Monday, December 5, 2011
Top 10 moments, No. 5: His name is Marqise
By Pedro Moura
Our series of the top 10 moments of the 2011 USC football season continues, concluding Friday with No. 1. Catch up on moments Nos. 6-10 here, including more than one Robert Woods' touchdown catch and an especially courageous fourth down call from Lane Kiffin.
Here is moment No. 5: Marqise Lee's 25-yard second-quarter touchdown catch in a 42-17 November win over Colorado.
Two years from now, when Lee is leading the country in receiving yards and TD's heading into USC's bowl game, we're going to look back at this moment as the one that set his course for stardom at the college level.
What happened to Marqise Lee was quite unusual. Few people expected him to finish with over 1,000 yards as a true freshman -- heck, few people expected him to play as a freshman, and even fewer expected him to play receiver.
He was supposed to be a safety. But Lee wanted to be a receiver, and so Kiffin gave him a shot to do so in his first fall camp -- probably figuring he'd just move him back to defense if offense didn't go so well.
But it went exceedingly well. His first four games were OK as the Trojans targeted Woods an inordinate amount, but he finally reached the end zone in the fifth game of the 2011 season, against Arizona. From there, he scored touchdowns in USC's next three contests, struggled at Notre Dame and produced another nice game in the triple-overtime loss to Stanford.
Then, the next week, he officially broke out against Colorado. Matt Barkley's first touchdown pass of the night went to Lee on a pretty pump-and-run route down the right sideline, and the two connected three more times in the first quarter as the Trojans tied it up, 7-7. In the second, after scoring passes to Woods and Xavier Grimble made it a 14-point game, Barkley found Lee again on a go route for a 25-yard touchdown that sealed the outcome.
The most memorable part of the catch was what happened directly right after it, though. Without stopping upon reaching the end zone to collect his thoughts, celebrate or hand the ball to the official, Lee took off running for the sideline on the opposite side of the field.
There, he greeted Kiffin, handed him the ball and let him know that his name was 'Marqise.' Kiffin had been calling him No. 9 all season as a way to motivate the freshman wideout. Score two touchdowns in a game, Kiffin told him, and I'll call you by your real name again.
That sequence showed that Kiffin has clearly become a master motivator, and that Lee is clearly the type of person and player who feeds off outside doubt. Intensely confident, it's not hard to envision Lee as a superstar at football's highest level a few years down the line.
His surge didn't quite start at this moment, but it did become quite clear. And, looking back, his first two-touchdown game should be an important point in his career.
Check back Tuesday for moment No. 4, from the Utah game.