Failure to pull miracle bums Lee

USC receiver expected to catch Hail Mary pass to add to historic feat
2012-10-28T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:35:40Z Failure to pull miracle bums LeePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

More audacious than any catch, run or score Marqise Lee registered Saturday was the one impossible play he expected to make.

USC quarterback Matt Barkley heaved a pass at least 60 yards in the air toward the Wildcats' end zone as the Arizona Stadium clock expired.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime prayer.

"I felt like I was in a great position to catch it," Lee said with a straight face.

Lee, surrounded in a litter of red-clad Wildcats, leapt for the ball, touching it for a second, before collapsing to the ground as UA players ran on the field to celebrate the 39-36 stunner.

"I shoulda caught the ball," Lee said, again, convinced.

It was a ridiculous notion. But after playing one of the great college games in the history of the position, the sophomore had every reason to believe in miracles.

Lee caught 16 balls for 345 yards, a Pac-12 record and 60 yards short of the FBS record set by Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards in 1998.

He torched the Wildcats for touchdowns of 49 and 44 yards, and even caught a two-point conversion.

Lee returned three kickoffs for 123 yards, including a 72-yarder with about 5:30 to play that kept the Trojans, then down 11, in the game.

"I don't know how you can do more than he does," coach Lane Kiffin said of Lee, who finished with 469 all-purpose yards.

Kiffin said he'd "only seen two skilled guys like this" - Lee and former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush.

It didn't look that way in the third quarter.

Lee had 12 catches for 255 yards before taking an IV at halftime - "Just to be safe," he said - and pulled down a 44-yard scoring pass from Barkley on the Trojans' first drive of the third quarter.

The Wildcats began to play more Cover 2 defense to slow Lee - "You have to expect that," the wideout said - and the Trojans seemed to oblige.

Barkley didn't throw to Lee for the next three drives - in which USC recorded one first down and zero points.

"(USC career receptions leader) Robert Woods was open," Lee said. "The defense is going to go in there and change their stuff at halftime. …

"If I was the quarterback I would throw it to Robert, too."

Lee was third in the nation with 8.6 receptions and eighth with 112 receiving yards entering Saturday's game.

In just his second season, Lee is already No. 11 on USC's all-time receptions list. He's already caught more career touchdowns, 21, than Keyshawn Johnson, Keary Colbert or John Jackson, among other Trojans legends.

"His performance was unbelievable," Barkley said. "We all know he's a special player, but to play like that and have a game like he had (Saturday) is really something."

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez joked that the UA game-planned for Lee perfectly by allowing all those yards.

"I think we tired him out," he said.

Lee, an Inglewood Serra (Calif.) High School grad, seemed to take little solace in his historic performance.

After being visibly upset on the field, he returned to the visiting locker room, where Kiffin said he acted "like he lost the Super Bowl."

More composed a half-hour later, Lee said he thought he "was going to pull it out" by catching the Hail Mary.

"I don't care about the stats," he said. "If I've got one (catch), zero (catches), the main focus is winning the game.

"We didn't win, so that's why I'm upset."

Asked the obvious question - Was this the best game of his career? - Lee allowed his eyes to sparkle, if for a second.

"I got more games to go," he said.

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