April 16, 2024
USC quarterback Miller Moss holds the offensive player of the game trophy after the team's win in the Holiday Bowl.

USC quarterback Miller Moss holds the offensive player of the game trophy after the team’s win over Louisville in the Holiday Bowl.

(Denis Poroy / Associated Press)

The longest of those embraces came from Caleb Williams, the star quarterback who’d stepped over Moss on the depth chart on his way to a Heisman Trophy. For two years, Moss had been relegated to the role of Williams’ understudy, biding his time as a backup until his chance would finally arrive.

But all bowl season, as Moss quietly took reps with the first-team offense, the discourse over who might replace the potential No. 1 pick seemed to skip over him entirely. What about Cam Ward, from Washington State? Or Will Howard, from Kansas State? Someone. Anyone else. Even Moss’ own coach had made clear that he intended to look around for other options in the portal. As of last week, Riley had suggested USC might actually bring in two transfer quarterbacks.

That was the assumption, at least, until Wednesday, when Moss took a blowtorch to those plans, scorching Louisville for 372 yards and six scores that shattered both USC and Holiday Bowl touchdown records.

By the time Williams found Moss in the aftermath, pulling him in close and holding him tight, the moment felt more like a proverbial passing of the torch than it had at any point over the past month.

Asked if he’d proven as much to Riley, the coach smiled: “Shoot,” he said, “he may have scared off anybody that would want to come here anyway.”

Riley wouldn’t share much beyond that, other than to say he was excited for Moss’ future at USC. But Kyron Hudson, who caught a touchdown from Moss Wednesday, didn’t hesitate to offer his endorsement.

“He waited his time, and he’s ready for it,” Hudson said. “He’s the guy that we need.”

Whether he can be the same guy next fall, when USC ventures into the unknown of the Big Ten, remains to be seen. We don’t know how Riley really feels about Moss’ long-term potential at the position.

But there’s no denying the confidence Moss displayed in his first start, as he fearlessly fired one deep shot after another . It was hard to imagine a more convincing audition.

“When you get your opportunity, you gotta shine,” senior center Justin Dedich said. “And Miller’s the definition of that.”

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