Leonard Williams proved for the first time this season, and once more during his USC, career that some of No. 94 is better than none at all.
Last Tuesday, Williams suffered an ankle sprain near the end of USC practice. On Wednesday, he was a non-participant and limped around Howard Jones Field with a brace on his injured ankle.
By Saturday, he was the most destructive force on the football field at Stanford Stadium while anchoring the USC defensive line on its way to a 13-10 win.
For his efforts, Williams was named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. So far, three USC players have earned conference player of the week awards through the season’s first two games.
Last week, quarterback Cody Kessler was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week. On Monday, in addition to Williams’ accolade, kicker Andre Heidari was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after connecting on the game-winning 53-yard field goal at Stanford. The FB was also a career long for the USC kicker.
But Williams’ effort was the stuff of legend. Watching Williams play on a bad wheel and be as impactful as he was left USC head coach Steve Sarkisian in a complimentary mood.
"(It was) just, quite honestly, an amazing performance," Sarkisian said. "Nevermind he had an injured ankle. A defensive lineman having 11 tackles in one game and a sack it’s a great accomplishment. Knowing that he wasn’t 100 percent is even a greater accomplishment."
The performance of Williams fueled a USC defense that found itself down one of its most key cogs in the second half.
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Captain and middle linebacker Hayes Pullard was ejected in the third quarter of a 10-10 game after being called for targeting. USC had just tied the game when Pullard was flagged and subsequently ejected on the ensuing kickoff.
The Cardinal were driving late in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to tie or take the lead when Williams sacked Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan at the USC 25-yard line with under a minute to play.
Instead of calling a timeout, Hogan hurried the offense to the line of scrimmage for one more play — the result of which was the game-clinching strip sack by J.R. Tavai.
"I think it’s always helpful to see one of your leaders out there knowing that he’s fighting through it," Sarkisian noted. "They knew he wasn’t 100 percent and to see him fighting through it, I think, sets a good example for his teammates moving forward, fighting through the adversity that he had.