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USC receivers saw mixed success in season opener at Hawaii

Marqise Lee finished with eight catches for 104 yards but dropped key passes. Nelson Agholor caught a touchdown pass but dropped a long pass that could have led to scoring.

August 31, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • USC wide receiver Marqise Lee didn't have his best game against Hawaii on Thursday.
USC wide receiver Marqise Lee didn't have his best game against Hawaii… (Eugene Tanner / Associated…)

In the weeks leading up to the season opener against Hawaii, USC Coach Lane Kiffin never stopped insisting that reigning Biletnikoff Award winner Marqise Lee had much to work on as a receiver.

Lee agreed, saying he appreciated a coach pointing out areas that needed improvement.

So the junior figures to be even more focused this week after dropping key passes from quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek, and fumbling on a punt return in USC's 30-13 victory.

Sophomore receiver Nelson Agholor caught a second-quarter touchdown pass from Kessler, but he also dropped a long pass from Wittek in the fourth quarter that might have resulted in or set up another scoring play.

"We didn't help them very much," Kiffin said, when asked about the quarterbacks' performances. "You start dropping balls like we were, that changes the rhythm."

Lee, who set a school record with 118 receptions in 2012, anticipated that opponents would double team him this season and reduce his opportunities.

His first reception against Hawaii did not come until 8 minutes 50 seconds remained in the first half, but it was not because of Hawaii's game plan.

Kessler, starting for the first time, had completed a third-down pass to Agholor and then misfired on his first pass to Lee during the Trojans' first series. On fourth down from Hawaii's 26-yard line, Kessler threw a perfect strike to Lee along the sideline, but Lee dropped it.

"One of the things we focus on as a team and receiver corps is, 'Let it go and go to the next one,'" Lee said. "Because I knew if I would have thought about that one, I would have dropped the next one and the next one and the next one. So I just tried to let it go."

Lee caught several passes that helped set up a field goal at the end of the first half. He appeared to be finding his stride in the second before he dropped a long pass from Wittek in the fourth quarter.

Neither Wittek nor Kessler blamed Lee.

"Marqise is Marqise," Wittek said. "He's going to make those plays for us 99 times out of 100."

Lee finished with eight catches for 104 yards, the 13th time he has eclipsed 100 yards receiving. Agholor caught two passes for 35 yards.

"I think Cody did great and Max did great," Lee said. "We'll go back to the board and just work on it and improve for next week."

Quick hits

Seven first-year freshmen played against Hawaii: safeties Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay III, tailbacks Justin Davis and Ty Isaac, linebackers Michael Hutchings and Quinton Powell and receiver Darreus Rogers. @latimesklein

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