an offensive machine that had several higher gears than its powerful Southern California counterpart.
Johnson rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns, Michael Penix Jr. passed for 256 yards and two scores and No. 5 Washington stayed perfect with a 52-42 victory over No. 24 USC.
Devin Culp and Ja’Lynn Polk caught TD passes from Penix, who also rushed for a score while the Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) won a high-octane thriller featuring two elite offenses and two deficient defenses. Washington won by scoring the game’s final 10 points and shutting out USC in the fourth quarter.
“They’re one of the top couple of offenses in the country,” Washington coach Kalen DeBoer said of USC. “I know we’re up there, too. … We just knew we had to go blow for blow, and keep swinging, keep fighting. That’s what our guys did, and at some point, someone was going to make a big play. We did that a couple of times tonight.”
Washington has now struggled to put away three straight opponents since i ts huge victory over Oregon last month, but the Huskies still haven’t faltered.
Johnson had the fifth-biggest rushing performance in Washington history and its first 200-yard game or four-TD game since 2017. The Huskies racked up 572 total yards around him, making nine pass plays covering at least 15 yards apiece and nine runs of at least 10 yards.
“It was a special game, man,” said Johnson, the Mississippi State transfer. “We just wanted to be the most physical team. The last two weeks, we haven’t played up to our standards.”
Caleb Williams passed for 312 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans (7-3, 5-2), who have lost three of four to derail their championship hopes.
“I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows,” the Heisman Trophy winner said when asked how he felt after yet another big performance wasn’t enough.
“Like, we lost the game,” Williams added. “I work hard throughout months, years to have big games like this, try and go win and play your best, each and every one of us. We came out with a loss today, so emotionally I want to go home and I want to play with my dog.”
Raleek Brown, Darwin Barlow and Williams rushed for TDs, while Tahj Washington, Brenden Rice and Mario Williams caught scoring passes in front of a sold-out Coliseum for USC’s 100th Homecoming weekend.
The offenses combined for 1,087 yards, but Washington repeatedly made bigger plays at key moments, and the Huskies never trailed in the second half.
Mario Williams caught a 20-yard TD pass from Caleb Williams to make it 42-42 late in the third quarter, but Washington’s Grady Gross made a 43-yard field goal with 12:25 to play. Caleb Williams then took a long sack that put the Trojans out of field-goal range on their next drive, and Washington marched 91 yards for Johnson’s fourth TD with 2:20 left.
“We didn’t play very well tonight,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “Biggest thing was the run game. Way too many big plays. Some of our worst ball was on some of the biggest plays of the game. … “I think our guys are frustrated that we’ve been so, so close and we haven’t played good enough to be able to separate.”
USC gave up at least 40 points for the fifth time in its last six games, increasing the pressure on Riley’s longtime defensive coordinator, Alex Grinch.
“I’m not into the big-picture questions right now,” Riley said when asked about his loyalty to Grinch. “My job is to go try to beat Oregon next week and to coach what we have here.”
Big, bold offensive plays happened regularly in this meeting between two longtime Pac-12 rivals heading to the Big Ten together next season.
Penix threw a spectacular 22-yard TD pass to Culp while running out of bounds in the second quarter. USC answered with a 95-yard drive capped by two electrifying runs from Barlow, but Johnson made an untouched 52-yard TD run moments later.
USC went ahead on Washington’s 41-yard TD reception off a sublime flea-flicker — but after Polk’s TD catch tied it, Zion Tupuola-Fetui forced Williams’ fumble on USC’s next snap.
Tupuola-Fetui, whose father died last week, was visibly emotional on the sideline after his big play.
“I was hoping that we could hold them to 14 (points) or something,” Tupuola-Fetui said. “We held them to an L, so that’s fine with me.”
Washington: The Huskies have their “0,” but it’s been a grind. They’re still not completely convincing as a College Football Playoff contender, and they’ll almost certainly find it harder to move the ball in their final three games against defenses much better than woeful USC.
USC: The Trojans’ second season under Riley is officially a failure, and the defense deserves nearly all of the blame on a team that has scored at least 32 points in nine of its 10 games. A fan mutiny could occur if Grinch sticks around next season.
Washington: Host Utah on Nov. 11.
USC: At Oregon on Nov. 11.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football