The Not So Obvious –The BCA Classic experience was a wonderful Trojan four-day traveling and game experience, and the O/NSO found the combination of football, politics, history, and environment a "capital" moment. For those that couldn't make it and for those who did, pull up a chair and let's do some cardinal and gold debriefing of the victorious Trojan trip east.
Thursday – Aug. 26
6:30 a.m. – Wake up thinking I better get up and start adjusting to East Coast time. Nah, I am going back to sleep. But now I am distracted by the thought it's already 9:30 in DC. My time East Coast time-change paranoia starts kicking in, and my mind starts fantasizing how hot and humid it's going to be. Stop it! Only way to deal with this is to go back to hit the snooze button.
8:30 – NOW it's time to wake up. It hits me. It's already 11:30 in DC and time for lunch. Maybe I should eat lunch now and skip breakfast. Can't do it. I go downstairs and have the usual bowl of microwaved hot oat bran and slice of toasted cinnamon swirl bread. As the oat bran cools, I check the web to learn that a seat has been reserved on this afternoon's Trojan Delta charter for Mike Williams – if the NCAA gives the all clear.
10:30 – Our American Airlines flight doesn't leave till 2:30 p.m., so figure I should take the heart out for a walk. On goes the Walkman and like Reggie Bush searching for daylight, I start searching for some Trojan talk on 1540, 690, and 710. Too much Ricky Williams talk. Too much Olympic men's basketball talk. Too much Darren Dreifort talk. Let's talk Trojan football.
12:05 p.m. – Turn on 1540 knowing that Petros is broadcasting live from DC. The waiting game for USC football can be difficult for even the most docile Trojan fan, especially when travel is involved. Despite his somewhat bombastic style, the voice of Papadakis from the nation's capital brings a sense of beginning to the season, and The Golden Greek says the game will be low scoring. The odds say a rout.
1:15. – Grandma Anne, the Brooklyn mother-in-law, comes by to take "us" to the Marion Robert Morrison Airport, er, John Wayne Airport. Having packed the necessary Trojan wearing attire and one last check of the odds for Saturday night's FedEx affair, its time to begin the BCA Classic odyssey.
1:40 – Easy check-in at John Wayne, but where are the Trojan fans? Actually, this is the best time to go. Line for security is shorter than the Pinocchio ride at Disneyland in October. Geez, forgot my American Airlines earphones.
2:20 - Board plane for Dallas and finally make eye contact with a Trojan fan in a similar hat. We exchange the "cool" raised eyebrow greeting
2:41 – TAKE OFF. So long Arnold Schwarzeneggerland.
2:59 – In the isle seat next to Mrs. 23Blast, is a woman who says her father graduated from the USC pharmacy school. We are among friends.
7:40 (CT) – Land in Dallas. Go to favorite sandwich shop, Au Bon Pan, and order the toasted turkey club. Mind races to Saturday's game and hope Trojans don't play like a turkey club.
7:55 – Between stops in Dallas, two boys are in the waiting area watching Star Wars on a laptop. One of the boys sees my Trojan hat and asks, "Are you going to the game, too?" Now we're getting some fan momentum.
8:20 – Depart for DC and Reagan National Airport. More Trojan fans make connecting flight. A couple sees me and gives the "Fight On" greeting that drives my wife nuts. One must expect this from Wisconsin Badger alum. Notice as the plane goes to runway, the lines on the ground guiding the pilot out of the terminal are cardinal and gold. A good omen.
11:20 – We are told by the flight crew that flying into DC has a rule that nobody is allowed to get out of their seat 30 minutes prior to landing. Better not drink too much water. It is a chilling reminder of the times in which we live.
Friday – August 27
12:29 a.m. (ET) – Plane banks right and we see an awesome view of the Washington National Mall with look of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the U.S. Capitol. It is both a stunning and patriotic view. It pays to sit on the left side of the plane coming into DC.
12:30 – "Touchdown DC!" Of course "Touchdown USC" would be the next best announcement. Old pal Gouxgate comes up and gives the O/NSO the news that Mike Williams has been denied on both counts. Thanks for the good news, Gouxgate. Denied on both counts means the NCAA had no intention of clearing Williams. Take a $12 taxis ride to the Holiday Inn Capitol, a nice hotel very close to The Mall behind the National Air Space Museum. Been the Holiday inn Capitol before and love the location, location, location.
