Often in life, we find ourselves asking if we could have done more. We didn’t study enough on a test or didn’t visit with loved ones when we had the chance. It’s human nature and we’ve grown accustomed to that second guessing of ourselves. It’s what we do.
Marqise Lee shouldn’t be second guessing himself today, but he will be.
The sophomore wide receiver not only sealed the deal on the Fred Biletnikoff Award on Saturday afternoon in Tucson, he cemented an All-American season and put his hat in the ring for a trip to New York come early December. He caught 16 passes, eluded defenders and pranced his way to a new single-game record for receiving yards at USC with 345.
Yet despite a day that any receiver in America would envy, a 39-36 loss to the Arizona Wildcats won’t sit well with Lee.
It won’t sit well when he’s playing just an hour away from a half-brother who sits in a jail cell eager to see him play for the Trojans, and they wind up on the short end.
It won’t sit well when Lee’s done everything possible to make his teammates and family proud, and the game ends up in a loss.
And it can’t sit well when Lee had just four catches in the second half, and for a half highlighted by Arizona’s 26-0 run to take the lead, there were three drives in which Lee was never targeted due to a shift in offensive mentality from head coach Lane Kiffin.
Perhaps Lee and the Trojans will be asking themselves ‘what if’. What if Robert Woods wasn’t over thrown in the third quarter? What if D.J. Morgan doesn’t fumble to give Arizona all of the momentum?
Well, what if? If those happened, Lee’s performance would have not been for naught.
If the Trojans saved Lee as he had saved them in the first half, the Trojans would be 7-1 going into a heavyweight bout with Oregon and Marqise Lee would be shown on highlight reels nonstop for the next six days.
But alas, they didn’t. Matt Barkley got too excited and put too much on his pass to Woods and Morgan circa 2012 reverted back to Morgan circa 2011, fumbling the ball away.
And alas, Lee’s outstanding performance will be chalked up into the category of ‘great performances in loss’, slightly behind John Elway’s incredible game against Cal in 1982, which you know, was overshadowed by Stanford’s band coming onto the field.
Yes, football is the ultimate team game. It’s 11 guys at a time working to move the ball down the field and if one doesn’t pull his weight, passes fall incomplete and first downs aren’t picked up.
But for a team game so deeply entwined with war analogies and battle strategies, sometimes it’s the one rogue hero that can lift a team. It’s the Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill moment, if you will.
In college football, we call those moments ‘Heisman Moments’. Yet the cruel thing about those moments is that they’re synonmous with game-winning moments and when the rest of the team can’t pull their weight, the already out-of-whack dynamic of effort comes crumbling down and ‘Heisman Moments’ turn into ‘Good Games’.
For Lee, he’ll simply call it a loss. For those who watched him on Saturday, it was something else.