USC 24, VIRGINIA TECH 13: Things were looking grim for the top-ranked team until the tailback caught a few passes.
By Associated Press
Published August 29, 2004
LANDOVER, Md. - Southern California found a new big-play receiver in its backfield.
Tailback Reggie Bush caught three long touchdown passes to help the No. 1 Trojans beat Virginia Tech 24-13 in a sloppy opener Saturday night in the Black Coaches Association Classic.
Bryan Randall led the Hokies with his arm and legs, throwing for a score and rushing for 82 yards. It was enough to make the defending champions work hard, but not nearly enough to pull off an upset.
The Trojans played their first game in two seasons without star receiver Mike Williams. USC found out Thursday that Williams would not be reinstated after his failed attempt to enter the NFL draft.
The Trojans said they were prepared to be without the All-American and would be okay with a group of talented but inexperienced receivers.
The results showed otherwise.
Breaking in a new group of starting wideouts, Matt Leinart found few open targets 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 when the Trojans looked as if they were in big trouble - trailing 10-7 late in the third 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 Leinart for a 53-yard touchdown with 1:55 left in the third.
Bush also opened the scoring by taking a middle screen pass 35 yards for a TD in the first quarter.
Otherwise, an offense that averaged 41 points and 447 yards last season struggled for most of three quarters against a Virginia Tech defense that is coming off its worst season in years.
Leinart picked it up in the second half and finished 19-for-29 for 272 yards, hitting 11 straight at one point. He finally found a wide receiver for a long-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 him all alone for a 29-yard score that made it 21-13 with 5:35 left and finally allowed the outnumbered Trojans fans among the 91,665 at sold-out FedEx Field to relax a little.
For a while, it looked as if the Hokies might get their first win against a No. 1 team on their seventh try.
As the Trojans failed to connect in the first half, Randall and the Hokies found a groove.
Randall's runs accounted for the bulk of the Hokies' early offense. The senior had 87 yards rushing on six carries in the first quarter, which ended with USC up 7-3.
In the second quarter, Randall burned the Trojans with his arm. He went 5-for-5 for 65 yards during a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a 12-yard touchdown to Josh Hyman for a 10-7 lead at halftime.
MURRAY ST. 56, GLENVILLE ST. 3: Nick Turner rushed for 106 yards and Ron Lane ran for another 105 as Murray State dominated Glenville State Saturday night in the season-opener for both teams. The Racers had 604 offensive yards, with 373 on the ground.