LOS ANGELES -- During the second half of No. 9 USC's 50-6 win over Colorado last Saturday, freshman defensive tackle Leonard Williams was subjected to the locker room.
He had already been ejected from the game and could have joined his teammates on the sideline but wasn't allowed to as a form of punishment from head coach Lane Kiffin.
It gave him time to think and reflect on recent events.
Williams was ejected from the game in the second quarter for punching a Colorado player. Williams and his teammates say he was spit on by the Colorado player. As a result, Williams admittedly lost his cool.
"It just happened so quick," Kiffin said. "I wasn't really thinking and I can't take it back. What's done is done and I'm just trying to move forward."
Forward for Williams will be with his USC teammates on Saturday in Tucson. His immediate playing future was in the hands of the Pac-12 Conference and very much uncertain. The school has announced the conference will not be suspending Williams for Saturday's game.
Williams is "relieved" to find out he can be back on the field with his teammates. The freshman issued an apology to the team in the locker room after the game.
Before they came in, as he pondered during the second half, Williams made himself a promise: "I won't be in that situation again."
If nothing less, it was a learning lesson for him to keep his cool. The point was drilled home immediately by captain T.J. McDonald, who had some words for Williams when he came off of the field following the punch.
"(I told him) just keep your poise," Mc Donald said. "Stuff is going to come up and you're only hurting yourself. It might feel like you're relieving some tension at that time but at the end of the day you're only going to hurt yourself and only going to hurt your team."
McDonald has accumulated his fair share of penalties throughout his years roaming the Trojans defensive backfield. The Pac-12 decided to take it a step further with McDonald last season. He was suspended for the first half at Colorado last season after drawing a flag for a hit he put on Stanford wide receiver Chris Owusu. McDonald was not kicked out of the game.
"I told him I can relate to him a little bit just because I've had some penalties called on me in the past," McDonald said. "Leonard's a guy that he didn't mean any (harm). He's not a bad person (or) a bad player. He came in here a real humble guy and he lost his cool for a little bit."
After seeing how he handled himself last week, Williams knows opponents are going to test him to see if he's going to lose his cool again.
"I talked to a few people," Williams said. "They said they'd probably try to do that to me now since they've seen that I did that but I just won't let that happen again.
"I just learned to protect the team at all times and just watch myself and don't fall into the other team's trap and just stay focused."
The punch has overshadowed Williams' play on the field in recent days. The freshman is second on the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (8.5). On Wednesday, he was named to the CFPA National Freshman Performer of the Year Watch List.