USC Trojans: Braxton Miller

Pac-12 lunch links: Richardson humble

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
11:30
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I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, "I love my best friend, Evan."
LOS ANGELES -- It was another up-beat practice for the Trojans in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on Friday as they returned to Brian Kennedy-Howard Jones Field after spending Wednesday at the Coliseum. Continuing in the initial stages of the team's prep-work for Georgia Tech, who USC is set to face in the Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 31, Trojans' head coach Lane Kiffin believes the team has come back with an extra bounce in its step after some recent time away.

"Another good practice today," Kiffin said. "I think that the break off was good for them. There was good energy out here at practice, and it was very competitive in a lot of different drills today."

Quarterback Matt Barkley arrived mid-way through practice without a helmet or shoulder pads, appearing to be in positive spirits.

Lee returns a Biletnikoff Award winner

Just as the team was leaving the field Friday morning, having concluded its workout, USC wide receiver Marqise Lee arrived on campus and made his way to a host of waiting media, fresh off winning the Biletnikoff Award in Orlando (Fla.) on Thursday Night at "The Home Depot College Football Awards."

"Obviously proud of Marqise -- as a true sophomore -- to win the Biletnikoff Award," Kiffin said. "It's a really big deal. He's the first one in the history of the school, and that credit goes obviously to him, but to a lot of other people as well."

Making 112 receptions for 1,680 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, Lee, like his coach, was quick to recognize those around him.

"My heart was racing, to tell you the truth," Lee said of the moments leading up to the announcement. "Once I won, all of my teammates came to mind, from Robert [Woods] to Barkley, to the linemen especially for maintaining their blocks and everything. We had a tough season, and just how much we put into it, this award is not necessarily just for me, it's for the coaches, and for the defensive and offensive players."

Lee said the award weighs close to 60 pounds, and that he doesn't plan to take it home -- instead leaving it on campus, possibly in the locker room so, "all of the players can enjoy it."

As far as the overall ceremony experience, Lee -- who confesses to being most comfortable in "sweats and a t-shirt" -- said he made sure to get his suit selection approved by wide receivers coach Tee Martin before he went on stage, and that his favorite part of the trip was meeting the other players nominated for awards.

"Met a lot of friends out there, and met some new people -- [Braxton] Miller, [Johnthan] Banks ... I enjoyed my time with them," Lee said. "I was with Kenjon Barner most of the time, along with Johnathan Franklin."

Now ready to get back in the flow of things after missing both of the team's practices this week, the Gardena (Calif.) Serra product already has switched his focus toward having an even bigger 2013 campaign, something that has Martin particularly impressed.

"What's so great about him is I sent him a text and just told him how proud I was of him and, 'Congratulations,' and he goes, 'Can't wait to get better. Thank you,' " Martin said. "So he's just focusing on getting back with his teammates and working to get better."

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
10:00
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Taking stock of the third week of games in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: Stanford didn't just beat No. 2 USC, it physically dominated the Trojans in a 21-14 victory, the Cardinal's record fourth consecutive win in the series. First, there was the post-Toby Gerhart Era. Then there was the post-Jim Harbaugh Era. Then there was the post-Andrew Luck Era. Maybe it's just the Stanford Era? The Cardinal is now squarely in the Rose Bowl race. And maybe the national title hunt.

[+] EnlargeJosh Nunes
Kyle Terada/US PresswireCardinal quarterback Josh Nunes had one of the biggest plays of the week in the Pac-12.
Best game: Utah's 24-21 win over BYU wasn't pretty. It wasn't, really, even deserving of a "best" tag. But it was really weird, particularly the ending, and weird is often noteworthy. On a weekend when four games came down to the fourth quarter, the Holy War had the most breathless finish because it had two breathless finishes.

Biggest play: On third-and-10 from the 50 in the fourth quarter, Stanford QB Josh Nunes was under pressure. He scrambled and found himself bottled up and cut off. Yet a player not exactly known for his athleticism juked the USC defense and cut for a 13-yard gain and a first down. Two plays later, he hit TE Zach Ertz for a 37-yard TD and a 21-14 lead, the final margin of Cardinal victory.

Biggest play II: California had No. 12 Ohio State on the ropes. The score was tied with just under four minutes left in the game, and the Buckeyes faced a third-and-7 from their 28-yard line. QB Braxton Miller was forced from the pocket, but the Bears secondary gagged and let Devin Smith get free behind the coverage. The ensuing 72-yard TD pass provided Ohio State its 35-28 margin of victory.

