After USC’s victory against Arizona, junior quarterback Matt Barkley’s record-breaking 468 passing yards (surpassed Carson Palmer’s previous best of 448 passing yards) and sophomore wide receiver Robert Woods’ career high (255 receiving yards) days were well-chronicled.
But just as essential, if not more so, to the Trojans’ win was the play of freshman wide receiver Marqise Lee.
Lee notched eight receptions for 144 yards and a touchdown, and came up short of a second score on his 45-yard grab in the fourth quarter.
Lee now has 21 receptions, 323 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the year. USC coach Lane Kiffin has spoke glowingly of the former Junipero Serra High School standout.
“It was great to see Marqise take the step of a true freshman to the next level.” Kiffin said. “[He] actually came up and had X-rays and missed a series … Then he came back and put himself in even though they were questioning whether he could play. It says a lot about him as a true freshman.”
As Lee continues to improve and become the No. 2 option on an offense looking for more consistency outside of Woods, the Trojan offense figures to become even more potent in the long run.
Woods, Lee’s former teammate of at Serra, noted his performance through five games so far.
“Marqise is a great player,” Woods said. “His play is excellent through five games. I look forward to him getting better and keep putting up numbers for this offense.”
Despite the offensive explosion, the biggest plays for the Trojans might have come on the other side of the ball.
USC’s defense intercepted Arizona quarterback Nick Foles twice in the first quarter. Coming into the game, however, Foles had completed 210 passes in a row without being intercepted.
He had also tossed 10 touchdown passes without throwing an interception against top-ranked teams in Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon.
Though Foles committed two early turnovers, he still managed to throw for 425 yards and four touchdowns.
Coming into their matchup with the Wildcats, the Trojans had only forced three turnovers (one interception by redshirt sophomore cornerback Torin Harris and two forced fumbles). Junior safety T.J. McDonald was the recipient of both of Foles’ interceptions and acknowledged his plays changed the momentum of the game.
“I knew he didn’t have any picks coming into this game so I knew it was going to be a challenge for us not only to stop the passing attack, but to get some turnovers,” McDonald said postgame. “It pumped up the whole team and the offense was able to put some points on the board.”
Despite the win, McDonald said he knows the defense needs to show some improvement if USC expects to win its next few games.
“Today, our offense did a great job and picked us up,” McDonald said. “We definitely want to play better, but we’ll go into the film room, make sure we fix our [mistakes]. We got two weeks before our next game, but we’ll come out two weeks from now and we’ll be ready to go.”