One year ago, Damian Williams got to take in his first Rose Bowl experience — on the sidelines.
Williams watched as his team rolled past Illinois in dominating fashion, 49-17. This time around, though, Williams was in the middle of dominance, having a career day in helping lead USC to a 38-24 win over Penn State at the Rose Bowl.
"Last year seems like it was forever, and this year went by so fast," Williams said. "I'm just happy to be here. Celebrating with my teammates, Rose Bowl victory. It's another sticker to put on the wall. We're happy to be here. We played a great game."
Williams caught 10 balls for 162 yards — both career highs.
"We just take what they give us," he said. "Today our passing game was on and so we just kept pushing with it and were able to make some plays."
Williams wasn't even a guarantee to be playing against Penn State after separating his shoulder in USC's regular season finale.
"We had three weeks to prepare for them. Two of those weeks I didn't practice so I had a whole lot of off time," Williams said. "So I just made sure I was in the film room every time, cause when you miss a lot of practice, it's hard to get a feel for the stuff that's going on.
"So I had to make sure I was in the film room and knew exactly what they were doing."
And while the team was getting ready Thursday morning, Williams snuck off on his own for some last minute preparation of his own.
"I still wasn't quite sure this morning," Williams said. "I had to make sure I took an extra peak for about 45 minutes. We usually do it together. This morning I did it by myself. Sometimes I just want to check something out.
"Maybe I missed something."
On the field, it certainly appeared that Williams didn't miss much.
He scored the game's first touchdown on a 27-yard post from Mark Sanchez. After that ball, Williams punished the Penn State secondary for playing soft coverage, catching the ball with a cushion and picking up valuable yards after the catch.
He also drew two crucial penalties — a facemask and a late hit — to move the USC offense even further down the field.
When the game had ended, Williams had shown the nation that he's an elite receiver for an offense on the cusp of something special.
"You're only remembered by your last performance," Williams said.
And up until the time USC takes the field Sept. 5 against San Jose State at the Coliseum, Trojans fans and anyone who watched Thursday's Rose Bowl will know Williams is a game-changer.