8:45 – Hotel wake-up call. Just love the three-hour time difference of the East Coast.........not. Hit the snooze button.
9:00 – True Trojans love to sleep in. Open the complimentary USA Today under the door and read the Mike Williams story. Even though the outcome was known last night, I still feel my breakfast appetite leaving me.
11:30 – Take Metro (subway) and bus transfer out to the Frederick Douglas historical house. Douglas was the original Martin Luther King. A statesman, former slave, human rights activist, and author, he has an impressive house on Cedar Hill, just outside the main DC sites. Maybe Douglas could convince the NCAA about the Mike Williams case.
1:29 p.m. – Upon passing the Washington Monument, we see our first Hokie fan wearing a Chicago maroon and orange T-shirt. The enemy is among us. Members of the Trojan Marching Band walk by and give the "Fight On" sign and I miss it. Mrs. 23blast literally tells me to give "the sign" back to Art Bartner's kids. Shhhhhh, she's catching on!
1:30. – Head to World War Two Memorial. Plenty of Trojans and plenty more Virginia Hokie fans at the site. The memorial is smaller than I thought it would be but very impressive. Of course, Mrs. 23blast has to say she thinks it is bigger. We should change our names to Mr. and Mrs. Opposites. I look up my father in the computer bank and see Howard Katz. We take a slide photo of it. This place is sacred ground.
1:43 – The weather is a bit muggy but manageable. A visitor walks up and asks, "Is there a USC alumni meeting here in Washington? There are so many USC people in town." Yeah, the meeting is being held at FedEx Field tomorrow. Wife points out that the presidential helicopter is flying into the South Lawn of the White House.
2:33 – Walk to South Lawn of the White House, where there are cement pylons and visible security folks. At this time, it's as close as you can get unless you have a special congressman tour invitation. It looks like a convention of Trojan and Hokie fans. The heat is still not too bad and the humidity isn't either, although I am sweating like UCLA QB Drew Olson being chased by Shaun Cody. We walk to the front of White House where cars are no longer allowed to travel. In fact, nobody is allowed to get close to the front of America's most famous address as work is being done for security and future public walking access. It is now a road bypass.
3:20 – We continue to walk now like zombies to the National Holocaust Museum. The large museum is a sad reminder of man's inhumanity to man. From there we hit the National History Museum. As we leave the museum, one of the security officers says to me, " You better win tomorrow because I am from Ventura!" Great, the whole game rests on my shoulders. Cop says he gonna come looking for me if the Trojans choke on the upset apple.
7:00 – Return to the Holiday Inn Capitol and turn on ESPN GameDay with the three wise men of college football. Lee Corso predicts a Trojan blowout and Ohio St. Kirk says the game will be closer than you think. I tend to go with the Buckeye fair-haired boy. Chris Fowler won't give a prediction despite taunting of the other two mentors.
8:15 – Lying in bed reading the Washington Post and the Mike Williams case. Of the "new" NCAA, Pete Carroll says, "There's supposed to be a tone of student friendliness, but that's not the case here. I'am talking about the NCAA at the highest level." Right-on, Pete! They can kiss your Tarkanian.
8:17 – Read another Post article about the game. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster says all he needs is for his defensive backs to give four seconds of good coverage on the Trojans' young and inexperienced receivers and Matt Leinart will be in trouble. Foster says, "Maybe we can create some confusion up front and hope the timing might be off from the passing game standpoint."
8:45 – So are me and honey going out to Georgetown for a little party action tonight? Nope. The little woman says her legs and feet are tired from all the walking. Says she's taking a bath. Good, then I am going down to the free Internet bar downstairs and do some surfing.
Saturday – August 28
8:30 a.m. – GAMEDAY!! Finally!!! Wake up to news that our crack men's Olympic team has lost again in an "upset" to Argentina, one of the world's great basketball powers. Hmm, the word "upset" could also rear its ugly head if the Trojans aren't ready for VT. The Washington Post has story about Virginia Tech's youth and how it will effect tonight's game. What about the Trojans' youth? When you're number one, nobody cares about your youth problems. As Tommy Lasorda once said, "Ninety-percent of the people don't care about your problems and the other ten-percent are glad you have them."
