No. 1 USC Earns Hard Fought Win Over No. 16 Fresno State
Nov. 19, 2005
LOS ANGELES (AP) - No. 1 Southern California got another major scare Saturday night. But the electrifying Reggie Bush, playing the game of his life, wouldn't let the Trojans lose.
Bush, making a strong Heisman Trophy statement, ran for a career-high 294 yards on 23 carries and scored twice, leading the Trojans to a wild 50-42 victory over No. 16 Fresno State and keeping their hopes alive for an unprecedented third straight national championship.
Bush, a Heisman finalist as a sophomore last year, also caught three passes for 68 yards and set a Pac-10 record with 513 all-purpose yards, easily breaking the USC standard of 368 set by Anthony Davis against Notre Dame in 1972.
"I was really feeling it - I was in sync tonight," Bush said.
"How about Reggie! He was electric all night long," USC coach Pete Carroll said. "He's just got the magic. You've got to be in love with him. He was firing and roaring."
The win was the 33rd straight for USC and its 26th in a row at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where a crowd of 90,007 watched the 23-point underdog Bulldogs give the Trojans all they could handle.
USC (11-0, 7-0 Pac-10) kept its streak alive Oct. 15 by scoring on Matt Leinart's 1-yard run by with 3 seconds remaining for a 34-31 victory at Notre Dame. This game came close to rivaling that one in fourth-quarter drama.
"This team really does believe. They believe in themselves and each other," Carroll said. "This was a hard night - a really good job by Fresno. They really made it hard.
"They're a highly ranked team - they should be in the Top 10, easily."
Fresno State (8-2, 6-0 WAC) scored twice in a span of 12 seconds to take a 42-41 lead with 9:47 left. After Paul Pinegar's 6-yard touchdown pass to Joe Fernandez, Bush made perhaps his only mistake of the game, fumbling the ensuing kickoff. Jason Huss recovered, and Wendell Mathis ran 18 yards for a touchdown on the next play.
"It was just a great football player trying to make something happen," Carroll said. "It broke his heart when he fumbled the ball. But that wasn't the end of the game."
The Trojans then moved 89 yards to take a 47-42 lead, scoring on a 2-yard run by LenDale White before a two-point conversion attempt failed. The big play of the drive was a 43-yard pass from Leinart to Bush, putting the ball at the Fresno State 21.
Three plays later, Lawrence Jackson sacked Pinegar and forced a fumble, which Brian Cushing recovered at the Fresno State 15. That set up a 26-yard field goal by Mario Danelo with 3:06 to play to complete the scoring.
The Bulldogs moved to the USC 25 before Darnell Bing intercepted a pass by Pinegar at the goal line and returned it 40 yards. The Trojans then ran out the clock.
"That game had to go 15 rounds," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "It wasn't a TKO in the first round. Obviously, No. 5 (Bush) is a great, great player. USC showed why they've won 33 games in a row.
"There's no consolation in losing. It's not about moral victories, it's about winning."
Bush said while he isn't focused on winning the Heisman Trophy, he's "grateful and thankful for (being considered a candidate). I'm more concerned about the team winning football games."
Regarding his fumble, Bush said: "All the coaches told me to keep my head in the game, and that's what I did."
Leinart completed 22 of 33 passes for 200 yards and one touchdown. Pinegar was 27-of-45 for 317 yards and four TDs with four costly interceptions. Mathis gained 109 yards on 23 carries.
"We were right there on the doorstep," Pinegar said. "We had a shot to win this game, and we didn't take advantage of our opportunities."
Pinegar passed for 203 yards and two touchdowns as the Bulldogs took a 21-13 halftime lead - the fourth time USC has trailed at the half this season.
The Trojans responded by scoring three times in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the third period on a 1-yard sneak by Leinart, a 45-yard run by Bush and a 6-yard pass from Leinart to Steve Smith. Interceptions by Brandon Ting and Bing set up two of the TDs.
The Bulldogs drew within six points on a 20-yard pass from Pinegar to Paul Williams, and had a chance to take the lead after a 57-yard punt return by Adam Jennings. But on third-and-goal from the 8, Scott Ware intercepted Pinegar's pass at the goal line and returned it 30 yards. That set up a 50-yard scoring run by Bush, putting USC ahead 41-28 late in the third quarter.
Fresno State moved 81 yards on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead, scoring when Jermaine Jamison caught Devyn McDonald's fumble at the 1 and went into the end zone to complete a 13-yard pass play.
USC needed less than 2 1/2 minutes to tie the game, getting a 5-yard touchdown run from White one play after Bush broke loose for a 65-yard run.
Fresno State faked a punt from its 44 on the last play of the first quarter, and it worked as Josh Sherley gained 2 yards in a fourth-and-1 situation. That was the key play in a 65-yard drive capped by Roshon Vercher's 1-yard run that put the Bulldogs on top 14-7.
Danelo kicked the first of his three field goals, this one from 25 yards, but Fresno State responded by moving 55 yards after a 42-yard kickoff return by Jennings for a 21-10 lead, scoring on a 14-yard pass from Pinegar to Fernandez.
Danelo's 31-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the half drew USC within eight points.