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Heisman Watch

   by Larry Ness - 09/15/2009

Landry Jones, in his first start for the injured Sam Bradford, threw for 286 yards and three TDs to lead the Sooners to a 64-0 rout of Idaho State. Oklahoma has now won 25 straight home games, which ties the school record (also won 25 in a row from 1947-53). However, it was what happened to Oklahoma last week, which has most-shaped the early Heisman race. Bradford, last year's winner, sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder and a subsequent MRI reported that he suffered a Grade 2 or Grade 3 sprain of the right throwing shoulder.

The timetable for his return is unknown. Midway through the fourth quarter of Oklahoma's September 5 game with BYU at Cowboys Stadium (with Oklahoma leading 10-7) Landry Jones had just gotten stuffed on third-and-goal from the one. Stoops let Jones go for it on fourth down, but the redshirt freshman failed to get the snap off in time. The penalty pushed OU back to the six, so Stoops opted for the field goal and a 13-7 lead.

BYU's Max Hall then directed a 16-play, 78-yard drive, converting on a fourth-and-4, before throwing a seven-yard TD pass with 3:03 left in the fourth to put BYU ahead for good. Bradford's injury dropped him out of the Heisman race, while BYU's win catapulted the Cougars from a ranking of No. 20 to the 9th spot in the AP poll. Hall's opening week performance also gets the BYU senior mentioned as one of a handful Heisman contenders behind the "Big 2."

HEISMAN WATCH (September 14):

1) TIM TEBOW (Florida) Last Week: 1. Tebow completed 14-of-22 passes for 214 yards with four TDs and added 71 yards rushing and another TD on the ground as the top-ranked Gators rolled to a 56-3 win over Troy. Florida beat Charleston Southern 62-3 on September 5 and have now extended its winning streak to 12 straight, which matches a school record. The Gators have outscored their 12 opponents by the combined scores of 587-to-137, going 10-0 ATS. Tebow has thrown for 27 TDs with just two INTs during that stretch (21-0 ratio the last eight games), while adding 12 rushing TDs. Tebow ran only two times in Florida's season-opener (gaining one yard) but ran 13 times this past Saturday for 71 yards. His rushing TD in the second quarter was the 45th of his career, now third on the SEC all-time rushing list (Herschel is No. 1 with 49 and Kevin Faulk ranks second with 46). That record will fall shortly too, in Tebow's quest to become the most-honored player in CFB history (he's seeking a third national title and a second Heisman). The Tennessee Vols are up next for the Gators this coming Saturday in "The Swamp." While Tennessee's 19-15 home loss to UCLA somewhat diminishes the 'glow' of this game, Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin's recruiting accusations in February and his promise to beat Florida has the Gators eager for this meeting.Tebow's been the Gators' starting QB the last two seasons, beating the Vols 30-6 in Knoxville last year and 59-20 here in Gainesville in 2007. However, Tebow's numbers are quite ordinary (22-of-34 for 395 yards with four TDs and one INT / 30 carries for 87 yards with two TDs) in the two wins. Something tells me Tebow is primed for his first "big game" of the season. We'll see. His season stats are: 25-of-39 (64.1 percent) 425 yards 5 TDs 0 INTs / 15 carries for 72 yards (4.8 YPC) 2 TDs.

2) COLT MCCOY (Texas) Last Week: 2. Texas got off to a very slow start in its first-ever visit to War Memorial Stadium (altitude 7,200 feet) in Laramie, Wyoming this past Saturday. After trailing 10-6 late in the first half, Colt McCoy tossed a 25-yard TD pass with under 30 seconds left in the first half to give the Longhorns a lead they would not lose. Texas added three TDs in the third quarter (McCoy rushing for one and throwing for a second) and went on to win 41-10. The Longhorns have now won 15 consecutive non-conference games, tying a school record which had been established back in the 1940s. McCoy finished 30-of-47 for 337 yards (12th career 300-yard game) with three TDs (he has now thrown a TD pass in 19 straight games) and one INT. He added 38 rushing yards and another TD. The victory gives him 34 career wins as a starter (Vince Young had 31), the most all-time by a Texas QB. McCoy continues to extend his career record of TDs responsible for (passing, rushing, receiving) at Texas, as his total is now up 109 (Young had 81 and former Heisman-winner Ricky Williams had 76). McCoy set a single-season record for completion percentage last year (76.7), had a TD-to-INT ratio of 34-8 and led the team in rushing (561 YR / 4.1 YPC / 11 TDs). Matching those numbers in 2009 will not be easy nor will overcoming Tebow's near God-like image. The Longhorns host Texas Tech this Saturday in Austin, looking to avenge last year's 38-33 loss. No one will forget last year's game, as McCoy led Texas back from a 22-3 deficit to take a 33-32 lead with 1:29 remaining. Harrell drove the Red Raiders into Texas territory and then saw Texas freshman safety Blake Gideon drop what would have been a game-ending interception on a tipped ball. One play later, Harrell threw that famous TD pass to Crabtree. The loss cost Texas its perfect season, a place in the Big 12 championship and as for McCoy, it likely cost him the 2008 Heisman. I guess we can assume Texas (and McCoy) will be focused for this one. McCoy's season stats are: 51-of-76 (67.1 percent) 654 yards 5 TDs 2 INTs / 16 carries for 35 yards (2.2 YPC) 1 TD.

