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Marqise Lee is at his best in possible USC Trojans finale


LAS VEGAS -- Sin City is full of imitators: fake Elvises, celebrity look-a-likes, superheroes and cartoon characters in cheap costumes. But in the Las Vegas Bowl, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee was the real deal, showing his lousy regular season where he looked like anything but the unanimous All-America honors he earned the previous year was the product of injuries and other instances.

Lee had a season-high 118 receiving yards on seven receptions, doubling his touchdown total with scoring strikes of 10 and 40 yards.

"I felt 100 percent. I felt like myself," Lee said.

His trademark explosiveness was evident from pregame warmups, when Lee looked as spry as he had going back to spring practice. And it came through when Lee caught a simply crossing route and turned it upfield to run through the Fresno State secondary.

"If you give Marqise Lee just an inch, just like you saw today, he is going to catch an in route that is thrown on time and he is going to take it the distance," offensive coordinator Clay Helton, who served as interim coach for the 45-20 win, said.

Lee's performance could have been even more impressive, as the Bulldogs surprisingly insisted on trying to single-cover both the electric junior and sophomore Nelson Agholor, but quarterback and game most valuable player Cody Kessler found Agholor for a pair of touchdowns as well.

Helton said he knew Lee was due for a dominant performance, free of the shoulder, knee and shin injuries that forced him to miss three games and limited him to 50 receptions for 673 yards and two touchdowns.

"You could see it," Helton said. "He practiced like a pro this week. We knew he was going to do big things today. I wish he could have been healthier earlier in the season, but we are just thankful for all that he did for us throughout the season, even with injury. You can see what he can do when he is healthy."

Whether Lee will be doing that for the Trojans or in the NFL next season is still unknown. Lee said he has yet to receive his evaluation from the draft advisory board and plans to meet with new coach Steve Sarkisian, wide receiver coach Tee Martin and athletic director Pat Haden before making a decision, which is likely to come in the next two weeks.

The dominating nature of the 10th win of a chaotic season gives Lee (6-foot-0, 195 pounds) another factor to consider.

"What makes my decision so hard is you know how good the team is going to be next year based on the performance we put in today," Lee said.

And if this is to be his last game at USC, Lee said he hoped to be remember as just one member of a great team.

"I did what I was supposed to do. I just played hard at the end of the day, a team player," Lee said. "Luckily it turned out good for me."

Modest words from a real star, whose performance in this city showed it once more, perhaps for the final time.

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