All season, USC coach Lane Kiffin has referred to his second-leading receiver solely by his number -- No. 9.
No matter what No. 9 did, Kiffin still called him by his number, not his name.Eight catches for 144 yards and a touchdown against Arizona weren't good enough to use his name. Neither was seven catches for 94 yards and another TD against Stanford.
But nine catches for 124 yards and an all-important two touchdowns against Colorado, and Marqise Lee could finally be called his own name by his head coach. So, after his second score in the second quarter, Lee made a beeline for Kiffin on the opposite side of the field, handed him the ball and reminded him what his name was.
"We have told him when he gets a multiple-touchdown game people will know his name," Kiffin said after Friday's 42-17 win over Colorado. "After he scored the second touchdown he came over to me and gave me the ball and said, 'My name is Marqise Lee.'
"He is coming of age out there."
At first, upon his arrival to USC over the summer, Lee wore No. 17. Then he switched to No. 9 in mid-August when he proved to Kiffin and the staff he was worthy of the number he wanted. But he still had to prove he was worthy of being called his name.
"I had to change that. I was tired of being called No. 9," Lee said after the game. "I thought of it as soon as I scored, and that's why I took the ball to him.
"I had to."
Both of Lee's touchdowns came on big plays, as is customary for him. His seven catches for 30-plus yards this season are tied for the Pac-12 lead, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His first TD Friday was a 33-yarder in the first quarter; his second was a 25-yarder late in the second.
That came after he dropped another sure score earlier in the second and reacted demonstratively to missing it. But he rebounded quickly to get in the end zone again.
"We have challenged him all year to have multiple touchdown game and to take it to the next level," Kiffin said Friday. "He was close last week after he stepped out of bounds at the 4-yard line, which took away his chance for a multiple touchdown game.
"He has been close many times this year."
Robert Woods, Lee's sophomore counterpart at receiver, didn't earn first-name status with Kiffin until his sixth game last season, against Stanford. It took Lee until his ninth, and that was clearly bothering him.
"This whole season, his whole goal was to get two touchdowns in a game," Woods said. "Coach Kiffin always jokes with him and says you're No. 9 until you get two.
"He has his name now."