No. 1 Trojans Bush-whack Virginia Tech

Aug. 28, 2004

AP Sports Writer

LANDOVER, Md. (AP) - Southern California found a new big-play receiver inits backfield.

Tailback Reggie Bush caught three long touchdown passes to help thetop-ranked Trojans beat Virginia Tech 24-13 in a sloppy opener Saturday nightin the Black Coaches Association Classic.

Bryan Randall led the Hokies with his arm and legs, throwing for a score andrushing for 82 yards. It was enough to make the defending champions work hard,but not nearly enough to pull the upset.

The Trojans played their first game in two seasons without star receiverMike Williams. USC found out Thursday that Williams would not be reinstatedafter his failed attempt to enter the NFL draft.

The Trojans said they were prepared to be without the All-American and wouldbe OK with a group of talented but inexperienced receivers.

The results showed otherwise.

Breaking in a new group of starting wideouts, Matt Leinart found few opentargets in the first half, going 8-for-16 for 102 yards. And the Trojans'rebuilt offensive line was providing sketchy protection.

So the junior looked to Bush, and the explosive sophomore came through whenthe Trojans looked as if they were in big trouble - trailing 10-7 late in thethird quarter.

Bush lined up as a wide receiver, blew by Virginia Tech's best cornerback,Jimmy Williams, and cradled in a perfect over-the-shoulder throw from Leinartfor a 53-yard touchdown with 1:55 left in the third.

Bush also opened the scoring by taking a middle screen 35 yards for a TD inthe first quarter.

Otherwise, an offense that averaged 41 points and 447 yards last seasonstruggled for most of three quarters against a Virginia Tech defense that iscoming off its worst season in years.

Leinart picked it up in the second half and finished 19-for-29 for 272yards, hitting 11 straight at one point. He finally found a wide receiver forlong-gainer when he hit Steve Smith for 46 yards in the fourth quarter.

On the next play, Bush sneaked out of the backfield and Leinart found himall alone for a 29-yard score that made it 21-13 with 5:35 left and finallyallowed the outnumbered Trojans fans among the 91,665 at sold-out FedEx Fieldto relax a little.

For a while, it looked as if the Hokies might get their first win against aNo. 1 team on their seventh try.

As the Trojans failed to connect in the first half, Randall and the Hokiesgained confidence and found a grove.

Randall's runs accounted for the bulk of the Hokies' early offense. Theelusive senior had 87 yards rushing on six carries in the first quarter, whichended with USC up 7-3.

In the second quarter, Randall burned the Trojans with his arm. He went5-for-5 for 65 yards during a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a12-yard touchdown to Josh Hyman. The 17{-point underdog Hokies, unrankedentering the season for the first time since 1998, took a 10-7 lead intohalftime.

The Hokies had things going their way in the second half, too, until anoffensive pass interference call on Hyman wiped out a long gain and led to apunt.

USC took advantage on the next possession, sending Bush deep for the lead.

Once given a lead to protect, the Trojans defense put the squeeze onRandall. The Hokies managed just a field goal in the second half and theTrojans caused a fumble by Randall with 2:01 left that set up a field goal andsealed a much-tougher than expected win.

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