Bush ignites Trojans' fireworks

Picking a Heisman moment for USC sophomore Reggie Bush is like picking your favorite blast in the July Fourth fireworks. He provided so many incandescent moments in so many positions in so many different games.

When Bush gets the ball in the open field, whether it's a short pass from Matt Leinart, a basic running play that he takes into the secondary, or a kick that lands in his hands, you can hear an entire stadium of fans hold its collective breath.

It's the latter plays that get his juices flowing, especially the 65-yard punt return for a touchdown that kick-started the Trojans' comeback victory against Oregon State.

"A punt return is almost like freedom of speech," Bush said. "You get to go out and do whatever you want. It's not a set-up play. You go out and catch the ball and do something for your team. I do what I want. You can't get in trouble. I like doing that. I just get to go out there and express me, my athleticism, my personality, the type of player I am."

Bush finished first in the Pacific-10 Conference in all-purpose yards (181.8) and second in kickoff returns (26.4-yard avg.). He scored six touchdowns rushing, seven receiving and two on punt returns.

He also threw a 52-yard touchdown pass in the 45-7 rout of Arizona State, but it's Bush in the open field that drops jaws. He is able to open a hip in stride, get the defender to commit in that direction, close the hip and go the other way, and he does it better than any back in recent memory.

What must it feel like to be a linebacker assigned to cover Bush running a pass pattern? That's like being asked to check Wayne Gretzky. Nobody could get close enough to Gretzky to put a body on him.

"I practice with the guy," All-American defensive lineman Shaun Cody said. "I see all kinds of crazy stuff. He's broken a lot of ankles in practice. He gets us better as a defense, chasing that little rabbit around."

That little rabbit is 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, and says he is just happy to be invited to New York as a Heisman finalist.

"In case I don't win it this year, there are no hard feelings," Bush said. "I have another year, or two years."

Bush is relieved, now that Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams have proved that the NFL isn't an option for second-year players, that he doesn't have to consider turning pro.

"It wouldn't have been a factor in the first place," Bush said. "I never would have thought about it, me or my parents. It's just that much more assuring when you can learn from other people's mistakes."

So he will be back next year, and the thought of another season of Bush in the open field is enough to withstand the harshest of winters. Nothing is a sure bet, but it's safe to say there are more Heisman moments to come.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your question/comments to Ivan at ivan.maisel@espn3.com. Your e-mail could be answered in a future Maisel E-mails.