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by Larry Ness - 09/07/2010
Heisman Watch (Tuesday, September 7)
The 2010 college football season is only one week old but we already have major developments in the season's Heisman race. Alabama won its 15th straight game with ease (48-3 over San Jose St) but the Tide did it without last year's Heisman winner, Mark Ingram. Alabama outgained the Spartans 591-to-175 in yards, including 247 rushing yards on 41 carries (6.3 YPC). Ingram had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee after injuring it late in last Monday's practice (August 30). He watched Saturday's game from the sidelines in his No. 22 jersey and sweat pants. Richardson, who ran for 751 yards as a freshman (5.2 YPC) ran for 66 yards with two TDs on 10 carries while freshman Lacy had 111 yards on 13 carries (8.5 YPC) and two more TDs. Here's my point. Does anyone believe Alabama couldn't survive this year without Ingram? I have no problem with him winning last year's Heisman (Alabama deserved one) but my vote would have gone to Stanford's Toby Gerhart, who was IRREPLACEABLE for Stanford in 2009.
Monday night's matchup between No. 3 Boise state and No. Virginia Tech was the weekend's "showcase game" and it didn't disappoint. Va Tech, which entered 1-25 vs top-five opponents all time, had an young an inexperienced defense and it showed. Boise State, the darlings of the anti-BCS crowd, jumped out to a 17-0 lead but the Hokies would make a great game of it. Va Tech closed to within six points at half (trailed 20-14) and would take a 21-20 lead with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the game. It was the first of four lead changes in the game, the final one being Boise' State's five-play, 56-yard TD drive in the final minutes (aided by a Virginia Tech personal foul penalty) which ended with Moore's 13-yard TD pass to Pettis with 1:09 to go. The Broncos held on for a 33-30 win, the school's 15th straight and first of the new decade. Boise State ended the previous decade as college football's winningest program (112-17, .868), the most wins in a decade by any school since Yale won 116 games in the 1890s. Below is my first Heisman update of the 2010 season.
1) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State): Rose Bowl MVP Terrelle Pryor picked up right where he left off in Pasadena last January. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns (zero INTs). His TD passes covered six, 65 and 11 yards, as the Buckeyes routed Marshall 48-7 in Columbus. The Buckeyes won their 55th straight regular-season nonconference home game. Ohio State has not lost a home opener since 1978, which was Woody Hayes' last season with the Buckeyes. Pryor was at or near the top of everyone's preseason Heisman list and will remain so after his first-game performance. However, there is one problem for Pryor, who ran for a modest 17 yards on eight attempts. That is, he didn't even give the best performance by a QB in his own conference (Big 10) last weekend. That honor belongs to Michigan sophomore Denard Robinson who accounted for 383 yards and two TDs in his first game as the Wolverines' starting QB. He led Michigan to a 30-10 win over U Conn on Saturday, completing 19-of-22 passes fro 186 yards and one TD (zero INTs). He also ran 29 times for 197 yards and another TD. Robinson is the sixth FBS player since 2005 with 185 rushing yards and 185 passing yards in a game. Next up for Ohio State is Saturday's game in Columbus vs Miami-Fl. It's the first meeting between Ohio State and Miami since the 2002 national championship game when the Buckeyes won that one 31-14 in double-overtime, ending the top-ranked Hurricanes' 34-game winning streak while earning Ohio State its first national championship in 34 years. The Buckeyes have played in two BCS title games since, losing 41-14 to Florida and 38-24 to LSU in back-to-back seasons (2006 and 2007). Saturday's game is HUGE for both Ohio State's national title hopes and Pryor's Heisman 'resume.'
2) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State): Here's what I wrote regarding Moore in my Heisman preview. "If the Broncos win Labor day evening vs Va Tech, they will likely "run the table" in 2010. That would mean they'd be 12-0 after the season's final regular season weekend, as well as be the owners of a 26-game winning streak. Moore would be 38-1 as a starter and assuming he came close to matching last year's stats of 64.3 percent completions, 3,336 passing yards, 39 TD passes (against just three INTs) and a QB rating of 161.7, how couldn't he be a Heisman finalist?" Well, here we are! Moore threw for "only" 215 yards vs Va Tech and completed "just" 60.5 percent of his passes (23-of-38) but he did throw three TDs plus wasn't intercepted. He showed tremendous poise in calmly driving the Broncos to the game-winning TD and his performance, in what the school had dubbed "the most important in its history," was a reflection of what this kid's done since taking over the reigns as a freshman in 2008. Forget about projecting to the end of the year, let's look at what he's done in his 28 games as a starter at Boise State. He's 27-1 (lone loss was 17-16 to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl), including winning his last 15 in a row. After throwing for 25 TDs and 10 INTs in his freshman season (which ended with the lone loss of his career to TCU), he's thrown 42 TDs and just three INTs in 469 passing attempts. The Broncos will get some time to enjoy Monday night's win, as they won't play until visiting Wyoming on September 18th. Oregon State visits the famous "blue turf" on September 25 and then it's eight WAC opponents plus sad-sack Toledo from the MAC, the rest of the way. Is this schedule good enough to get Boise State into the BCS title game? Will the team's lack of schedule hurt it with voters or the computers? Will it hurt Moore with Heisman voters? We've got three months of waiting and much can happen. For now, I'll place Moore No. 2 behind Pryor.
3) CASE KEENUM (Houston): Keenum completed 17-of-22 passes for 274 yards and five TDs in leading Houston to a 68-28 rout of Texas State this past Saturday. He only played the first half but had TD passes of 40, 63, 25, 21 and 17 yards as Houston built a 54-7 halftime lead. He did suffer two interceptions but let's not be too critical. He set career school records for completions and yards passing in the win, breaking the marks held by current Philadelphia Eagles QB Kevin Kolb. Keeping track of Keenum's 'numbers' this year will be a full-time job but I'll do my best. He's now thrown at least one TD pass in a school-record 31 consecutive games, which is also the longest active streak in college football. He's seventh in NCAA all-time passing yards, set to easily move past Colt McCoy and Philip Rivers into fifth-place next Saturday. He now owns 107 career TD passes, just five behind McCoy, who ranks seventh on the all-time list. Keenum also has 127 TDs accounted for (passing and rushing), as he closes in on all-time leader Dan LeFevour's 150 (it's only a matter of time, barring injury). However, Keenum failed to reach 300 yards, which is a rarity. He's topped 300 yards passing in 25 of his last 29 games and owns a school-record 12, 400-yard games, four of which he's surpassed 500 yards in (all came in 2009). Up next for Houston is UTEP this coming Friday. The Cougars lost 58-41 at El Paso last year but don't blame Keenum, who completed 51-of-76 passes for 536 yards with five TDs and not a single interception. Houston beat the Miners 42-37 here in Houston during the 2008 season, as Keenum completed 41-of-51 for 480 yards (three TDs and zero INTs). That's two-game totals of 72.4 percent completions for 1,1016 with eight TDs and not a single INT in 127 throws! This guy HAS to get at least invite to New York come December, doesn't he?
4) MARK INGRAM (Alabama): Ingram didn't participate in Alabama's season-opening 48-3 win over San Jose State and wasn't missed (see intro). I'll leave the defending champ at No. 4 for this week and see how soon he gets back on the field. Alabama will host Penn State this Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Head coach Nick Saban called the timetable “day to day” regarding Ingram, who was scheduled to begin “dry-land” rehabilitation Monday. Saban said he will evaluate his progress afterward and for him to play, “I have to see Mark Ingram be Mark Ingram,” said Saban. As for this week's article, I'll re-run what I wrote regarding Ingram in my Heisman preview.
