Lee's milestone outing, Barkley's passing record and other notes
October, 27, 2012
By Pedro Moura | ESPNLosAngeles.com
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Here are notes and quotes from the No. 10 USC Trojans' 39-36 loss to the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday at Arizona Stadium that won't make it into our other coverage from the day:
Lee's record-breaking day
Marqise Lee's numbers in the Trojans' loss were a little ridiculous: 16 catches, 345 yards and two touchdowns. He didn't drop a pass all game. Pretty much the only thing he did wrong was gain only a yard on a fourth-and-2 reverse Lane Kiffin drew up for him in the second half.
Afterward, Kiffin said he had only seen one other skill-position player like Lee in his college-coaching career: Reggie Bush.
Lee's day broke the school and conference records for receiving yards and came within 60 yards of the NCAA all-time record ... and were a huge part of Matt Barkley’s school-record 493 yards passing on the day. He was still bawling on the field after the game, though: He said the numbers didn't matter.
"I don't go into the game thinking about what I catch and how many yards I have," Lee said. "It's not about the stats. I don't care about the stats. My main focus is winning the game.
"We didn't win, so that's why I'm upset."
Kiffin said Lee looked like he "lost the Super Bowl" in the locker room.
Quarterback Matt Barkley said Lee surprised him with receiving his numbers by game’s end.
"We've all known he's a special player, but to do something like that is unbelievable," Barkley said.
Was that Lee's best college game of the 20 he has played? The stats certainly would indicate as much, but the sophomore refused to answer that question Saturday.
"I've got more games to go," he said.
The final play
USC had 55 seconds to go at least about 50 yards on its final drive of the game, and the Trojans almost did it. Barkley's last-second Hail Mary heave wasn't too far from being completed to Lee in the end zone, which would have given them a miraculous win.
Lee said he thought he'd catch it once Barkley released the ball.
"It was an opportunity to catch the ball, and I felt like I was in great position to catch it," Lee said.
Said Barkley: "Those are throw-up plays, literally and figuratively. It shouldn't have come to that."
The Trojans do practice deep heaves quite a bit in practice. So the other players thought they pair had a chance to connect, as well.
"We work on that every week," center Khaled Holmes said. "We've got as good a shot as anyone in that moment."
The turnover margin
Turnovers -- and a poor turnover margin -- plagued the Trojans throughout Kiffin's first two years at USC.
But this year has been a complete turnaround. USC has routinely forced three or four turnovers a game while limiting itself to one or two turnovers to obtain a crucial advantage.
That didn't happened Saturday.
USC committed five against the Wildcats and forced only one -- Jawanza Starling's interception of Matt Scott, which was immediately turned back over to Arizona on a fumble.
"You're not gonna win a game if you're not controlling the ball, especially against an explosive offense like Arizona," Barkley said.
USC was up 28-13 with six minutes to go in the third quarter. It had just forced Arizona to punt for the third straight time.
Kiffin tried to end it right then and there, dialing up an 87-yard stutter-and-go bomb from Barkley to Robert Woods on the sideline. Barkley overthrew Woods by a yard or two and the pass fell incomplete.
"I'll be thinking about that play all night," Barkley said. "I got a little too excited seeing how wide open he was and just didn't put enough air under the ball."
Kiffin said he thought the play was bound to work.
"I really thought that was gonna be the key to the game," Kiffin said. "I thought we were gonna get that and run away with it, but unfortunately we didn't."
Final notes: Said Barkley when asked why USC did not spike the ball at all on its final drive: "I don't make those decisions on the field." Barkley’s 493 passing yards was a school record. His previous career high was 468 -- also a USC record -- against Arizona last season. Starling appeared to suffer a concussion on the Wildcats' final scoring drive. He declined to be interviewed after the game, pointing to his head and saying he didn't feel right. Arizona receiver David Richards beat USC corner Josh Shaw in the end zone on the eventual game-winning touchdown. Shaw and Richards went to high school together in Palmdale, Calif., where Shaw threw to Richards in the 2009 season. Freshman Max Tuerk became the first true freshman to start at left tackle for USC since the NCAA began to allow freshmen to play varsity football in 1972. The 47,822 fans in attendance at Arizona Stadium for Saturday's game were fewer than attended the Wildcats' win over Washington last week and their season-opening win over Toledo.