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Push by Bush Violated a Rule

Times Staff Writer

USC running back Reggie Bush violated a rule when he helped push quarterback Matt Leinart into the end zone for the winning touchdown against Notre Dame, but a national officiating coordinator said Sunday that the play would not have been reviewable even if a replay system had been in use for the game.

Leinart’s one-yard sneak with three seconds left gave top-ranked USC a 34-31 victory over the Fighting Irish, extending the Trojans’ winning streak to 28 games and keeping them on track for a possible third straight national title.

In the NCAA football rules book, under the section titled “Blocking, Use of Hands or Arms” and the subsection titled “Interfering for or Helping the Runner or Passer,” Article 2.b. states: “The runner shall not grasp a teammate; and no other player of his team shall grasp, push, lift or charge into him to assist him in forward progress.”

The penalty for the infraction is five yards from the basic spot.

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Bush acknowledged after the game that he attempted to push Leinart into the end zone.

USC Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday that Bush, “did knock into [Leinart], but he didn’t pile drive him into the end zone. He kind of glanced off him.”

David Parry, coordinator of officials for the Big Ten Conference and national coordinator for the Collegiate Commissioners Assn., said he saw the play briefly on television but could not tell if Bush’s actions were cause for a penalty. The officiating crew working the game was from the Pacific 10 Conference.

“If the covering officials would have deemed that a foul, they would have thrown the flag on that,” Parry said.

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Tom Hansen, commissioner of the Pac-10, said officials could have called a penalty against Bush. Hansen, however, said he could not recall when the rule was enforced, particularly in a goal-line situation.

“I just don’t think they ever call it,” Hansen said. He added that it would have been different had Bush grabbed Leinart’s jersey and dragged him in.

Carroll said he had seen the penalty called in the NFL but not in a college game.

As the coach of a visiting team in a nonconference game, rules gave Carroll the option whether to use replay at Notre Dame. Carroll chose not to, and Parry said last week that USC probably was the only visiting school that opted not to utilize replay this season.

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Replay, however, would not have helped Notre Dame on the game’s final play from scrimmage. Parry said that because the “suspected foul” was a judgment call, like pass interference or holding, it was not reviewable under NCAA rules.

Parry said the selection of officiating crews for nonconference games or games involving independents such as Notre Dame is usually part of the contract between the schools. Parry said the trend in the last decade was for officials to come from the conference or region of the visiting team. The 2004 game between USC and Notre Dame at the Coliseum was officiated by a Big Ten crew, Parry said.

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Carroll said the ankle-deep grass at Notre Dame Stadium was “unusually soft” and “gave way when you dug into it,” but he did not blame the turf for the probable season-ending knee injury suffered by Desmond Reed, who will have an MRI exam today. Reed was injured without being touched when he turned his body to field a kickoff. “His stride was so out of whack when he came down; I certainly would not try to make an indictment on the turf,” Carroll said.... USC gave up a punt return for a touchdown for the second time in three games. “It’s horrible,” Carroll said. “I’m embarrassed that we have to be dealing with this.” ... Carroll said senior linebacker Dallas Sartz (shoulder) would take a redshirt ... Passengers on the Trojans’ charter from South Bend to Los Angeles were forced to stay on the plane for about 45 minutes after it landed because of a mechanical problem on the jetway.

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Times staff writer Chris Dufresne contributed to this report.


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