The Hokies hoped to set the college football world on its ear, and though they surprised observers with an unexpectedly stout effort against the
number one USC Trojans, they eventually succumbed to too many big plays and a controversial interference call that turned the tide of the game. USC
rode three touchdowns by Reggie Bush to a 24-13 victory over VT in the 2004 BCA Classic.
Bush scored on receptions of 35, 53, and 29 yards to subdue Virginia Tech, and USC scored the last ten points of the game to break open a 14-13
The Hokies held a 10-7 half time lead and were on the verge of scoring again midway through the third quarter when QB Bryan Randall (14-of-29, 153
yards) hit Josh Hyman for a 32-yard gain to USC's 12-yard line. But the officials ruled that Hyman pushed off on the play, a call that you could
charitably describe as "questionable," negating the gain. The Hokie drive stalled, and VT surrendered the lead on USC's next possession and
never regained it.
After the interference call, USC scored quickly on 53-yarder from Heisman candidate QB Matt Leinart (19-of-29, 272 yards) to Bush, giving the
Trojans the lead back at 14-10. The Hokies got a 42-yard field goal from Brandon Pace to make it 14-13 with 7:55 to go, adding some drama, but USC
responded with a 29-yard TD pass from Leinart to Bush that finished VT off with 5:35 to go. That made the score 21-13, USC, and after Randall fumbled
the ball away on the Hokie 26-yard line with 2:01 to go, the Trojans tacked on an insurance field goal of 41 yards for the final margin.
Virginia Tech acquitted themselves well, giving USC more of a game than most expected. The Hokies were only outgained 373-294 and won the time of
possession battle by three minutes (31:31 to 28:29). But in the critical turnover battle, the Hokies lost 2-0. USC turned Tech's two turnovers into 10
points, and that wound up accounting for most of the difference in the game.
Randall was brilliant at times, particularly early on, when he rushed for 87 yards on just six carries in the first quarter. After a slow start
passing the ball (1-of-8 in the first quarter), he hit seven straight passes as the Hokies surged from a 0-7 first quarter deficit to their 10-7 lead.
Randall ended up with 235 yards of total offense (82 rushing, 153 passing). He was Tech's leading rusher by a wide margin, ahead of Justin Hamilton (8
carries, 33 yards), and Cedric Humes (9 carries, 26 yards).
The Hokies were led in receiving by tight end Jeff King, who had 4 catches for 65 yards, and Richard Johnson, who had 3 catches for 27 yards.
Defensively, Tech got a strong performance, just not as good as it needed to be. Bush scored on a 35-yard screen play in the first quarter, and the
Hokie defense lost him a couple of times on his other two touchdowns, when he beat cornerback Jimmy Williams for the 53-yarder and linebacker Blake
Warren for the 29-yarder. And despite the fact that Leinart was 11-of-12 at one point in the second half, he worked hard for his completions and
yardage. The Hokies chased Leinart a number of times, sacking him twice (one each by Jim Davis and Darryl Tapp) and totaling six tackles for loss in
In general, the VT defense was more active and more effective than they were at the end of last season, though their youth showed in giving up the
big plays. The Hokies only gave up six plays of 20 or more yards, but unfortunately, three of those were the scoring plays by Bush.
The worst news for Tech outside of the loss is that redshirt freshman linebacker Xavier Adibi tore a bicep muscle and could be out for the entire
season. Preliminary reports indicated that surgery will be required, which would shelve Adibi for a long time, mostly likely the remainder of the 2004
Despite all the talk of VT's youth heading into the game, their statistical leaders were upperclassmen: Randall passing, Hamilton and Humes
running, and King, Richard Johnson, Humes, and Jared Mazetta receiving. Among the true and redshirt freshmen, the ones who stood out the most
offensively were Hyman, who scored on a 12-yard TD reception in the second quarter, and Eddie Royal, who returned two kickoffs for 28 yards and 30
yards but didn't catch a pass.
Redshirt freshmen Vince Hall and Chris Ellis had 3 tackles apiece, and Adibi had 2 before his injury. The Hokies were led by Tapp with 9 tackles
(1.5 TFL, 1 sack for 6 yards) and Anderson (7 tackles). Eric Green was all over the field, breaking up 2 passes and totaling 6 tackles, 1 for loss.
The loss was disappointing for the Hokies in many ways, because they put themselves in position to win but didn't come through. But they also gave
USC more of a run that most expected, particularly on offense, and the defense showed more fire and effort than the Hokie defenses that finished the
last two seasons.
Tech has next weekend off before facing Duke at home on September 11th.
Randall carried a jittery VT offense through the first quarter with 87 yards on 6 rushes. Randall picked up big gains on options and scrambles,
keeping the ball moving for 122 total yards in the first quarter, despite completing just 1 of 8 passes for 19 yards.
After Eddie Royal returned the opening kickoff out to the Hokie 28 yard line, Tech picked up a first down on a nice 16-yard option by Randall, then
punted. SC took over on their 21 yard line and put a scare into the Hokies, driving to the Tech 32-yard line and narrowly missing a touchdown pass in
the back of the end zone when Chris McFoy beat Tech's Mike Daniels deep but couldn't corral Leinart's throw.
Two more incomplete passes and two delay of games later, Southern Cal was forced to punt, and the Hokies had weathered the first USC offensive
Back down the field the Hokies went, on the strength of a 23-yard scramble by Randall and a 19-yard completion to King, which carried the Hokies to
the USC 35 and within striking distance. But Hokie fans saw shades of late 2003 when Randall left a pass across the middle a bit too low and behind
the receiver, and USC's Lofa Tatupu tipped it to himself and returned it 32 yards to the Hokie 47.
