No one would call it pretty, but the USC Trojans found a way to down the Stanford Cardinal in Palo Alto, thanks in large part to the gritty effort of Leonard Williams and the Trojan defensive line.
There can be no doubt who the stand out of this unit was.
Williams, who tweaked his ankle in practice on Tuesday and missed a portion of the preparation for this weekend’s game, gave all that he could for the Trojan cause.
Leading the defense with 11 total tackles, eight of which stopped the Cardinal in their tracks for three or fewer yards, the junior defensive end fought to the end, when he sacked Kevin Hogan on a key second-and-short as time wound down.
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The sack stopped the progress of a Stanford offense which looked fully capable of marching down the field and scoring the go-ahead points and set upJ.R. Tavai
‘s game-ending sack-fumble.
Of course, it wasn’t all roses.
While Williams grew into the game, his clearly limited presence early left something to be desired.
As a whole, the defensive front failed to put serious pressure on Hogan, who had his way with the Trojan secondary as a result.
Neither Antwaun Woods, Claude Pelon nor Delvon Simmons stood out for a thinned out unit which would have benefited more impressive showings. In fact, Pelon was the only interior lineman besides Woods to log a tackle.
J.R. Tavai, who will be expected to provide much more in the way of pass rushing in the future, was kept mostly in check. Unfortunately for Stanford, his shining moment involved smashing Hogan from the blindside and dislodging the ball, which excuses him from any other questions.
It should also be noted that the men in the trenches held Stanford to their lowest rushing total since October of 2012. The Cardinal finished with 128 yards on the ground and a relatively paltry average of 3.4 yards per rush.
Ultimately, it was the defensive line which delivered when it mattered most, refusing to break even when the pressure was at its highest point.
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