UCLA squashes Heisman hopes of USC's Marqise Lee

Marqise Lee's Heisman hopes ended against UCLA. (US Presswire)

If USC wide receiver Marqise Lee was going to have a chance to win the Heisman, his Trojans first needed to beat No. 17 UCLA on Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

After all, a win over the Bruins would have put USC in the Pac-12 title game and given Lee one more opportunity to impress Heisman voters by piling up big numbers against a ranked opponent.

But with UCLA's 38-28 win over the Trojans, Lee's already remote Heisman hopes were dashed. 

Although the sophomore did catch nine passes for 158 yards and one touchdown, the Bruins kept him in check for the most part, preventing any of the highlight-reel plays that had come to mark the first 10 games of the explosive wideout's remarkable season.

Lee also made a key error early in the game after lining up at tailback. He took a toss to the left and was bottled up, but UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks stripped him of the ball -- and UCLA recovered deep in USC territory. Four plays later, the Bruins scored a touchdown to go up 17-0.

Putting him at tailback was a testament to just how much the Trojans had come to rely on Lee to make plays this season. But it ended up being too much of a burden for him to handle and, in the end, even Lee's versatility couldn't prevent USC from dropping its fourth game. 

Lee now has 107 catches for 1,606 yards and 14 touchdowns on the year and one game left to add to that total. Those numbers make him a shoo-in for the Biletnikoff Award, that's for sure.

But getting to New York as a finalist is another story. Lee will still be in the mix if he plays well in a win over Notre Dame next Saturday. Working in Lee's favor in this regard is a historical precedent: Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald finished second in the Heisman vote to Jason White in 2003 despite his team losing four times. However, not much was expected of that Pitt team while USC was supposed to be great in 2012.

But if Lee helps knock down the Irish next week, Heisman voters may still keep him in mind for inclusion farther down their ballots.

After all, someone has to go to New York. 

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