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Heisman Trophy Report
by Larry Ness - 10/08/2010
We saw five games involving top-25 opponents this past Saturday, with the higher ranked team winning four (exception was Wisconsin losing at Michigan State). No. 1 Alabama crushed Florida but defending Heisman winner Mark Ingram had a 'quiet' game. No. 2 Ohio State struggled at Illinois (won 24-13) and QB Mark Pryor left for awhile with a minor injury. Boise State's Kellen Moore played just one series in the second half of his team's 59-0 rout of New Mexico St but it was Oregon's 52-31 win over Stanford which may have given us some insight on how the 2010 season may "play out" regarding Boise State's BCS chances and Moore's Heisman hopes (see below). Then of course, there was yet another record-setting performance by Michigan QB "Shoelace" Robinson My latest Heisman update follows.
Heisman Watch (Monday, October 4)
1) TERRELLE PRYOR (Ohio State) Last Week: 1. Ohio State left the friendly confines of Ohio Stadium for the first time in 2010 this past Saturday and Illinois gave the Buckeyes all they wanted. Ohio State would 'escape' Memorial Stadium with a 24-13 win but not before getting a real scare when Terrelle Pryor left for a series and a-half in the third quarter with what turned out to nothing more than a minor injury. He returned and directed the game-clinching drive in the late fourth quarter, although it was RB Dan Herron who accounted for every yard (except for Illinois penalty yards) on the drive that put Ohio State up by 11 points with 1:49 left in the game. Pryor rushed for 104 yards on just 11 carries (including a career-long 66-yard run), the sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career (3rd of 2010). However, Illinois held him to 76 yards through the air (9-of-16 with two TDs and one INT), marking the third straight game that the Illini have held the Buckeyes to under 100 passing yards. It was hardly a great performance but Pryor improves to 24-4 as Ohio State's starting QB and I'm keeping him as my Heisman front-runner. Ohio State hosts Indiana next week and let's see how Pryor's numbers vs the Hoosiers stack up to the ones just posted by Michigan's Denard Robinson (see below). Pryor's season stats are: 80-of-123 for 1,015 yards (65.0 percent) 12 TDs 3 INTs / 54 carries for 373 yards (6.9 YPC) 3 TDs / one TD catch.
2) DENARD ROBINSON (Michigan) Last Week: 4. Robinson remains the unquestioned star of the 2010 CFB season and the sport's most outstanding to player to-date. He now faces a three-game stretch which will give us an idea of just how special this kid may be. Robinson began the 2010 season with spectacular "breakout performances" against Utah, Notre Dame and U Mass. He followed up those first three games by completing all four of his passes for 60 yards and running five times for 129 yards and two TDs in what would eventually became a 65-21 Michigan win over Bowling Green on the final Saturday of September. However, Robinson went down and stayed on the turf near the sideline after a 47-yard run on the first play of Michigan's third drive in that game. He didn't return but all reports were he was just fine. I guess those reports were accurate. Michigan traveled to Bloomington this past Saturday to take on 3-0 Indiana. Fifth-year senior Ben Chappell of Indiana was 45-of-64 for 480 yards with three TDs, setting single-game school records for completions, attempts and yardage. However, he was only the "second-best QB on the field!" Robinson scored on Michigan's second offensive play, a brilliant 72-yard run and then on the Wolverines' final play. Robinson found Junior Hemingway for a 70-yard TD catch that gave Michigan a 28-21 lead on the second play of the second half and after Chappell's third TD pass of the day (on a fourth-and-5 play) tied the score at 35-all with 1:15 to go, did to Indiana what he did to Notre Dame back on September 11. Trailing 24-21 in South Bend (late in the 4th quarter), Robinson led the Wolverines on a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive in which he accounted for all 72 yards. This past Saturday, he started the game-winning drive vs the Hoosiers with an eight-yard run, broke free for a 17-yard run and then gained just two yards around left end. Robinson followed with a high-arching pass to Hemingway who made a leaping catch for a 42-yard gain. On the next play, Robinson went left, turned inside and dived in for the the winning TD. He would finish with 217 yards rushing (19 carries) and two TDs plus 277 yards passing (10-of-16) with three more TDs (again, no INTs). Robinson becomes the first player in FBS history to pass for 200 yards and rush for 200 yards in a game twice in a career during the regular season (did it vs Notre Dame as well). He leads the nation in rushing (181.0 YPG), is second in total offense (382.6 YPG) and one has to love that he's got just one turnover in 194 touches! Michigan St visits Ann Arbor on Saturday, sporting a 5-0 record of its own and a No. 17 ranking in the AP poll (Michigan is 5-0 and ranked 18th). The Spartans are allowing 101.2 YPG on the ground plus just 3.2 YPC. We'll see. Robinson's season stats are: 67-of-96 for 1,008 yards (68.8 percent) 7 TDs and 1 INT / 98 carries for 905 yards (9.2 YPC) 8 TDs.
