We are a week away from USC opening the 2019 season. Through the years the Trojans have been part of some memorable games to open the season. One that sticks out was the 2004 BCA Kickoff at Fed-Ex Field in Landover, Maryland. It was a nationally televised game and the only college football game to kickoff the 2004 season.
The Trojans were coming off a 12-1 season which ended with a Rose Bowl victory over Michigan and an AP National Championship. Their sights were set on something higher coming into the 2004 season, a BCS National Championship. USC entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country and were the favorites to win the national championship that season. Adversity hit the team right before the season opener. Running back Hershel Dennis and offensive lineman Winston Justice were suspended for the game against Virginia Tech for violation of team rules. The biggest blow came at the hands of the NCAA when they ruled All-American wide receiver Mike Williams ineligible after trying to enter the NFL Draft following his sophomore year.
The Hokies were coming into the season unranked following their late season meltdown. They were also starting their first season as a member of the ACC after being a member of the Big East Conference the last four years. Virginia Tech was the designated away team, however it was a huge pro Hokies crowd. It felt like a huge away game for USC, but with Pete Carroll coached teams that didn’t matter.
The Trojans away from Los Angeles in a pro-Virginia Tech environment and down three key players, the No. 1 team in the country wAS going to get tested early.
USC scored the first points of the game as eventual Heisman trophy winning quarterback Matt Leinart hit Reggie Bush on a 35 yard touchdown pass to put the Trojans up 7-0. The Hokies would follow up with a field goal to end the first quarter. The USC offense would go stagnant in the second quarter while Virginia Tech found it’s groove. Virginia Tech took the lead over the No. 1 team in the nation following a 12 yard Bryan Randall touchdown pass. The Trojans would go into the half trailing 10-7.
A three point deficit in a hostile environment was nothing to the No. 1 team in the nation. The Trojans would come into the second half firing, showing everyone why they were the top team. Late in the third quarter, USC would retake the lead thanks to another Leinart to Bush connection. This time it would be a 53-yard touchdown pass. Virginia Tech would counter with field goal to trim the lead to one, from then on it was all USC. Leinart connected with Bush once again for a 29-yard touchdown to increase the lead 21-13. A Ryan Killeen field goal would ice the game for the Trojans and giving them the 24-13 victory over Virginia Tech.
Bush would finish the game with 127 receiving yards, while Leinart had 272 yards through the air. The duo would connect for a total of three touchdowns. The Trojans defense forced three turnovers in the season opening win. All-American linebacker Lofa Tatupu had the lone interception in the game.
USC would go 12-0 from there to set up a meeting with Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl for the BCS National Championship. The Trojans would blow out the Sooners 55-19 to become back-to-back national champions. USC quarterback Leinart would win the Heisman Trophy award while running back Bush would be nominated as a finalist for the award that same season. USC ended the season on a 22 game winning streak, the longest active winning streak at the time.
Virginia Tech would finish their season 10-2 and winning the ACC championship in their first season in the conference. Frank Beamers squad would earn a berth against an undefeated Auburn team that was left out of the BCS championship game. Trailing 16-0 the Hokies would go on a 13-0 fourth quarter run, but fell short as the Tigers would seal the win by recovering an onside kick.