USC football picked up its fourth win of the season against Arizona State on Saturday night, but it wasn't the cleanest game on offense or defense. The Trojans committed 10 penalties for 85 yards and surrendered 353 yards to the Sun Devils. Caleb Williams and the offense, despite putting up 42 points, didn't look quite as sharp as usual. Lincoln Riley discussed his team's struggles in the 42-28 win at Tuesday's practice, including the three dropped passes by WR Mario Williams.
“He's an experienced player. He took his eye off the first one trying to go score a touchdown,” Riley said, per Antonio Morales of the Athletic. “I think he was just pressing a bit on the second one. Mario's played a lot of ball. If he were a young guy that's very early on, I'd think you'd be a little more concerned.”
Mario Williams has been one of Caleb Williams' top pass-catching options at USC. He finished behind only Jordan Addison and Tahj Washington in receptions last year and trails Zachariah Branch by one catch this year. Williams is a crisp route runner and a good athlete, but drops have been a problem in his college career.
Williams' most consequential drop came on a kickoff return in last year's Cotton Bowl. He tried to field a kickoff at the 1-yard line right next to the sideline, but muffed it, and the ball went out of bounds. That set the Trojans up with terrible field position, leading to a safety. Tulane scored the game-winning touchdown on the following possession.
“Guys go through this. It's like Jonah misses a block, Caleb misses a throw, it's part of it. It's going to happen,” Lincoln Riley said. “Mario's a confident human being. He's a hard worker. He came back and made an enormous play which was the toughest catch he had all night with a bang-bang play down there on the 2-point conversion, which was huge. Obviously our confidence did not wane and his didn't either.”
USC football travels to Boulder to take on Deion Sanders and Colorado on Saturday for a highly-anticipated matchup. The Trojans need to clean up the penalties and get the offense firing on all cylinders again. With a plethora of talented receivers on the roster, there is no room for dropped passes. Williams risks a diminished role if he can't clean up the drops.