Biggest play III: BYU had a first-and-10 on the Utah 25-yard line, down 10-7 in the third quarter. Lined up in a shotgun formation, QB Riley Nelson wanted to change the play. While he was barking signals, his center delivered the snap, which rolled past an unaware Nelson. Utah's Mo Lee scooped up the loose ball and rambled 47 yards for a TD. The Utes would need those points in a 24-21 win.

Offensive standout: Stanford RB Stepfan Taylor was the best player on the field against USC. He rushed 27 times for 153 yards and a 59-yard TD and caught five passes for 60 yards and a 23-yard score in No. 21 Stanford's upset win over No. 2 Trojans.

Defensive standout: UCLA CB Sheldon Price matched a school record with three interceptions in the Bruins' 37-6 win over Houston.

Special teams standout: Not a lot to choose from. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas returned four punts for 87 yards against Tennessee Tech, though he did fumble one.

Smiley face: Cal RB Brendan Bigelow brought life to the Bears by doing his best De'Anthony Thomas at Ohio State, rushing for 160 yards on just four carries -- yes, an average of 40 yards per carry! He had touchdown runs of 81 and 59 yards, and both were spectacular. Might he give the Bears offense a weapon that turns around their season?

Frowny face: Can anyone kick a freaking field goal? USC has no kicker, and Arizona, California, Oregon, Stanford and Utah were a combined 1-for-10, with the Bay Area schools going 0-for-6.

Thought of the week: Two of the Pac-12's five unbeaten teams will go down this weekend because of head-to-head matchups. Arizona travels to Oregon, while UCLA plays host to Oregon State. We'll get a better measure of contenders and pretenders this weekend.

Questions for the week: Is Oregon's Thomas ready to make a Heisman Trophy statement against Arizona? The set-up seems perfect: an ESPN game against a questionable defense. With USC and QB Matt Barkley going down, the Heisman race has opened up. Can Thomas be his fancy self and win the affection of the pundits?

Matt Barkley making most of short throws

September, 11, 2012
9/11/12
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In order to win a Heisman Trophy, candidates must find a way to separate themselves from the competition. One amazing performance can vault a player into the national spotlight, and one bad game can end a player’s Heisman aspirations.

In Week 2, there were several outstanding performances by potential Heisman Trophy candidates, led once again by USC’s senior quarterback.

Matt Barkley had 187 yards passing and threw a school-record six touchdowns in USC’s 42-29 victory over Syracuse.

Barkley became the first FBS quarterback in the last 12 seasons to throw at least six touchdown passes with less than 200 yards passing in a game. Barkley has 20 touchdown passes in his last four games, six more than any other player in FBS during that span. He kept his passes short in a stormy MetLife Stadium, averaging a career-low 3.7 air yards per attempt. USC’s receivers turned these short passes into big gains with 137 yards coming after the catch -- the 10th straight game that the Trojans gained 100 yards after the catch.

With his play the first two weeks of this season, UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin has vaulted himself into the Heisman discussion.

Franklin had 217 rushing yards on 26 attempts in the Bruins’ 36-30 upset of Nebraska. It was his second consecutive 200-yard rushing game and third of his career. Franklin’s 215.5 rushing yards per game leads FBS this season. In fact, he’s averaging more than 90 teams. Franklin leads FBS with six runs that gained 20 yards or more, and is one of two players with two touchdown runs of at least 60 yards.

Ohio State’s Braxton Miller accounted for a career-high four touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) and 296 yards in Ohio State’s 31-16 win against UCF. Miller gained 141 yards on the ground, his second-straight 100-yard game and seventh of his career. Only Terrelle Pryor has more 100-yard games rushing than Miller among Ohio State quarterbacks. Miller gained a career-high 106 rushing yards inside the tackles, including two touchdowns. After averaging 4.6 yards per rush between the tackles last season, Miller is averaging 7.2 yards in 2012.

After being kept in check by Alabama, Denard Robinson was back to making plays with his arm and his legs.

In Michigan’s 31-25 win over Air Force, he completed 14-of-25 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he had 20 carries for 218 yards and two more touchdowns. It was his third career game with at least 200 rushing yards and at least 200 passing yards, the most among all FBS players since 2000. Robinson gained 211 of his 218 rushing yards on 19 designed-running plays. During Michigan’s Week 1 loss to Alabama, the Wolverines called only six designed-running plays for Robinson, who gained 25 yards.

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