Kenjon Barner (Riverside Notre Dame) made his claim to the Heisman Trophy by running all over USC. He will be playing in the NFL next year. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra High School) is good enough, right now, to be the star wide receiver on a number of NFL teams. Photo by Jeff Lewis
USC’s Marqise Lee and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner are among the nation’s leaders at their positions.
USC fans were certainly disappointed with the 62-51 loss to No. 2 Oregon, but college football fans were able to see two stars, raised right here in the greater Los Angeles area, put on a show that they will be taking to the NFL.
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner (Riverside Notre Dame High School) lit up USC’s defense for 321 yards and five touchdowns, both records by an opposing player against USC.
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee (Gardena Serra High School) had a modest game by his standards, as he produced 157 yards and two touchdowns on 12 receptions. The week before, Lee caught 16 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.
At this very moment Lee is so good that he could suit up for a decent amount of NFL teams and be their star receiver. Standing at 6-1, 195 pounds, he has the strength to out muscle defensive backs, and the speed to run right by them, as Oregon found out. He is a true sophomore, so he has one more season at USC to terrorize college defensive backs.
Lee is first in the nation with 88 receptions, second in yards with 1,286, and third with 12 touchdowns.
Barner on the other hand, who will be playing in the NFL next season because he is a senior, is third in the nation in rushing with 1,295 yards, second in the nation with 19 touchdowns, and he is now one of the front runners in the Heisman Trophy race.
“He’s a warrior,” Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of his star running back. “He‘s had an unbelievable impact on this team. We’re still a really young football team. Offensively it’s not many seniors out there… and he’s the one leader of that group and has really embraced that role, and our guys follow him. It’s because not only does he talk about it, but he lives it. He’s the same way like that everyday in practice.”
USC and Oregon’s game was a great one for fans that like to see a lot of scoring, but these type of games are not a good sign for USC at all.
For a team who’s star signal-caller passed up millions of dollars to return to school and take care of “unfinished business,” USC has fallen short of expectations with a 6-3 record, but still aren’t ready to close up shop.
“The season is not over,” quarterback Matt Barkley said. “We‘ve got games left and just got to make the most of those.”
Those remaining games have become a lot more critical because of the past two weeks.
The upset loss at Arizona knocked USC out of the national title picture, exposing the Trojans’ defense in the process. Yet USC still had the potential to play in the conference championship game. The Oregon loss put a huge bump in that road, but a Rose Bowl berth still remains a possibility for USC, now ranked No. 21, four spots behind UCLA, who now leads the PAC-12 South division.
A rematch against the Ducks would be an attempt at redemption if USC can beat Arizona State and UCLA over the next two weeks and claim the PAC-12 South.
First though, USC needs to figure out a way to rectify its defense. Lee put up huge numbers the past two weeks, as did Barkley, but giving up 62 points to Oregon a week after giving up 39 to Arizona is unacceptable.
When USC practices, its defense works against two of the best wide receivers in school history in Lee and Robert Woods (Serra High School). Yet for some reason, the progress made from those practices just do not seem to translate well into game situations, as the Trojans defense is ranked 49th in points allowed in the country.
“If you have back-to-back games like that with over 600 yards, we‘ve got to look at what we’re doing, obviously,” said coach Lane Kiffin of the defense’s recent performances. “That’s not real sound, that’s not where we want to be.”
After battling against top-10 offenses for consecutive weeks, USC could expect a better performance from its defense against Arizona State’s 32nd ranked offense.
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