LANDOVER, Maryland (Ticker) -- Top-ranked Southern California may have found a solution for playing without All-American wide receiver Mike Williams - bring Reggie Bush out of the backfield.
Bush caught a career-high three touchdown passes from Matt Leinart as the Trojans began their quest for a second straight national title with a 24-13 triumph over Virginia Tech in the Black Coaches Association Football Classic.
Bush, a sophomore known for his speed, had just nine carries for 27 yards but had five receptions for 127 yards for the Trojans (1-0), who have won their last 10 games.
"I want to contribute every game, catching touchdowns or running for touchdowns, whatever," Bush said. "But the important thing is that we win the game, no matter how it comes."
"He is a fast kid and a smart player," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He was able to understand what we're trying to do out there and he really made a difference. It worked out well that the match-ups with him were in our favor and he was able to outrun them."
USC was clinging to a 14-13 lead when Leinart found Bush down the right sideline for a 29-yard touchdown - the duo's third scoring connection - with 5:35 remaining.
"We knew a lot about Reggie Bush and he is a guy that turns a game around in a hurry," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "He matched up really well with our linebackers and we knew on the one touchdown it was going to be a wheel route, but our player (Blake Warren) fell down."
Virginia Tech twice went three-and-out before USC's Ryan Killeen capped the scoring with a 41-yard field goal with 54 seconds left.
"They were adjusting well to what we were doing on offense and in the second half we just utilized Reggie a little more," Leinart said. "We put him out there and let his speed take over. They were stacking the box and we knew we had to go outside on them and line him up out there. He is such a threat to run and catch the ball."
Virginia Tech, which joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in the offseason, held a 10-7 third-quarter lead when receiver Josh Hyman was called for offensive pass interference after an apparent 32-yard reception to the USC 12. The Hokies (0-1) were forced to punt four plays later, and Leinart soon found Bush for a 53-yard TD strike down the left sideline with 1:55 left in the period that gave the Trojans the lead for good.
"You get some calls and some calls go against you," Beamer said. "I didn't see it, but it was a tough call because of where the ball was and the momentum (swing) when it came back with a long yardage situation. There is nothing you can do, you just have continue to play. That thing did get kind of turned around there for us."
"That's the type of play that changes a game," Randall said. "We don't get that play and then they get the ball and score instead of us getting into the red zone. That's one of those plays you wish you had back."
Leinart, the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year in 2003 after leading the Trojans to a split national title with Louisiana State, completed 19-of-29 passes for 272 yards without an interception.
Williams signed with an agent in the offseason and was denied by the NCAA in his appeal for reinstatement on Thursday, just before the Trojans flew to the East Coast.
"The thing with Mike is that it is over now," Leinart said. "He is still a part of us I actually talked to him today, but we have a lot of weapons and we showed it tonight with Dwayne (Jarrett) and Steve Smith. We're still going to play the same way, no matter who we have."
Hokies quarterback Bryan Randall completed 14-of-29 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran 17 times for 82 yards.
The first meeting between the teams drew a record 91,665 fans to FedEx Field. It was the largest crowd ever to see Virginia Tech, which has lost four games in a row.
Midway through the first quarter, Trojans linebacker Lofa Tatupu intercepted a pass from Randall at the USC 21 and raced to the Virginia Tech 47. Shortly thereafter, Bush caught a screen pass from Leinart and sprinted untouched 35 yards up the middle to give USC a 7-0 lead with 5:59 left in the period.
The edge was 7-3 when Killeen was wide right on a 35-yard kick 3 1/2 minutes into the second quarter. Virginia Tech marched down the field and grabbed a 10-7 lead on a 12-yard pass from Randall to Hyman with 6:19 left in the half. It was Hyman's first career reception.