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Saturday, October 1, 2011
Lee finally breaks out

By Pedro Moura

Marqise Lee is 19 years old, a true freshman wideout whom head coach Lane Kiffin said this week after eight weeks' worth of practices could be one of USC's all-time great receivers.

But he had yet show the world what Kiffin had been seeing daily, with no more than four catches or 63 yards in any one game this season.

He did that Saturday, catching eight balls for 144 yards and a touchdown and finishing a half-yard short of another score.

"This was his break-through game," said teammate and fellow receiver Robert Woods.

Lee, Woods' teammate at Gardena Serra, definitely did break out. He was quarterback Matt Barkley's reliable No. 2 option throughout the Trojans' 48-41 win over Arizona at the Coliseum as the Trojans had two receivers top 100 yards for the first time in nearly two years.

The potent one-two combination of Lee and Woods that had been an underlying hope for the first four games finally presented itself on the field, and USC was predictably hard to stop. When the double-teams went to Woods, Barkley would target Lee, like he did on his 38-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

And when the double-teams started to hint toward Lee, Barkley would look to Woods, like he did on his 28-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Heading into this week's bye, the Trojans now officially have two proven passing-game targets, a boon heading into back-to-back road games against Cal and Notre Dame.

"He had 100-plus yards, his first one, and there's more to come, definitely," Woods said of Lee. "I'm proud of him and I look forward to seeing him against Cal and seeing what he does."

Of course, the comparisons to Woods are natural, especially when Kiffin compares him to receivers with even greater pedigrees than Woods, like Keyshawn Johnson, Mike Williams and Lynn Swann. But as Kiffin has said this season, Lee is ahead of where Woods was at this point in his freshman season a year ago.

"He's bigger, faster and stronger," Woods said. "Marqise is a great player. His play is excellent for five games now.

"I've played with him since high school, and it's exciting to see him grow."

On Lee's near-touchdown, a 45-yard pass from Barkley that got the Trojans down to the one-yard line, Lee jammed four fingers on his left hand and had to be taken to the locker room for X-rays. He missed a drive while being tended to, then came back and asked to be allowed back in the game when the tests came back negative.

At first, Kiffin resisted, because the Trojans were up two touchdowns. But he later relented.

"He kept asking me if I was OK and I kept telling him yeah, but it looked like he wasn't sure," Lee said afterward. "But, either way, he still let me in the game, and I just had to show him that was alright."

Lee had a five-yard catch on a big third-down play late in the quarter that helped USC run out some clock. He had ice on his fingers on the sidelines in the fourth but didn't have anything protecting them when he exited the locker room after the game.