LOS ANGELES — Dillon Johnson never rushed for more than 100 yards in any game in four seasons of college football. The Washington tailback reached triple digits before halftime Saturday night, and he was on pace for a key performance for his unbeaten Huskies.
Johnson knew he was a cog in an offensive machine with several higher gears than a powerful Southern California opponent.
Johnson rushed for 256 yards and four touchdowns, while Michael Benix Jr. passed for 256 yards and two scores, leading No. 5 Washington to a 52-42 win over No. 24 USC.
Devin Culp and Jalin Polk caught TD passes from Bennix, who rushed for a score, while the Huskies (9-0, 6-0 Pac-12) won a high-octane thriller featuring two elite offenses and two flawed defenses. Washington scored the final 10 points of the game and pulled away from USC in the fourth quarter to win.
“They’re one of the top two offenses in the country,” Washington coach Cullen DeBoer said of USC. “I knew we were there. … We knew we had to keep going, keep swinging, keep fighting. That’s what our guys did, and at some point, somebody was going to make a big play. We did that twice tonight.
Washington is now struggling to knock off its first three straight opponents Huge win over Oregon last month, but the Huskies haven’t fumbled yet.
Johnson had the fifth-greatest 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, including nine pass plays of at least 15 yards and nine runs. At least 10 yards.
“It’s a special game, man,” said Johnson, the Mississippi State transfer. “We wanted to be a more 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 lost three of four and had their championship hopes dashed.
“I want to go home and cuddle with my dog and watch some shows,” the Heisman Trophy winner said when asked if another big performance wasn’t enough.
“We lost the game,” Williams added. “I work hard for months, years to put on big games like this, try and win, everybody play your best. We came out with a loss today, so emotionally I just want to go home. Play with my dog.”
Raleigh Brown, Darwin Barlow and Williams rushed for TDs, while Taj Washington, Brendan Rice and Mario Williams caught passes in front of a sold-out Coliseum on USC’s 100th Homecoming weekend.
The offense combined for 1,087 yards, but Washington repeatedly made big plays in 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 Cross made a 43-yard field goal with 12:25 left. Caleb Williams 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 remaining.
“We didn’t play well today,” USC coach Lincoln Riley said. “The big thing was the run game. A lot of big plays. Some of our bad balls were on some of the biggest plays of the game. … “I think our guys were frustrated that we were so close and we didn’t play well enough to break away.”
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 allegiance to the Grinch. “My job is to try to beat Oregon next week and coach what we have.”
Big, bold offensive plays continued in this meeting between two longtime Pac-12 rivals heading into the Big Ten together next season.
While running out of bounds in the second quarter, Benix threw a spectacular 22-yard TD pass to Culp. USC responded with a 95-yard drive, capped by two electrifying runs by Barlow, but Johnson scored an untouched 52-yard TD run moments later.
USC stepped up Washington’s 41-yard TD reception A majestic play-flicker — but after Polk’s TD catch tied it, Zion Dupuyola-Fedui forced Williams’ fumble on USC’s next snap.
Dupuyola-Fedui, whose father died last week, was emotional on the sidelines after his big play.
“I was hoping we could hold them to 14 (points) or something,” Tupuola-Fetui said. “We held them to an L, so I feel good.”
Washington: The Huskies have their “0,” but it’s a grind. They’re still not fully convinced as a College Football Playoff contender, and will certainly have a harder time moving the ball in their final three games against defenses than poor USC.
USC: The Trojans’ second season under Riley has officially been a failure, and the defense deserves almost all of the blame on a team that has scored at least 32 points in nine of 10 games. If the Grinch sticks around next season there could be a fan riot.
Washington: Hosts Utah on Nov. 11.
USC: Nov. 11 at Oregon.
AP College Football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll And https://apnews.com/hub/college-football
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