LOS ANGELES — Halfway through his inaugural season with USC, quarterback Caleb Williams had an unenthusiastic evaluation of himself following Wednesday’s practice.
“I’ve played alright,” Williams said, pausing to think about it a little more before repeating himself. “I’ve played alright.”
The faint self-praise makes a degree of season. As Williams likes to remind people, USC is still 6-0. The few dips in quarterback play have not led to USC losses.
But Williams entered the season as a betting favorite for the Heisman Trophy, and his play hasn’t been quite on that level the past three weeks.
In the first three games of the season, Williams completed 74.4% of his passes while throwing eight touchdowns and no interceptions. In the subsequent three games, his completion percentage has dropped to 56.9% as USC’s scoring average has dropped from 50.7 in Weeks 1-3 to 29.7 in Weeks 4-6.
He’s still managed to find ways to win, most noticeably with his game-saving drive against Oregon State. But the level of play hasn’t been to Williams’ own standard.
“I feel like I could play a lot better. I don’t feel like I’ve unlocked everything that I can do and my ability,” Williams said. “Trying to get to that point because this team needs my best throughout this last stretch of the season since we’re in the second half of it.”
Head coach Lincoln Riley, who also serves as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, wasn’t too concerned with the state of the USC passing game following Saturday’s win over Washington State. He noted some dropped balls and a couple of missed throws, but nothing that rose to the level of alarming.
But Williams feels like there are some little details that haven’t gotten the proper attention, agreeing with receiver Jordan Addison’s Tuesday assessment that some timing was off last weekend.
So Williams says he is spending more time in the film room this week ahead of the seventh-ranked Trojans’ road game against No. 20 Utah, and getting more repetitions in as he tries to iron out some wrinkles that have started to show in USC’s aerial attack.
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He noted that some teams have presented different looks against USC than was on film from their previous games. But that’s another reason that he wants to focus on the details that he can control.
“The small things really matter and they matter more throughout the second half of the season,” Williams said. “You can’t think that you’re going to go out there and complete the same pass that you completed three weeks ago if you’re not focusing on the small things. So focusing on the small things, staying consistent with those and then like I said they turn out pretty well.”
What Williams is not doing, he said, is allowing any frustration to seep in after a couple of off performances.
“Football is a process,” he said. “You gotta get better so me not being at my best is just proof that I just need to do more.”