Stats & Info: Max Wittek

How will USC get the ball to Marqise Lee?

August, 28, 2013
8/28/13
10:34
AM ET

US PresswireMax Wittek (left) and Marqise Lee (right) hope to be celebrating a lot more together this season.
The USC Trojans have questions at quarterback, but Marqise Lee is the answer at wide receiver.

Lee was one of the most explosive receivers in FBS last season, highlighted by his Pac-12 record-breaking 345-yard receiving game against Arizona on October 27.

With Matt Barkley at the helm last year, Lee finished second in FBS with 1,721 receiving yards.

His 892 yards after the catch placed him second among players from BCS-AQ schools behind Tavon Austin (947 yards).

Lee was targeted on 39 percent of USC’s pass attempts and gained almost half of the Trojans’ receiving yards last season. He owns or shares 22 school records, including the most career games with at least 10 receptions.

Currently, the four quarterbacks on the roster have a combined 71 pass attempts at USC, with 69 of them coming from Max Wittek. This inexperience under center should be a sign of concern for Lee.

Inexperience at QB
Last season, Wittek completed just 52 percent of his passes overall, including 12-of-21 (57 percent) to Lee. Although it is a limited sample size, that is still a huge drop off from Barkley’s 70 percent completion percentage to Lee in their two seasons together.

One way to establish young unproven quarterbacks is to get the ball out of their hands quickly and use short-yardage throws to establish an offensive rhythm.

Lee should provide a nice security blanket for Wittek in this regard.

Of the 12 completions from Wittek to Lee, nine of them were thrown within five yards of the line of scrimmage and Lee gained 45 yards after the catch on those throws.

He led the Pac-12 in both receptions (64) and yards after catch (457) on throws within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Overall, nearly 55 percent of Lee’s catches were on those short throws.

Who will get him the ball deep?
Not only does Lee have big-play abilities on short throws, he is also a deep threat. Over the last two seasons, Lee has an FBS-leading 65 receptions on throws of 15 or more yards.

Lee leads FBS with 11 catches of 50-plus yards gained during that span and seven of his 25 receiving touchdowns in the last two seasons have been for 50 or more yards, tied for second-most in FBS.

In the two games Lee and Wittek played last season, Lee caught one pass in three attempts from Wittek that were thrown at least 50 yards downfield.

Mr. Everything
Even if his deep touches are down, Lee could also make big plays for the Trojans as a rusher and returner. Last season, Lee ranked third in FBS with 2,683 all-purpose yards and led the Pac-12 with 856 kickoff return yards.

Look for the fireworks to start early. USC opens the season on Thursday at Hawaii, a team that Lee burned for a 100-yard kickoff return in last year’s opener.

USC has history of handing ND first loss

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
11:04
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Kirby Lee/US PresswireNotre Dame is one win from playing for the BCS championship for the first time.
Saturday will be the 84th meeting between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans and the 21st time that the Fighting Irish will enter the game undefeated, but the first time since 1993.

Which raises the question: How many times has USC ended a Notre Dame unbeaten season?

Six times, with four of those wins coming in Los Angeles, when the game was the finale on Notre Dame's regular-season schedule. Twice the Irish were ranked No. 1 and once No. 2. The last time came in 1980, Dan Devine’s final year as Notre Dame head coach. In 1980, USC was ranked 17th with a roster that included Ronnie Lott and a future Heisman Trophy winner, Marcus Allen.

Unranked USC beating No. 1 Notre Dame
Only once has a No. 1-ranked Notre Dame team played USC when it was unranked. The result was an agonizing one for the Fighting Irish.

In 1964, Ara Parseghian’s first year as head coach, the Irish were 9-0 with one game left on the schedule: a game against the 6-3 Trojans, a team with losses at Michigan State and Ohio State and at home to Washington.

Notre Dame was led by the 1964 Heisman Trophy winner, quarterback John Huarte, a Los Angeles native who went to Mater Dei High School. That school will be eagerly watching this week’s game because it's the alma mater of current USC quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Max Wittek, not to mention 2004 Heisman winner and former USC quarterback Matt Leinart.

Notre Dame had a 17-0 halftime lead, but the Trojans mounted a comeback to win 20-17 on a pass from Craig Fertig to Rod Sherman with 1:35 to play. A possible national title in Parseghian’s first season was dashed. Notre Dame fell to No. 3 in the poll, and the Alabama Crimson Tide went on to win the national title.

Top-ranked in this rivalry
Notre Dame has been the country’s top-ranked team heading into this game seven times, going 5-2. In five of those games, USC was also a top-10 team.

The shoe has been on the other foot, too. USC has been ranked No. 1 against Notre Dame five times, and the Trojans are a perfect 5-0 in those meetings. That includes the famous 2005 “Bush Push” game.

Has there ever been a No. 1 vs. No. 2 in this rivalry? Just once. Lou Holtz and his No. 1 Notre Dame team beat No. 2 USC 27-10 in 1988 in Los Angeles. The Irish went on to beat West Virginia in the Fiesta Bowl to claim the national championship.

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