11:00 – Go over to the Capitol for basic tour, but the place has really changed since our last visit. What once was more like a library in the freedom of coming and going, you must now pick up a ticket with an allotted time at the bottom of The Hill. Of course, we should have contacted our congressman before coming and some of this stuff would have been prearranged. Security around the place is really intense, and you really see the difference if you have done this tour before. In general, lots of cement barricades and the whole city is undergoing massive security reconstruction. What a world this planet has become. We'll come back for our 1:10 p.m. tour.
11:20 – We head over to the National Archives building and view the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Since our last visit, the Declaration of Independence has really faded. However, you can still make out the name of John Hancock as he had intended. Leaving the National Archives, a Virginia Tech family sees our Trojan "uniform" and the Hokie family's daughter who is wearing a Hokie shirt turns her back to me so I can see the big Chicago maroon logo. Hokie fans aren't in awe of the Trojans, yet.
12:00 p.m. - As we leave for Ford's Theatre, Hokie fans are everywhere and a car drives by with huge VT lettering on the side panels, and a license plate that reads "VA-TECH." We pass by the FBI building and a sign informs us there are no tours until 2006. Wow, the FBI and Trojan practices are two of the most difficult places to enter these days.
1:10 – Return to the Capitol and take a tour that takes us into the Rotunda, the Hall of Statues, and the old Supreme Court chambers. Upon departing, a rather large security guard asks if we are going to the game. He says we will love FedEx Field, but the food is rather pricey.
3:00 – Last pre-game stop is to the Smithsonian museum for American history, and they have a really cool third-floor display on American presidents. Place is crawling with artifacts like the hat Lincoln wore the night he was assassinated, FDR's glasses, Washington's military uniform, and Bill Clinton's saxophone. Other American stuff in the building includes Archie Bunker's chair, Howdy Doody, Charlie McCarthy, and a dress worn by Carol Burnett in one of her old lady characters.
5:30 – Depart L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station on the Blue Line for FedEx Field. We are buying all-day Metro passes at $6.50 and believe me, it's worth it. The Blue Line is packed with Virginia Tech fans. It is a tremendous tribute to their backing of their team.
5:47 – The little woman wants to know what is a Hokie? A young, teenage Hokie fan, whose father is a professor at VT, with pride says, "I really don't know either." The Hokie dad says he hopes the Trojan don't embarrass his team. He says his father went to USC. So many USC and VT connections.
6:00 – Metro stops at Addison and we take a $5 bus transfer for the balance of the roundtrip to FedEx. It's a Hokie mob scene. The transportation for this game is incredibly well organized. On the bus transfer, you don't pay until you reach the stadium, which cuts down on the time.
6:25 – Arrive at FedEx Field. The facility, called by some the best in the NFL, is an awesome sight. Surrounded by trees and nature, it has a real college atmosphere. The drop-off point is an easy walk to the stadium. Our bus passes by a huge Trojan tailgate party.
6:29 -There they are; the Trojan Marching Band in full regatta. The blood is starting to pump. Scalpers are selling good seats for $5 dollars over the basic game price. Hokie fans are really jacked for the game, and the country music is blaring full blast. The smell of BBQ permeates the parking lots. This is the opening of the college football season the way it should be. The Hokie marching band is warming up just outside the stadium entrance. They look about 300-plus strong. This place is going to be rockin'. A VT fan gets into it with a University of Virginia fan. They are now conference rivals in the ACC, and for a moment, tonight's game becomes secondary.
6:35 – Each fan is individually searched entering FedEx, but my wife gets a bottle of water through "Customs." We are given wrong directions to our seats and end up at the highest level of the stadium. Our 200-level seats looked a little high, and boy, when you are high in this stadium, you are high!
6:47 – Enter the stadium and the place inside is really impressive. This is what an NFL stadium should look like. Good sight lines and comfortable seats. The Trojan skill players are warming up below us. We are in Section 235, Row 2. Excellent seats in the Trojan section.
