Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Trojans arrived and conquered with a 30-13 victory over Hawaii in their season opener, and will carry a 1-0 record heading into the home opener of the season against Washington State. It was a win filled with a rather befuddling performance on offense, one that lacks the big-time explosive plays that highlighted last year’s affair.
The national media shifted its attention over to CBSSports Network to witness the unveiling of the USC offense with Cody Kessler taking the first team snaps, and we all witnessed a game filled with few highs and disappointing lows from Biletnikoff-winning wide receiver, Marqise Lee.
The final stat line read eight catches for 104 yards with a 19-yard reception as his longest outburst on the night, which seemed rather mundane from Lee standards from last season. Taking a closer look, we witnessed explosive slant routes, tremendous jukes across the field, but also some troubling hands along with poor security of the football.
When Lee was set to break open for his first double-digit yard reception of the game, the ball popped out from behind, causing one of three turnovers on the night. This remains a major area of concern addressed by Lane Kiffin throughout Fall Camp, who said that sometimes Lee will try to accomplish too much with the rock in open space, leading to unforeseen turnovers and mistakes.
“I’m not going to get the same [receptions] as last year,” Lee said last week following an injury-filled grind of Fall Camp. “If I don’t that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me.”
The Trojans can always rely on their big-play wide receiver to step up in crucial moments and lock in the football, even if not in the most conventional ways. On his biggest play of the game, a 19-yard slant route over the middle, similar to the Arizona route last season, Lee seemed to bobble the pass in mid-air before snatching in the pass and jetting past the defense.
Keep in mind that Marqise Lee battled a nagging injury to his shoulder throughout practice, holding him for a good portion of Fall Camp activities.
“I’ll be glad when I can walk into the Coliseum and be on the same sideline [as him] instead of the opposite sideline,” defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast said. “That’s for sure.”
While the Trojan star-studded play worked diligently to showcase his health, one can never truly overcome the lack of reps missed from Fall Camp practice with both Max Wittek and Cody Kessler under center each and every day.
Tbiggest play that stands out from last night placed Lee in one-on-one coverage that made USC fans salivate for six points. Beating the defender down the sideline, Lee tried to trap the ball into his chest and the ball, but it fell incomplete. After the play, Lee threw his hands into the air in disgust, trying to shake off a night filled with could’ve, should’ve, would’ve moments that summed up the entire atmosphere around the preseason-like performance against Hawaii.
USC notched the win, and that is what is important. All that being said, watching series where Lee seemingly disappeared from the quarterback progressions, even standing on the sideline for a goal-line third and short in the first quarter, left Trojan Nation questioning what was truly going on in with the offense.
While many aspects of the team have much to improve upon in the coming weeks, expect the talents and play-making abilities of Lee to be under scrutiny each week, for better or worse, in USC’s pursuit of excellence.