Faced with their first opportunity to bail out the offense, the Hokie defense failed miserably. On a 3rd and 10 from the Tech 35, USC caught VT in
a blitz, and Leinart dumped the ball off to Bush on a perfectly-executed screen. Bush went up the middle untouched, and with 5:59 to go in the first
quarter, SC had drawn first blood and had the Hokies back on their heels.
The Tech offense came roaring back, and behind 41 rushing yards by Randall on an option (21 yards) and a scramble out of a shotgun formation (20
yards), the Hokies charged back down the field. An illegal formation penalty -- one of three on the young Hokies in the first quarter -- threatened
the drive, but it was kept alive when a USC lineman roughed Randall on an incomplete pass by hitting him helmet-first. The drive stalled at the USC 18
yard line, and Brandon Pace came on to kick a 35-yard field goal straight down the middle. More important than the points was the fact that the Hokies
had answered USC's score with one of their own. 7-3, Trojans.
Fired up, the Hokies apparently had the Trojans three-and-out when Jim Davis sacked Leinart on 3rd and 3 from the USC 25 yard line. The officials
called a 15-yard face mask on Davis on the play, and with new life, the Trojans steamrolled downfield to Tech's 19 yard line. But Davis registered
another sack to push USC back, and in one of the biggest plays in the game at that point, USC's Ryan Killeen pushed a 35-yard field goal attempt wide
right with 11:33 to go in the second quarter.
The Hokies really got it revved up on offense then and put together a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Randall went 5-for-5 for 65 yards in the
drive, culminating in a 12-yard TD pass to Josh Hyman. Hyman caught a short flare pass to the right and turned the corner, diving into the end zone in
front of delirious Hokie fans. Pace added the extra point and it was 10-7 Hokies, with 6:19 to go.
The drive was Tech's only possession of the second quarter (save a half-ending sequence of two dives into the line), but Randall and his teammates
made it count, shaking off the jitters and letting the #1 team in the country know they were in for a game.
Now it was USC that was on their heels, and after the Hokies pinned the Trojans deep with the kickoff, USC took over on their 15 yard line and
worked the ball down the field with the run, the pass, and using their timeouts. The Trojans penetrated to the Hokie 42 yard line, where Tech's Noland
Burchette turned the tide by bursting up the middle and tackling Reggie Bush for a 3-yard loss.
USC picked up 12 on third and 14, and with 50 seconds left to go in the half, faced a 4th and 2 from the Tech 34 yard line. The Trojans called
timeout and went to a reliable short-yardage pattern for them, the quick slant. Tech's Jimmy Williams played it perfectly, cutting in front of the
receiver to bat it down and give the ball back to Tech. The Hokies gladly ran the ball into the line twice and took a 10-7 lead into half time.
Neither team did much with their opening possessions of the second half, with both teams going three and out, though Randall did complete his sixth
straight pass, a four-yard flare pass to Cedric Humes on 3rd and 8.
USC picked up one first down on their next possession before punting, and the Hokies took over the ball on their own 6-yard line for what would be
a critical possession, and one of the most talked-about plays of the game. After a 16-yard run by Hamilton and Randall's seventh straight completion
-- a beautiful 22-yard diving catch by tight end Jared Mazetta -- Randall moved the ball down to USC's 44-yard line on a well-executed 15-yard keeper
on 3rd and 13.
With the Tech offense poised to put USC down by two scores, Randall went deep, arcing the ball down the sideline to a well-covered Josh Hyman.
Hyman stopped short, cut inside the defender, and snared the pass for a 32-yard gain to the Trojan 12 … until the whistle blew, and Hyman was
whistled for pass interference.
The call pushed the Hokies back to 1st and 25 on their own 41-yard line, and it was a setback from which they would not recover. The Hokies punted,
and Reggie Bush returned it from the 6 to the 27, and from there, the Trojans went for the dagger to the heart. After a 14-yard completion to Lee
Webb, Leinart lofted a beautiful 53-yard scoring strike to Bush, who beat VT cornerback Jimmy Williams clean and put the Trojans back ahead, 14-10,
with 1:55 to go in the third.
Tech hung around after that, and the two teams traded possessions to open the fourth quarter. VT mounted their last gasp, a 9-play, 45-yard drive
that featured a 17-yard pass from Randall to King and was helped along by a personal foul penalty on USC cornerback Darnell Bing. Brandon Pace, who
was 2-for-2 on field goal attempts on the night, nailed a 42-yarder to make it 14-13, USC, with 7:55 to go.
USC then put up the touchdown that would put the game out of reach for the Hokies. After picking up a routine first down to move out to their 25
yard line, Leinart completed a deep pass to Steve Smith, who had beaten VT whip linebacker James Anderson, for 46 yards to the VT 29.
On the very next play, Leinart found Bush in coverage on Blake Warren, and Bush beat Warren easily to the goal line, catching a wide-open 29-yard
TD pass for his third score of the game, with 5:35 to go.
The two teams traded short possessions, and VT took over for a last-gasp effort from their own 36-yard line with 2:21 to go and two timeouts left.
On third and 10 from there, Mike Patterson came through the line and knocked the ball loose from the backpedaling Randall. Ronald Nunn recovered at
the Hokie 26, and with 54 seconds to go, USC put up the final points of the game, a 41-yard field goal by Killeen.