6:50 - Purchase the $5 dollar game program. Program cover has a nice color photo of Matt Leinart and VT quarterback Bryan Randall with a FedEx Field "blimp" photo as a backdrop. The 48-page program has color mugs of each Trojan, which includes Winston Justice, Whitney Lewis, Ryan Watson, and Chauncey Washington. Hmmmm. Obviously the photos were sent well in advance. The Trojan outlook story is taken directly from the USC media guide.
7:06 – USC band descends through the fan tunnel to our right. In player warm-ups, big offensive tackle "Deuce" Lutui trips and falls to the ground. Offensive line coach comes running over screaming words of encouragement or unprintable words. Welcome to the big leagues, Rookie.
7:10 – Art Bartner, wearing earplugs, starts Fanfare and 14,000 Trojan fans work themselves into lather.
7:17 – Trojans finish final pre-game drills and there is no sign which player will start at tailback. New linebacker coach Ken Norton is hyper. The "new" Trojan coach is jumping up and down. Somebody better get this guy a cardinal and gold uniform. The coaching staff is as high as the players. All 91, 665 in attendance are sky high.
7:21 – Trojans leave the field to a standing ovation and Hokies leave the field to a thunderous roar. Despite the rising intensity, the television sets in the luxury suites are tuned to The John McLaughin Report, the popular political show. What do you expect in the nation's capital? ESPN has some competition tonight, even at FedEx Field.
7:28 – Popular saxophonist Mike Billips plays a stirring musical version of our National Anthem. At least it sounded like the name was Mike Billips because the roar of the crowd drowns out the public address system.
7:32 – An impatient Trojan fan yells at the SC band. "Let's go, Art (Bartner)," This event has all the feel of a bowl-game atmosphere. Hold on to your vocal cords, this here ride is gonna be a wild one.
7:33 – Notice the Trojan end zone has a colorful USC helmet logo. Give the folks credit, even the Trojan facemask is done in the appropriate gray. Details, details, details.
7:40 – Trojans enter the field to the same rapper music video at the Coliseum. Now Barnter's band plays "Fight On" and the Trojan fans erupt.
7:42 – The John McLaughlin Report continues in the luxury box televisions.
7:43 – After a delay, the Hokies come onto the field to a thunderous ovation and the bright lights of cameras flashing. VT coach Frank Beamer is pulling out the old delay trick on Pete Carroll. To be quite frank, a very impressive display of southern football excitement and college spirit. The Trojans better get an early Auburn-like lead or it could be a long struggle.
7:44 – Coach Carroll is taking it all in and walks over to assistant Ed Orgeron and both start laughing. They probably are enjoying the intensity and excitement in FedEx Field for the 2004 opener.
7:45 – Another delay for the coin toss. Finally both parties meet at the center of the field, and the Trojans win the toss and defer to the second half. The Trojans figure the game will eventually be decided by the cardinal and gold defenders.
7:53:28 – Trojans' Ryan Killeen finally boots it and the 2004 season is underway.
7:55 – Hokie quarterback Bryan Randall runs a misdirection option and the Trojan defense is totally confused. The public address announcer screams, "First down, Hooooooooookies!" Dorothy, we're no longer in Kansas or Los Angeles. This is definitely a game that feels like we're playing in Blacksburg. Hold on to your Trojan hats.
8:00 – The first penalty of the season and the official indicates it is against VT. As the new NCAA rule dictates, the referee announces the name of the offender and it's No. 55. Unfortunately, defensive end Darryl Tapp isn't on the field. Hey, it's a new system.
8:04 –Trojans finally get the ball on offense and wouldn't you know it, Norm Chow has both Reggie Bush and LenDale White in the same backfield. Leinart uses them as a decoy and throws to redshirt sophomore Chris McFoy. Very clever that Chow.
8:11 – First moment of truth for the new Trojans. Punter Tom Malone must face the vaunted VT special teams. Malone's punt is away and sails into the end zone. A small Trojan victory.
8:16 – VT QB Randall continues to give the Trojan defense fits and is starting to resemble Kansas State star quarterback Ell Roberson – not a good sign for the Trojans.
