LOS ANGELES – Throughout the first quarter on Friday night, the Colorado Buffaloes played well enough to create some measure of hope.
When the second quarter began, USC started playing like USC.
Despite a good start, Colorado was routed by the eighth-ranked Trojans at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, 55-17.
It was the eighth time this year that CU (1-9, 1-6 Pac-12) has lost by 23 or more points and the Buffs matched the worst 10-game start in program history. CU also dropped to 0-16 all-time against the Trojans (9-1, 7-1).
USC star quarterback Caleb Williams shook off an early interception to throw for 268 yards and three touchdowns, and he also ran for two touchdowns.
CU’s Alex Fontenot had his first 100-yard game in nearly three years (108 yards on 20 carries), but the Buffs couldn’t get anything going through the air. JT Shrout completed 11-of-21 passes for 124 yards, while throwing an interception and losing a fumble. Shrout had only 46 passing yards through the first three quarters.
The Buffs gave up a season-high in points and yielded 42-plus points for the fourth consecutive game, but had an impressive and surprising start against the nation’s seventh-best scoring offense.
Two of USC’s first three possessions ended with punts after going three-and-out. The other ended with Williams getting picked off by Buffs’ sophomore Nikko Reed – just the second interception of the season for Williams.
After his interception, Reed threw the ball to the ground in celebration and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. That proved costly, as it forced CU to start on its own 12-yard line.
On first down, Shrout was pressured and threw the ball away. He was flagged for intentional grounding and because the foul occurred in the end zone, USC was awarded a safety and took a 2-0 lead.
Late in the first quarter, CU got a 28-yard field goal from Cole Becker to take a 3-2 lead. It was just the second time this year the Buffs led going into the second quarter.
CU held USC to just eight yards of offense in the first quarter, but that quickly changed. The Trojans gained 24 yards on third-and-19 on the first play of the second quarter and Williams scored his first rushing touchdown, from 2 yards out, nine plays later. USC also converted a third-and-23 situation during that possession.
Just three plays after Williams’ score, Shrout lost a fumble and USC took over at the Buffs’ 8-yard line. Two plays later, Williams ran into the end zone from four yards out to give the Trojans a 16-3 lead.
USC took a 26-3 lead into halftime, but CU briefly got back into the game in the third.
Fontenot completed a nine-play, 53-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 26-10 with 5:49 to play in the third. Fontenot had seven carries for 51 yards on that drive.
Over the next 5:22, however, USC got two touchdown passes from Williams sandwiched around a Shrout interception. That made it 41-10 going into the fourth quarter, putting the game out of reach for the Buffs.
The Trojans’ Raleek Brown added a 25-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth to give USC a 48-10 lead.
With 7:22 to go in the fourth, Shrout scored on an 8-yard run – the first touchdown run of his collegiate career.
Darwin Barlow capped the scoring with a 3-yard TD run for the Trojans in the final minute. After gaining just eight yards in the first quarter, USC finished with 531.
Snapshot: CU Buffs at No. 8 USC Trojans
Play of the game: Cornerback Nikko Reed had the top play for the Buffs, as he picked off a Caleb Williams pass midway through the first quarter. Reed battled former Buff Brenden Rice for the ball and came away with just the second interception thrown by Williams this season.
Turning point: USC opened the second quarter with a touchdown and then began to roll after Buffs’ quarterback JT Shrout fumbled three plays later. That gave the Trojans the ball at the CU 8-yard line and they scored two plays later to start the rout.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. RB Alex Fontenot: He finished with 108 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, his first 100-yard game in nearly three years.
2. LB Josh Chandler-Semedo: Finished with eight tackles, including half a sack.
3. CB Nikko Reed: Provided solid coverage most of the night and also picked off a USC pass. He added 110 yards on kickoff returns.