USC topples Hokies in BCA Football Classic
By Jimmy Robertson
August 29, 2004

The University of Southern California, ranked No. 1 in both the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll and the Associated Press poll, withstood a spirited effort from the Virginia Tech Hokies to notch a hard-fought 24-13 win over Tech in the BCA Football Classic played in front of more than 91,000 fans at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

With the loss, Tech fell to 0-7 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams. But it certainly wasn't the blowout that many expected between the nation's top-ranked team and a double-digit underdog.

Tech stayed in the game and actually led for a large portion of it until USC scored late in the third quarter to take a lead it never would relinquish. The Hokies simply couldn't overcome the tandem of USC quarterback Matt Leinhart and tailback Reggie Bush as Leinhart threw three touchdown passes - all to Bush.

USC grabbed the lead late in the third quarter when Leinhart, one of the top candidates for the Heisman Trophy, found Bush matched up against Tech cornerback Jimmy Williams and he took advantage, hitting Bush with a perfect pass on a fly pattern. Bush hauled it in for a 53-yard score and Killeen's extra point gave USC a 14-10 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter.

Tech managed to cut the lead to 14-13 midway through the fourth on Brandon Pace's 42-yard field goal with 7:55 left in the game. But Leinhart and Bush hooked up again. With 5:35 left, Leinhart hit Bush for a 29-yard touchdown that gave USC a 21-13 lead and essentially put the game away.

USC, the defending co-national champions, got on the board first in this one by taking advantage of a Tech turnover. The Hokies drove deep into USC territory, but starting quarterback Bryan Randall misfired trying to hit Richard Johnson on a slant and USC linebacker Lofa Tatupu picked it off. Tatupu returned it to the Tech 47, giving USC great field position.

The Trojans capitalized. On third-and-10 from the Tech 35, the Trojans caught Tech in a blitz and Leinhart dumped the ball to Bush. Bush burst up the middle and dodged Vinnie Fuller before strolling into the end zone. Ryan Killeen's extra point gave the Trojans a 7-0 lead with 5:59 left in the first quarter.

Tech answered on its next possession. Taking over at their own 20, the Hokies marched 62 yards in nine plays, eating more than four minutes off the clock before stalling at the USC 18. The Hokies, though, got on the board when Brandon Pace drilled a 35-yard field goal with 1:42 left in the first quarter to cut the USC lead to 7-3. That field goal marked the first of the redshirt sophomore's career.

Tech took the lead midway through the second quarter. Fired up after Killeen missed a 35-yard field goal, the Hokies went 80 yards in nine plays. The drive ended when Randall hit redshirt freshman Josh Hyman on a short out pattern and Hyman went 12 yards for the score. The touchdown, Hyman's first catch and score of his career, gave the Hokies a 10-7, which Tech took into the locker room at halftime.

Randall provided most of the offense for the Hokies in this one. He completed 14-of-24 for 153, with one touchdown and one interception. Redshirt junior Justin Hamilton paced Tech's rushing attack, gaining 33 yards on 8 carries for the Hokies, who finished with 36 yards of total offense.

Leinhart and Bush teamed to handle most of USC's attack. Leinhart completed 19-of-29 for 272 yards, with three touchdowns. Bush caught 5 passes for 127 yards and three touchdowns. Bush also rushed for 27 yards for the Trojans and finished with 258 yards of total offense.

USC scored the final points of the game on a Killeen 41-yard field goal with 54 seconds remaining in the game. USC got the ball on a Randall fumble at the Tech 26 to set up the kick.

The Hokies have off next weekend. They gear up for their home opener on Sept. 11 when Western Michigan comes to Blacksburg. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. and the game will not be televised.