8:20 – A timely Trojan deflection interception by linebacker Lofa Tatupu, and Mosi's son returns it 32 yards. Hello Michigan! Wolverine players watching on ESPN must be shaking their heads. Tatupu bails out the Trojans again.
8:21 – Mark it on your Trojan memory calendar, freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett makes his first reception as a Trojan on a "Mike Williams" crossing pattern.
8:24 – Oh no, here comes a full Hokie blitz! Oh yes, Norm Chow calls a middle screen to Roadrunner Reggie Bush and Bush takes it 35 yards to the promised land. Killeen's kick is good and the Trojans lead 7-0.
8:29 – Virginia Tech doesn't back down. Randall runs the old quarterback sweep and Trojan linebacker Matt Grootegoed is on the ground and VT picks up another big gain.
8:30 – Trojans try to adjust to Randall by moving Shaun Cody to end and moving Manuel Wright to tackle. Well, let's see if this works. Nope. Quarterback Randall goes for another huge gain to set up a field goal attempt.
8:38 – VT kicker Brandon Pace hits on 35-yard field goal. VT fans explode. SC 7, VT 3.
8:42 – Stellar VT defensive end Jim Davis sacks Trojan QB Matt Leinart, but a facemask penalty saves the day for the Trojans. Leinart looks really shaky here in the beginning. Has there been a Trojan kid with so much pressure to start the season? Maybe Carson. Lost count of the magazine covers, but it has to take a toll on Leinart in this environment.
8:47 – End of first quarter and SC up 7-3 and the Trojan are being severely challenged. This is not last year's Auburn game. Hokie fans sense their team knows it can compete. Trojan fans are waiting for an offensive explosion. During quarter timeout, a Hokie fan proposes marriage on the field. The girl accepts. Fan next to me says he went to a Padre game once and the girl rejected the guy. Public address announcer reminds the newly engaged couple that the 90,000 fans at FedEx will be expecting wedding invitations.
8:52 – Leinart is sacked again by Hokie defensive end Jim Davis. That's number two by Davis, and the Trojans offensive line is having its hands full. There is no substitute for experience, and there is no practice for 75,000 insane Hokie fans who smell Trojan blood. About the only offensive player that seems unfazed is tailback LenDale White, who is getting yards and dishing out punishment.
8:54 – Trojan kicker Ryan Killen misses on a field goal attempt, and I can just imagine the Internet going wild. Poor Killen has sparked a match. Hopefully, Trojan fans will give the senior a free pass in a very difficult opener on national television.
9:05 – VT's Randall scrambles again for a big gain and Landover, Md., is starting to feel like Manhattan, Kansas.
9:06 – Randall passes 12 yards to flanker Josh Hyman for a score and the Hokies lead 10-7 and all hell breaks loose at FedEx Field. The Trojans are in trouble, folks. So much for Frank Beamer's remarks that his team is too young to play with the Trojans. There was enough Hokie sandbagging here to hold the Mississippi.
9:20 – Leinart looks hurt. Something is not right about the Heisman candidate. He drops to the ground and apparently has leg cramps. Trojan fans across the country get a different sort of cramps.
9:22 – Trojan freshman receiver Dwayne Jarrett drops a crucial pass. Hokie fans explode and Dwayne knows he's not at New Brunswick High.
9:23 – Halftime. Down 10-7, the Trojans are on Muhammed Ali's ropes with Virginia Tech. The only good thing for the Trojans is the weather is rather comfortable, but you can bet the weather in the Trojans' clubhouse is hotter than a witch's broom on Halloween.
9:26 – The Trojan band performs "Tusk" and the USC fans take out their frustration with that old "UCLA" lyric. The VT band treats their partisans to the "Hokie Pokie." The little woman, after watching her favorite moment – when the bands perform – goes out for a dinner run.
9:39 – Mrs. 23blast brings back bottled water at $4 a shot. Add in the $8 BBQ chicken sandwich and the Capitol guard was right-on. Food is not cheap.
9:40 – Hokie team return to the field first and looks more than ready to play. Where are the Trojans? It must be quite a scene at halftime with the emotional Trojan brain thrust. Where's Omar Nazel, last year's firebrand senior leader, when we need him?
