LOS ANGELES – Nelson Agholor had just 107 receiving yards through the first eight games of his career. He surpassed that total with 162 yards receiving on just six catches in USC’s 62-51 loss against Oregon last Saturday.
It was a coming out party of sorts for the freshman from Tampa, Fla. He actually led the team in receiving yards in the most complete game of his young career.
With Marqise Lee and Robert Woods combing for the most receiving yards by a USC tandem in school history the week prior at Arizona, USC head coach Lane Kiffin knew there would be opportunities for the freshman to make plays.
“They get paid too to coach,” said Kiffin of the Oregon coaching staff. “So (we thought) they were going to come out and try to shut down 9 and 2 and so we had some things in for Nelson and he played great.”
Agholor’s receiving yards could have been drastically more. He nearly scored the first touchdown of the game for the Trojans. Matt Barkley threw a ball to Agholor up the sideline. The freshman appeared to make the catch while falling into the endzone for a 44-yard score. One official ruled it a catch but another official came in an overruled the original call.
Kiffin challenged the play but the ruling on the field was upheld. Agholor wasn’t able to continue the catch to the turf.
“As a receiver I need to stay more focused and come down with it, ground or not,” Agholor said. “I have to make sure it’s 100 percent clear between myself the officials and everybody that it’s a touchdown, go up with the ball and come down with it.”
Marqise Lee finished with 157 yards receiving. The duo’s performance against Oregon could be a sneak peek into what the USC wide receiving corp. Could be like next season if Robert Woods elects to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Staying in the present, he showed he’s capable of carrying a load and providing the team with a more than serviceable third option to finish this season. Although the numbers haven’t been there for him throughout the season, Kiffin has compared Agholor to Lee and Woods in terms of his preparation and thirst for knowledge. Kiffin has found Agholor watching extra film when nobody was around, which he says is rare for a freshman.
Agholor’s touchdown reception, a 76-yard strike from Barkley in the second quarter, was his first as a Trojan. While he was able to admit he was “happy” about his contributions, his mood was soured by the loss.
“I’m here to win games not to make stats or anything like that,” he said. “One thing I will tell you is I think I grew from this loss too. There’s things I can learn from because there were plays that I did not make.”
Saturday was the first 100-yard receiving game for a Trojan this season not named Lee or Woods.