3) JAHVID BEST (California) Last Week: 3. The Bears opened the 2009 season with a 52-13 victory over a Maryland team that handed California its first loss last season. This past Saturday, after the game was tied at seven-all at the end of the first quarter with Eastern Washington, the Bears scored the final 52 points of the contest for a 59-7 win. Cal ran 46 times for 342 yards with Jahvid Best gaining 144 yards on 27 carries with one TD. Best had a 73-yard TD run vs Maryland and almost had one of his now-routine lengthy runs late in the first quarter against Eastern Washington but he stepped on the sideline to turn a 75-yard TD into "just"a 30-yard gain. Best topped 100 yards for the sixth straight game dating back to last year and owns 10 in his career (had eight in 12 games during '08). The schedule gets tougher for Cal beginning with the Bears' first road game of 2009 this coming Saturday (at Minnesota). The Bears then open the Pac-10 season the following week at Oregon before hosting No. 3 Southern California on October 3 (a showdown between the conference's top two teams) plus a trip to UCLA two Saturdays after hosting the Trojans (bye week on Oct 10). Best ran for 1,580 yards and scored 15 TDs with a spectacular average of 8.1 YPC in 2009. Although he hasn't been "worked too hard" so far in Cal's 2-0 start, his season stats look pretty good. He's run just 27 times but has 281 yards (10.4 YPC) and has three rushing TDs. He's added four catches for 42 yards (10.5 YPC) and another TD.

4) MAX HALL (BYU) Last Week: 4. See last week's Heisman Watch for a little Max Hall history. BYU's 14-13 upset of Oklahoma a week ago Saturday saw the Cougars jump all the way to No. 9 (from No. 20) in the AP poll. Not surprisingly, the Cougars got off to a sluggish start following their big win over Oklahoma this past Saturday at Tulane, managing only two FGs in the first quarter. However, BYU began hitting its stride just before halftime, as two TDs in the half's final 3:28 (one a Hall TD pass) began a scoring spree of 48 unanswered points. BYU's 54-3 win moved the Cougars up to No. 7 in the new AP poll, as No. 5 Oklahoma State lost 45-35 at home to unranked Houston and No. 8 Ohio State lost 18-15 at home to No. 3 USC. It marks the school's highest ranking since it was No. 5 back in 1996. Getting back to Hall, he finished 24-of-32 for 309 yards (his 14th career 300-yard game) with two TDs and one INT. He's now 23-5 as a starter at BYU and owns a 65-to-29 TD-to-INT ratio. BYU's win over then-No. 3 Oklahoma on September 5 marked the school's third-ever win over a top-3 team. The last came back in the 1990 season when BYU beat then-No. 1 Miami-Florida 28-21 in Provo. The Cougars would go on to finish 10-3 that year, including an embarrassing 65-14 loss to Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl. However, that season is best-remembered in Utah as the year BYU's Ty Detmer won the school's only Heisman Trophy. I mention that game and year because this coming Saturday, the Cougars host another famous football school from Florida, Florida State. Of course, the Seminoles will hardly come in with any swagger, as FSU just dodged entering this game 0-2. The Seminoles needed two TDs in the final 35 seconds of their game with Jacksonville State (the second of which came on a 33-yard fumble return TD) to escape with an almost embarrassing 19-9 win over Gamecocks. However, that near-loss may make the Seminoles very dangerous in this spot. 'Cracking' into the top-two in this year's Heisman race will require "mistake-free" football by Best, Hall and their respective teams. Hall's season stats are: 50-of-70 (71.4 percent) 638 yards 4 TDs 3 INTs.

5) DARYLL CLARK (Penn State) Last Week: 5. Daryll Clark is off to a better start than last year, when he finished with the third-most passing yards in Penn State history (2,592). He was 20-of-31 for 240 yards with three TDs and one INT in Penn State's 28-7 win over Syracuse. That followed his 353-yard, three TD performance the week before. It marks the first time in his career that Clark has recorded consecutive games with three-plus TD passes. All this has happened despite Penn State losing lost three, four-year WRs in Butler, Norwood and Williams off last year's team. Note that adding in Clark's final three games from last season (including Penn State's Rose Bowl loss to USC) and he has reached at least 240 passing yards in each of those five games (has averaged 289.4 per game) plus has completed 62.7 percent of his passes with 14 TDs and just five INTs. The Nittany Lions have yet to be tested this year and won't be this coming Saturday either, as they are at home vs Temple (Owls lone game of 2009 was a 27-24 home loss to Villanova). Penn State, ranked tied for 5th in the latest AP poll with Ole Miss, has a very favorable schedule this year and an unbeaten regular season is not out of the question (toughest games are home to Iowa and Ohio St, although maybe its trip to Ann Arbor on October 24 will be tougher than originally expected). For this week, Clark stays at No. 5. His season stats are 49-of-71 (69.0 percent) for 593 yards 6 TDs 2 INTs.

On the radar: Let's hear it for Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen. His team came up short at Ann Arbor this past Saturday (Irish fell 38-34) but he continued his recent outstanding play. Claussen completed 25-of-42 passes for 336 yards with three TDs and no INTs. Coupled with last week's excellent effort vs Nevada, Claussen is 40-of-60 (66.7 percent) for 651 yards with seven TDs and no INTs in 2009. Throw in last year's Hawaii Bowl and he's 62-of-86 (72.1 percent) for 1,052 yards with 12 TDs and not a single 'pic.' over his last three games. Coming to South Bend this Saturday is Michigan State, fresh off a 29-27 loss to Central Michigan. However, the Spartans last visited South Bend back in 2007 and with a 31-14 win became the first opponent to ever win six in a row at Notre Dame Stadium. Will it be a lucky seventh win in a row at ND for the Spartans?

Good luck....Larry

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