9:46 – The Trojans receive the third quarter kickoff and ball goes into the end zone.
9:48 – Leinart sacked by Darryl Tapp, who makes up for his mistaken identity in the first quarter penalty call. The Trojan offensive unit is still trying to find some answers.
9:49 – Trojan punter Tom Malone get a high snap and gets off an atypical 38-yard punt. Sacks, bad snaps, a missed field goal, and the Trojans are digging a ditch deeper than the ones surrounding the Washington Monument.
9:51 – The Carroll adjustments are starting to take effect. VT QB Randall is stopped during another option play from the shotgun. The Trojans appear to be playing their front seven wider like a basketball team funnels the dribbler into the middle of the key for helpside.
9:53 – These must be SEC officials. Fan next to me says only SEC officials acknowledge fourth down as "The down is 4." Trojan punter Malone puts life into the Trojans and their fans by booming a 53-yarder.
10:02 – Forget the positive Malone punt. A great catch by Hokie tight end Matt Roan puts the roar back into the mouth of Hokie fans, and the mute button on Trojan followers.
10:06 – And a child shall lead them. Heralded Trojan freshman defensive end Jeff Schweiger gets his first sack for a loss of 11 yards. Schweiger saves the day or the moment.
10:07 – Amend the above. Senior quarterback Bryan Randall will save the day as he goes for another first down with a deep 32-yard pass to Josh Hyman into SC territory as Schweiger gets caught inside and Randall goes outside.
10:07 - No wait, an adult shall lead them. SEC official calls a controversial offensive pass interference on Hyman. Luckiest man in the stadium is Trojan defensive back Ronald Nunn. Checking the luxury box TV, it appears the Trojans may have gotten the play of the game. It looked like a ticky-tack call against the Hokies. VT coach Frank Beamer looks like he is about to have a stroke. Pete Carroll must figure it is a stroke of luck.
10:15 – Touchdown Reggie Bush!!!!!!! A 53-yard reception from Matt Leinart and the Trojans have life and the SC fans come to life. Using the St. Louis Rams model, Bush lines up wide and puts Hokie defensive back Jimmy Williams to sleep. Hey, wasn't Williams the guy that said he could stop Mike Williams and shock the world? Jimmy Williams better worry about stopping Bush. Killeen's kick is good and suddenly there is life on the Trojans' sidelines. USC 14, VT 10.
10:16 – Randall gets fierce pass rush from redshirt freshman defensive end Lawrence Jackson, and Jackson's smile can be seen all the way to Minnesota and Kenechi Udeze, the man went early to the NFL early and gave Jackson the opportunity.
10:20 – End of the third quarter. USC 14, VT 10. It's now Beamer Ball versus Pete's"It's about the Ball" in the fourth quarter. Let's get ready to rumble.
10:28 – After a series of exchanges to start the final stanza, the Trojans are charged with six men on the line after a booming punt by Malone. Hokies declines the flag so that "The Leg" doesn't get another shot to plant them deeper. Am told by a fan that the "six men on the line" during punts is a favorite call of SEC officials.
10:33 – Big sack by Trojan defensive tackle Mike Patterson on Randall. There is the distinct feeling that the Trojans are slowly taking control of the game. A VT fan is tossed from the Trojan section after taunting SC fans.
10:36 – Trojans appear in control until safety Darnell Bing is charged with a personal foul on an obvious late hit. Just when you think the Trojans have got the Hokies by their hokies, the SC defense make a really brainless play.
10:39 – With obvious new life, Randall misses a wide open man deep in Trojan territory and one VT assistant drops to his knees like he was shot. The assistant starts pounding his fists on the ground. This is a big fourth quarter play.
10:40 – VT ‘s Pace hits on a 42-yarder and we have a Keith Jackson cliche. Trojan fans go into a stupor. USC 14, VT 13. Bing's penalty comes back to haunt the Trojans. The final outcome will now be decided in the final seven minutes.
10:46 – Matt Leinart passes 46 yards to Steve Smith. Hellllllllo Keary Colbert clone. Suddenly the stadium goes Hokie quiet and the Trojan fans and band crank it up with the ball on the Hokie 29 yard line.
