No. 14 USC routs Rice 66-14 in big debuts by Williams, Riley

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 03 Rice at USC
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LOS ANGELES – Southern California scored on every one of its possessions in the first three quarters. The Trojans’ defense also took three interceptions to the house, and a stadium filled with winning-starved fans went increasingly wild for each and every score.

Lincoln Riley‘s tenure is off to a rip-roaring start, and his players sound confident their revitalization of a powerhouse program will get even better.

“This is definitely a statement,” star receiver Jordan Addison said. “That’s what we wanted to do. Week 1, we had to show everybody that this wasn’t just no hype. We’re ready to play.”

Caleb Williams passed for 249 yards, rushed for 68 more and hit Addison for two touchdowns in No. 14 USC’s 66-14 victory over Rice on Saturday.

Calen Bullock, Shane Lee and Ralen Goforth returned three of USC’s four interceptions for touchdowns while the Trojans scored more points in Riley’s debut than they did in any game under Clay Helton, who was fired last season before USC sank to its worst record in 30 years.

With Williams going 19 for 22 while leading six consecutive scoring drives to open the game, USC had its highest-scoring performance since 2008, when the program still reigned near the top of college football under Pete Carroll.

Riley and Williams left Oklahoma during the offseason and reunited in Los Angeles to rebuild the Trojans, who are hoping for a swift return to regular national title contention. Riley hasn’t shied away from high expectations, and his team’s first outing was tantalizing.

“It’s a fun moment to finally be here,” Riley said. “I think the team was anxious and excited after all the buildup, and just ready to go play, and we responded well. … It’s one of those moments that you don’t want to minimize. It’s meaningful to us all, but those of us that have been on these journeys before, we understand this is just the beginning, and there’s so much left, so much better to play.”

Newcomers made big plays all over the field for the Trojans, who welcomed 24 transfers in the offseason. Stanford transfer Austin Jones and freshman Raleek Brown rushed for early touchdowns, while Addison – last season’s Biletnikoff Award winner at Pitt – scored on USC’s opening drive and finished with five catches for 54 yards.

Darwin Barlow also rushed for a score in the Trojans’ 538-yard attack.

“We have a lot of confidence, and we didn’t just build that confidence coming out here in the first game,” Williams said. “We built that through workouts. We built that recently. Just coming together, all one, that’s the best way to do it.”

Wiley Green passed for 69 yards for Rice before leaving with a right arm injury in the second quarter after Bullock returned his interception 93 yards. Orange County native TJ McMahon took over, but threw three interceptions in the schools’ first meeting since 1971.

Ari Broussard rushed for two scores, and Cameron Montgomery had 99 yards on the ground for the Owls.

After Bullock’s electrifying TD, Alabama transfer Lee brought his interception back 40 yards on the opening drive of the third. Goforth made a 31-yard TD return on Rice’s next drive.

“There’s four plays that really led to this game going the way it did from a lopsided manner, and that’s really those four interceptions, and certainly the three that were pick-6’s,” Rice coach Mike Bloomgren said. “I mean, that’s something that’s really hard to deal with. I’m just proud that our kids did keep fighting.”

USC hadn’t returned three interceptions for scores since Nov. 11, 1982, at Arizona. The Trojans fell one short of the NCAA record for pick-6’s.

“Hopefully we can get four pick-6’s next week,” Riley said with a laugh when asked where his defense needs to improve. “That would be awesome.”

HOT ONE

A success-starved crowd of 60,113 braved 95-degree temperatures around kickoff to welcome Riley, Williams, Addison and the rest of the new Trojans to the 99-year-old Coliseum.

“This stadium is so elite,” Riley said. “Even those of us that have coached in a lot of really cool stadium, this place, watching a college football game here, I don’t know how it gets any better.”

RALEEK THE FREAK

Brown had a stellar debut with 76 combined yards on just eight touches, and he celebrated his impressive 14-yard TD run by striking a Heisman pose.

The freshman left the field postgame on a cart with ice around his right ankle, but the Trojans didn’t seem seriously concerned about his health.

THE TAKEAWAY

Rice: The Owls were competitive before the turnovers. The potential seriousness of Green’s injury is a much bigger concern than the blowout, but Bloomgren had no immediate update on his quarterback’s condition.

USC: The first quarter could resemble much of this season under Riley, who landed far more offensive talent than defensive difference-makers in the transfer portal. USC racked up 9.3 yards per play, but had some rough defensive stretches. Big 12-style, high-scoring shootouts could be the norm.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

USC has spent nearly every September during the 13 seasons since Carroll’s departure failing to live up to overly optimistic early rankings. This new team is still imperfect, but Riley’s Trojans immediately look like they deserve their spot.

UP NEXT

Rice: Host McNeese State on Saturday.

USC: At Stanford on Saturday.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.