Following key performances in USC’s upset of then-No. 13 Stanford in Palo Alto this weekend, junior defensive end Leonard Williams and senior kicker Andre Heidari were named the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week, respectively.
Leading up to the game, Williams’ sprained ankle kept his status in question. But Williams’ decision to play through his injury came as no surprise to many Trojan fans, as he played all of last season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The Daytona Beach, Florida native recorded 11 total tackles, including one tackle for loss and a sack on Stanford’s final drive of the game, which helped maintain the 13-10 victory for the Trojans.
“It was just a really gritty performance,” USC head coach Steve Sarkisian said in his weekly Q&A on YouTube. “[Williams] was not 100 percent healthy, that’s for sure. I thought he got better as the game went on. I think in the fourth quarter he was especially dominant, and he provided a real spark and a real sense of leadership, especially when Hayes was ejected there on the targeting penalty.”
With the clock winding down, the game was quite reminiscent of last year’s victorious Stanford game. Heidari — apparently unshaken by nerves — stepped onto the field with 2:30 left in the fourth, his mind set on one thing: clearing the goal posts and putting the Trojans up by three points.
When Heidari nailed the 53-yard field goal, it was not only his career-best, but it also tied for the third-longest in USC history. Heidari’s kick secured the win for the Trojans, just like last year when he hit a 47-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in the game.
Heidari also made a 25-yard field goal to tie the game with only 53 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We know what he’s capable of,” Sarkisian said of Heidari. “We wanted to get him closer to that. I thought it showed. When you can hit a 53-yard game-winning field goal, that is just unbelievably impressive. Probably equally impressive was the kickoff following the made field goal that he kicked out of the back of the end zone so that Ty Montgomery couldn’t get a return.”
Heidari and Williams will have to have big games again this Saturday against Boston College.