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Sunday, November 4, 2012
Following Lee's lead could be best approach

By Pedro Moura

Marqise Lee
Marqise Lee continues to put up Heisman-worthy numbers at receiver for the Trojans.

LOS ANGELES -- Lane Kiffin brought a pen into his postgame news conference Saturday night following his USC Trojans' 62-51 loss to the Oregon Ducks at the Coliseum.

While Matt Barkley was answering a question to his left, Kiffin quickly scanned the box score in front of him and, grabbing the pen, underlined something. Then he quietly passed the sheet to his right, getting Marqise Lee's attention and pointing.

Lee laughed, starting a chain reaction: Robert Woods, sitting next to him, wanted to know what he was laughing about, and then Kiffin had to quietly shush the two when Lee leaned over to tell his teammate.

Well, what did Kiffin underline? Just Lee's statistics for the night: 12 receptions, 157 yards and two touchdowns.

"That's Lane for you," Lee said in a quiet moment after the game. "He's always making sure we're happy."

Kiffin was happy with the Trojans' offensive production Saturday, despite the final score. He said he was "proud of the production" outside of a couple of series.

Lee was not, although he did allow that he was proud of Robert Woods' fourth-down catch-and-run on the Trojans' penultimate play, when he fought down all the way to the three-yard line and set up Lee's last touchdown.

"You got a lot of players out there who are like, 'Well, we already lost, so I'm gonna just catch the ball and go down,' " Lee said. "He just showed you that he's gonna keep working for it."

Lee kept working at it, too. His numbers over the last two games, against quality opponents, have made him a legitimate candidate for an invitation to New York City for the Heisman Trophy presentation.

And, in a change that seemed impossible three months ago, he has become far and away USC's most intriguing player in the greater college football landscape. More people are talking about him than Barkley.

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said after Saturday's game that Lee may be the best receiver he has ever coached against.

"You can't say enough about Marqise Lee," Kelly said. "He's impressive on film and even more impressive when you watch him in person."

A Rose Bowl appearance is still attainable for Lee and USC. Wins over UCLA and Arizona State the next two weeks would get the Trojans to the Pac-12 championship game, and a win there, likely against Oregon in Eugene, would get them to Pasadena on New Year's Day.

Lee said they'll be there if they play the way they did in the final 45 minutes of Saturday's game.

"I know that people thought we were gonna give up after seeing us go down 21-3, but we kept playing," he said. "And I actually did think we did play well and showed what we're capable of."

USC is clearly capable of a lot on offense. Fifty-one points would win you a game against almost any team. Lee said those points came because the Trojans' offense worried only about itself and its production, and not the defense.

"That's basically the mindset we need the rest of the year," Lee said. "Everybody has to handle their own business. Everybody, as a player, has gotta have goals, which is continue to play and do things for yourself.

"At the end of the day, that will be good for the team, too."

It's an interesting, self-before-team sort of approach. But it's hard to argue with Lee's logic this season.