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USC star QB Caleb Williams played on ‘popped’ hamstring, refused to be removed from Pac-12 Championship Game

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USC star quarterback Caleb Williams “popped his hamstring” in the first quarter of the No. 4 Trojans’ 47-24 loss to No. 11 Utah in the 2022 Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night, USC coach Lincoln Riley said after the game. Williams never left the field for more than a play but was clearly hobbled, unable to escape the pocket with his normal speed and agility while getting sacked seven times as he struggled to evade defenders.

Riley said Williams “was not even 50%” through the final three quarters, and while he wanted to remove the sophomore from the game, Williams “wouldn’t let me.”

“In terms of guys I’ve coached at that position, it was maybe the gutsiest performance I’ve ever seen,” Riley said. “Most guys wouldn’t have even played, and he still gave us a chance.”

Williams finished 28 of 41 passing for 363 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. By game’s end, he’d netted just 21 yards rushing as most of the yardage he gained on the ground in first quarter had been swallowed up by lost yardage on sacks. Despite his injuries — Williams also hurt the pinkie finger on his throwing hand, which was bleeding profusely — he still made a number of impressive plays down the stretch.

Riley indicated that Williams suffered the injury on a spectacular 59-yard run in the first quarter that helped set up a touchdown that put the Trojans ahead 14-3. USC eventually went up 17-3 before getting outscored 44-7 the rest of the way.

The injuries to Williams and loss to Utah marked a crushing end to USC’s College Football Playoff aspirations, but it’s undoubted that Williams’ Heisman hopes remain still alive.

Despite his obvious struggles with mobility against the Utes, he still turned in a statistically impressive performance. Voters may also have been impressed with the way he gutted through the injuries even though USC came up short. Not to mention, his performance in the regular-season finale against UCLA last week likely helped voters make up their minds entering championship weekend.

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