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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

USC’s Lee breaks Pac-12 record, inches away from breaking Wildcats’ hearts

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Larry Hogan
Larry Hogan / Arizona Daily Wildcat

The final pass of the game lay on the grass, the potential game-winning score having been knocked away from USC receiver Marqise Lee by Arizona corner Shaq Richardson.

That seemed to be the only pass that Lee was unable to catch on the UA defense Saturday, as Lee broke a Pac-12 record with 345 yards and two scores on just 16 receptions, but the No. 10 Trojans fell to Arizona 39-36 in Arizona Stadium.

After failing to bring in the last-second Hail Mary from USC quarterback Matt Barkley, Lee was noticeably upset on the sideline, being shielded by coaches from ESPN cameras as Lee wiped away tears.

“He’s in [the locker room] like he lost the Super Bowl,” Kiffin said. “I don’t know how you can do more than he does.

“I’ve only seen two skill guys like this before, and that’s No. 5 and No. 9 [Lee],” Kiffin said, comparing Lee to former Trojan Heisman winner Reggie Bush.

Lee was Barkley’s and the Trojans’ top target in the passing game from the start, as he caught 12 passes for 255 yards and a score by halftime.

Barkley had only one word to describe Lee’s performance after the game.
“Unbelievable,” Barkley said. “He’s a special player, but to do something like that is incredible.”

It didn’t matter who was covering Lee Saturday, as he routinely ran by UA corners Derrick Rainey and Jonathan McKnight, two of the Wildcats’ fastest defenders.

“That’s probably the best performance I’ve ever seen in my life,” Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer said. “It seemed like whenever they needed something they went to him. The kid’s a beast.”

Lee was also a factor in the kick return game, adding another 123 return yards, including a 72-yard kick return late in the fourth quarter, leading to a USC score.

The Trojans have two of the top receivers in the country, and last season it was junior All-American Robert Woods who torched the Wildcats defense to the tune of 255 yards and two scores. Lee was not far behind, catching eight passes for 144 yards.

At halftime, Lee received an IV treatment from team doctors and was late back onto the field, missing the first play of the second half.

Aside from a 44-yard touchdown on the first drive of the half, USC seemed to go away from Lee as he caught only one other pass for the entire third quarter.

Kiffin said that he didn’t believe that Lee was tired, but instead that the Trojans were trying to mix
in some runs because they “couldn’t throw it 70 times.”

“I wasn’t wiped out,” Lee said, when asked if his first half performance tired him out. “They changed their defense, that’s what every team does against us.”

In addition, “Robert Woods was open,” Lee said. “If I was the quarterback, I would have thrown him the ball too.”

The Wildcats punted the ball to the Trojans with a three-point lead and 55 seconds left in the game, giving Barkley and Lee one last drive to connect and possibly win the game. Three plays later, after a 15-yard completion to Lee, Barkley had USC on the Arizona 48-yard line, but had burned 50 seconds off the clock.

Barkley heaved the ball into the end zone as the clock expired, and Lee “got a hand on it,” but was unable to bring it in, a surprise to Kiffin.

“I really thought [Lee] was going to catch it,” Kiffin said. “It wouldn’t have surprised me at all. He caught about everything else today.”

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