Marqise Lee felt ill Thursday night, less than 48 hours before USC's Saturday game against Washington.
He didn't know what exactly what it was -- he called it a "slight fever." But, on the advice of his coaches, he checked himself in to USC's student health center Friday morning, was treated with an intravenous drip, then went late to the team's downtown hotel for last-minute prep for the Huskies.
Then he accounted for 162 all-purpose yards during Saturday's game, with nine catches for 74 yards and a touchdown and an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. And he did it on a day where USC's passing game wasn't doing much of anything, as sophomore sensation Robert Woods had just five total yards through the air.
Considering the circumstances, the true freshman Lee proved to his head coach, Lane Kiffin, and plenty of outside observers that he could carry the load for this offense as a No. 1 receiver. He won't be stealing Woods' spot anytime soon, but, for the final two games of this season and all 12 or 13 games next season, USC will clearly be operating with two No. 1's.
Kiffin praised the 19-year-old after Saturday's game.
"I thought Marqise -- and I'll get in trouble for this, I'm sure -- arguably looked like the best player on the field today," Kiffin said.
At times earlier this year, there were questions about whether quarterback Matt Barkley was locking into Woods too often on drop-backs.
Barkley doesn't hear those questions anymore.
"I don't really look to Robert on every play or anything," Barkley said Saturday. "When I see him one-on-one, obviously, the ball's usually going to him just because of the matchup. But I do have confidence in Marqise as much as I do in Robert.
"And I've had that for quite some time now. I feel comfortable with going to him whatever the matchup is."
Kiffin, USC's second-year head coach, focused on Lee's competitiveness.
"That's who he is," Kiffin said. "He's a competitor, and that's why he's been successful at everything in his life. No matter what sport you put him in, he's gonna find a way to win.
"Like we said earlier in the year, he's gonna be one of the best ones to ever play here for sure."
Kiffin has said the same thing about Woods, and there's no reason to believe he won't be right about both. But one of the biggest differences between Woods and Lee, the high school teammates and longtime friends, is in how they respond to those comments from their coach.
Ask Woods, and he'll deflect it entirely, going on about his offensive line or his quarterback. Ask Lee, and he'll embrace it and talk about the pressure it puts on him.
"It's amazing to hear your head coach say that," Lee said Sunday. "But now it sets up the thing where he says it and now you have to live up to it. You can't just basically predict your game off that. I can't just lay back now.
"Now I gotta pick it up even more than I've already done."