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USC's Marqise Lee outshines Derek Carr in Las Vegas Bowl


LAS VEGAS -- Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr's senior season has lived up to almost every expectation imaginable, with a Mountain West Conference championship and an FBS-leading 4,866 passing yards and 48 touchdowns passes coming into Saturday's game against USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.

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USC wide receiver Marqise Lee's junior season has been anything but what was imagined coming into the year, hampered by injuries and delivering several less-than-stellar showings when he has been on the field.

Both Lee and Carr are regarded as top prospects in the 2014 NFL Draft, and Saturday, they each had one more chance this season to showcase their skills in Vegas. Looking healthy for the first time all year, Lee had one of his best games in his disappointing junior season. Carr, on the other hand, was undone all afternoon by constant USC pressure, in a performance that will not dissuade questions about how the senior might translate to the NFL.

College Football 24/7 did a quarter-by-quarter analysis of the top senior quarterback and standout wide receiver. Here's a look at how the two fared:

First quarter

Lee notched only his third touchdown catch of the season, using a simple 10-yard square-in to get behind the Bulldogs defense. Lee had three receptions for 19 yards, took a carry off a fly sweep for six yards, and delivered some physical downfield blocking in the run game. With Fresno State's insistence on playing single coverage on Lee, it feels like only a matter of time before he rips off a trademark big play.

For Carr, he got off to a solid start by hitting Isaiah Burse on a slant for an 8-yard score. Carr also showed great recognition by identifying running back Marteze Waller had free space up the middle against an overload USC blitz and dumping the ball off for a 19-yard catch-and-run.

But Carr seemingly jammed his left shoulder bracing a fall late in the quarter, which will be worth monitoring the rest of the way.

NFL Media Analyst Daniel Jeremiah said the quick-hitting nature of the Fresno State offense, intended to slow down the strong USC pass rush, made it difficult to get a good feel on Carr.

Second quarter

Lee has never looked better this season, Carr has never looked worse.

Lee matched his output from the entire 13-game game regular season with his second touchdown catch of the first half, taking a crossing route and slicing through the Fresno State defense for 40 yards. The play showed the kind of burst and fluidity that a series of injuries sapped from the electric junior.

The only question left is whether Lee can rack up the eight catches necessary to pass Robert Woods for the USC career receptions record before taking a seat in this romp.

Carr, too, might be going to the bench early, but it won't be in celebration. Carr looked absolutely rattled by the USC pass rush, missing two sure-fire touchdown passes to Davante Adams with atrocious overthrows, caused mainly because he could not set his feet.

Finishing the half averaging a brutal 3.9 yards per pass attempt, the performance seems to be vindicating the executive that told reporter Albert Breer that said Carr was not a first-round pick.

Third quarter

Just when it looked like Carr and Fresno State had a glimmer of hope of making a game of it, USC cornerback Josh Shaw intercepted a pass in the end zone to end the quarter.

Carr was 8 of 16 in the quarter for 75 yards with one touchdown, but he continued to fail to hit any of the big plays necessary to offset the relentless USC defensive line, which has snuffed out several drives.

Lee appeared to favor his leg at one stretch, but returned to action and is now nearing his third 100-yard game of the season.

Fourth quarter

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It wasn't his signature performance -- that would be the upset win at Oregon in 2011 -- but Lee capped his best effort of a disappointing third year with a 36-yard catch that salted the game away. The Trojans dominated from start to finish, winning 45-20.

Lee finished with seven catches and a season-high 118 receiving yards and caught two of Cody Kessler's four touchdown passes, giving himself some much-needed momentum if he is to declare for the draft as expected.

Carr, on the other hand, has work to do.

Throwing for 217 yards, his second-lowest total of the season, Carr showcased erratic accuracy and shaky footwork in completing only 29 of 54 passes with two touchdowns and one interception. He will need a strong showing at the Senior Bowl to restore his standing as a potential first-round selection.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.



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