10:46 – REGGIE, REGGIE, REGGIE. The President scorches the Hokies AGAIN with a wide-open 29-yard pass from Leinart. The touchdown Hat Trick for Bush. A nation sees the most explosive back Trojan since O.J. Simpson. The difference is Simpson basically did it on land and Bush does it through land and air. How appropriate with the Pentagon nearby. Killen's kick is good and it's USC 21, VT 13.
10:48 – On Ryan Killeen's kickoff, freshman Keith Rivers makes a big hit just when it looks like the Hokies might do some damage on the return. The Trojans hold on a big defensive possession.
10:56 – Steve Smith drops a potential first down to seal the game and the Trojans are forced to punt. Smith gets a free pass here after his fine catch earlier; however, this game is far from over. The Trojans lead by seven with three minutes left.
10:57 – Trojan are called twice in a row for illegal punt formations. Ya have to say the SEC loves that formation call. So VT gets two more chances to put a block on Tom Malone. The block punt odds are starting to favor the Hokies. This is the premier moment for the Trojans' special teams to protect Malone and the game. Malone finally get off a 42-yard punt. Ya like getting these punting opportunities with the game on the line, Tom? What a difference a year makes.
11:02 – A vicious, vintage Coach "O"-style pass rush provides the moment for a forced fumble by Mike Patterson on quarterback Randall, and the Trojans can put this baby away.
11:04 – Sensing a big win, struggle or not, Trojan fans begin chanting " We Are… SC." On behalf of the staff, we thank the SC fans for the shameless plug.
11:08 – Ryan Killeen seals the victory with a pretty 41-yard field goal with 54 ticks remaining. USC 24, VT 13.
11:11 – Naturally with the game in the humidity bag, Trojan fans start chanting, "Beat the Rams," the next Trojan opponent from Colorado State.
11:14 – Final score USC 24, Virginia Tech 14. Whew. Whew. Whew. Call it a struggle. Call it lucky, Call it a national champion's heart. The Trojans came across country and played a well-coached, spirited opponent in a bowl-hostile crowd and came away with a victory. This Trojan team now knows what the "hunted" means in college football.
11:30 – Transportation out of the stadium is the best I've ever seen. The Hokie fans looked drained and a bit angry, and the Trojan fans appear relieved and subdued. The Blue Line takes us "home." Everybody is zonked.
Sunday – August 29
12:10 a.m. – Wife says ESPN is showing highlights of the game. Trev Alberts and Mark May are glowing of Reggie Bush and pretty positive about the Trojans, reminding fans of the new offensive line and young receivers. Alberts says the Trojans will be a better team for the tough experience in DC.
8:30 – Wake up to do some final shopping. After last night's super intense atmosphere, the Washington Mall seems rather tame. Weather is a little muggy, but there are nods and smiles amongst Trojan fans that pass by.
12:05 p.m. – Take Metro to Reagan National Airport.
1:10 – Male flight attendant checking in our luggage at Reagan National says the Trojans got all they wanted from Virginia Tech. Couldn't argue. It was the truth. Depart for Chicago.
1:48 – Depart DC and are told that even after leaving Washington, we must remain seated for the first thirty minutes into the flight. After last night's game, we can use the extra rest.
2:30 (CT) – In Chicago, girl in the bagel line asks who won the SC game. She is a grad of UCLA and going to Minnesota on a business trip. We tell her the score and she is happy the Trojans had a toughie. She says, "I am glad they struggled, for there is now hope for us." She probably speaks for the rest of the Trojans' opponents.
6:38 – Arrive back in OC with a large Trojan passenger group. The flight from Chicago was quiet and rather uneventful. How many times can you watch Shrek 2?
The Obvious – So a great weekend in Washington, DC was capped with an exciting but awakening 24-13 victory over an overlooked Virginia Tech team looking for its own rebirth.
The Not So Obvious – Get home around 7:00 and did what most Trojan followers do; it was time to see the national polls to find out if the night home-opener against Colorado State would still feature the No.1 team in the country. Despite the difficult struggle, the Trojans remain on top. Trojan fans can sleep soundly for the next two weeks.