I don't have a Heisman vote but in my 'Heisman ballot' I placed Stanford's Toby Gerhart No. 1 but predicted that Ingram would likely win. Ingram's Alabama team was 13-0 and No. 1 in the nation plus set to play No. 2 Texas in the BCS title game at the time of the award, while Gerhart's Stanford team had four regular season losses. I also believed that since Alabama's storied program had never previously won a Heisman, Ingram would get some "sentimental votes." Did that happen? Who knows? Ingram played behind Glen Coffee (1,383 YR) in 2008 as a freshman, gaining 728 yards (5.1 YPC / 12 TDs), topping more than 100 yards just once (113 yards vs Arkansas St). He became a star in 2010 though, reaching 100 yards (or more) in eight of 13 games, including a career-high 246 yards vs South Carolina. His 1,542 yards (6.2 YPC / 15 TDs) in 2009 broke the Alabama single-season record held previously by Bobby Humphrey, who ran for 1,471 yards in 1986. Ingram also added 30 catches with three more TDs. After winning the Heisman, Ingram ran 22 times for 116 yards (two TDs) in helping Alabama win its first national title since 1992 by beating Texas 37-21. Alabama opens No. 1 in both major polls (is the AP's preseason No. 1 for the first time since 1978) but history tells us that just 10 of the previous 60 AP preseason No. 1 teams have been able to still be No. 1 come year's end. Saban is not the kind of coach who favors "individual over team" plus Ingram's 2010 numbers could easily fall short of his 2009 stats with the very talented Trent Richardson (751 yards / 5.2 YPC / 8 TDs as freshman) getting more "PT" this year. While Ingram is "the betting favorite," I say it would be an 'upset' if he wins it again this year.
5) THOSE BIG 12 RBs (DEMARCO MURRAY of Oklahoma, KENDALL HUNTER of Oklahoma State and DANIEL THOMAS of Kansas State): Oklahoma won its 31st straight home game when it beat Utah State 31-24 last Saturday (longest active streak and the longest in school history). The Sooners were nearly five-TD favorites, so the close win impressed no one. QB Landry Jones, a Heisman dark horse, saw his 2010 season get off to a very disappointing start (17-36 for 217 yards with two TDs and two INTs) but the news was much better for teammate DeMarco Murray, who entered his senior season with 2,471 yards (5.2 YPC with nine career 100-yard games) and 35 rush TDs (eight more TDs on pass receptions). No longer sharing carries as he did in his first three seasons, Murray rushed for career-highs of 35 carries and 218 yards (with two TDs) and was still in the game with under five minutes to go, when Oklahoma got the ball back after a late interception sealed the team's shaky seven-point win.
Kendall Hunter rushed for 1,555 yards two years ago. However, he mustered only 382 yards in 2009 as an ankle injury limited him to eight games. Hunter could very easily match (or surpass) last year's rushing total this coming Saturday vs Troy, after gaining 257 yards on 21 carries while scoring four TDs in Oklahoma State's 65-17 thrashing of Washington State this past Saturday. Hunter had 208 yards in the first half alone, becoming the first Oklahoma State player to rush for 200 yards in a half since Barry Sanders in 1988. The 257 yards is a career high (second 200-yard effort of his career) and gives him 12 career 100-yard games. Hunter also moved into eighth place on Oklahoma State's career rushing list. Last but not least is Kansas State's Daniel Thomas, the Big 12's rushing leader in 2009 (1,265 yards / 5.1 YPC / 11 TDs). Thomas picked up right where he left off, by rushing for 235 yards and two TDs in KSU's 31-22 triumph in Manhattan over UCLA. Thomas' performance was all the more impressive because the Wildcats' total lack of a passing game (64 yards) allowed UCLA to stack the box in a futile attempt to slow down the running game. His 28 carries and 235 yards were both career highs and his 35-yard TD with 58 seconds left sealed the win. He had five, 100-yard games in 2009 with a high of 185 vs Kansas.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Matt Barkley of USC who had 257 yards passing and tied a school record with five TD passes (18-of-23 and zero INTs) in the Trojans' 49-36 win at Hawaii on September 2. However, one doesn't win a Heisman vs the likes of Hawaii and Barkley had better hope his defense can improve dramatically after allowing 584 yards vs the Rainbows. Speaking of defense, everyone knew LSU's Patrick Patterson (CB) was a top candidate for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation's top defensive back. However, he looked like an overall player-of-the-year candidate in the Georgia Dome last Saturday night. He played solid a defensive game throughout LSU's 30-24 win but got himself on the Heisman 'radar' with 257 yards in kick returns, including an 86-yard punt return for a TD.
My next Heisman report will appear Monday, September 13. I'll return Friday with an NFL Week 1 preview.