Williams, USM's leading tackler in 2009 and 2010, already has revealed in the first two games that the 4-2-5 scheme isn't going to hinder his production. He has a team-high 21 stops for the season and picked up his first sack and first interception during last week's 26-20 loss to Marshall.
However, there's a play he didn't make against the Thundering Herd that bugs the redshirt senior from New Orleans. Williams dropped what appeared to be sure interception late in the second quarter that would have given Southern Miss great field position and the possibility of increasing its 17-3 lead.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato tried to connect with Jermaine Kelson with a quick pass, and Williams was in the perfect position. The ball, unfortunately for Williams and USM, went right through his hands. Instead of having the ball near midfield, Southern Miss took over possession at its 6-yard-line after the Marshall punt.
"I would like to have that one back," said Williams. "I got one later in the game, but none of that matters because we didn't get the 'W'."
Williams' missed opportunity turned out to be one of the critical moments that Southern Miss didn't take advantage of in its Conference USA opener. Marshall was able to get the ball back with less than two minutes left in the half and move 41 yards for a score, slicing USM's advantage to 17-10.
"We had moments throughout the game when we played great and moments when we didn't capitalize on opportunities to make plays," said Williams. "We accept the responsibility as players. We feel like we let down the fans who had high expectations coming into the season."
Williams wasn't the only USM defender to let an interception slip away. Cornerback Deron Wilson dropped Cato's pass intended for Aaron Dobson. The miss came on the first play after Kendrick Hardy fumbled the ball away at USM's 35. Marshall ended up scoring another touchdown and tying the game at 17.
"We got the two turnovers and we had two more in our hands," said first-year defensive coordinator Dan Disch. "We've got to make more stops in the red zone, make them kick some field goals. If we do, we've got a good chance to win the game. We've just got to do a better job when we're put in tough spots."
The Southern Miss defense was placed in bad positions several times thanks to offensive mistakes. The Thundering Herd started five possessions inside Golden Eagles' territory, four times in the second half.
"We know we've got to do a better job in those situations," said Williams. "For the most part, guys were in the right spots. I think all the players are comfortable with the defense. We had fewer missed assignments (this week). We just didn't make the plays in some critical situations.
"This is a wake-up call. As a team, we know what each other is capable of doing on both sides of the ball. We didn't play great in all three aspects of the game and we still had an opportunity to win at the end. We have to put it all together."
USM's defense, which is giving up 311 total yards a game, hopes to improve its play in Saturday's 6 p.m. contest against high-scoring Southeastern Louisiana (1-1) at Roberts Stadium. The Lions have scored 96 points, losing to Tulane 47-33 and drilling Savannah State 63-6.
"The best thing for us is to get back out there and get after it again," said Williams. "We still have a lot of football left and we can still reach our goals."