3) KELLEN MOORE (Boise State) Last Week: 3. The Broncos got a possible preview of "things to come" this past weekend. Boise State won its 18th straight game and 14th straight on the road (don't buy those who claim 15 straight road wins as the Va Tech win was a neutral-site game!), 59-0 at New Mexico State on Saturday. However, when the latest AP poll came out (on Sunday afternoon), the Broncos found themselves 'leap-frogged' by the Ducks, who beat Stanford 52-31 on Saturday night (Oregon is now No. 3 and Boise St No. 4). Kellen Moore may have to overcome similar 'hurdles' with Heisman voters come early December. Boise State scored on its first five possessions this past Saturday, in taking a 38-0 halftime lead. Moore had two TD passes in the first half and then threw a 26-yard TD pass to cap the opening drive of the second half, before donning a headset the rest of the game. The Broncos rolled up 608 yards of offense, as Moore went 13-of-18 for 196 yards with three TDs and zero INTs. Moore is now 30-1 as a starter and has thrown 49 TDs and just four INTs in 544 passing attempts during the team's current 18-game winning streak. He owns seven, 300-yard games in his career (has two 400-yards games, including a career high 414 at Nevada as freshman in '08) and this Saturday will look to lead the Broncos to their 28th straight home win when Toledo visits the famous blue turf of Bronco Stadium. Both Moore and his team face the same problem. What will they need to do to impress poll or Heisman voters? His season stats are: 75-of-113 for 1,069 yards (66.4 percent) 11 TDs 1 INT.
4) MARK INGRAM (Alabama) Last Week: 2. Saturday's Alabama / Florida contest was all Alabama. The top-ranked Crimson Tide dominated the seventh-ranked Gators 31-6 on Saturday night, handing the Gators the second-most lopsided loss of Meyer's six seasons with Florida. Alabama had already dealt Urban Meyer his two-worst losses as a Gators coach, having won by 28 in Tuscaloosa in 2005 and by 19 last year in the SEC title game. Make that the three-worst losses of the Meyer era at Florida! Ingram ran for 113 yards (three TDs) and caught two passes for 76 yards as Alabama crushed the Gators 32-13 in last year's SEC title game. While he scored two TDs for the third straight game, he was hardly much of a factor with 47 yards rushing on 12 carries (3.9 YPC). It's impossible to 'knock' Ingram but after missing two games to open the 2010 season and with sophomore Trent Richardson seeing more time (10 carries for 63 yards vs Florida and a team-leading 419 yards rushing this year while averaging 7.4 YPC), I can't see how Ingram can repeat last year's Heisman win. This coming Saturday's game at No. 19 South Carolina could be a way for Ingram to prove me wrong. In last year's 20-6 win over the Gamecocks in Tuscaloosa, Ingram set a Bryant-Denning Stadium record with 246 yards rushing. It marks his career-high, as well as the third-best rushing game in Alabama history. Shaun Alexander ran for 291 at LSU in 1996 and Bobby Humphrey had 284 at Mississippi State in 1986. Ingram's season stats are: 45 carries for 355 yards (7.9 YPC) 6 TDs / 5 catches for 46 yards (9.2 YPC) 0 TDs.
5) LAMICHAEL JAMES (Oregon) Last Week: NR. In my "KEEP AN EYE" on section last week I said that the Stanford / Oregon matchup could easily propel either Stanford QB Andrew Luck or Oregon RB LaMichael James into the Heisman 'picture.' Oregon won last Saturday night's game 52-31 and the Ducks' win allowed them to move to No. 3 in the latest AP poll (jumping ahead of Boise State) The Ducks fell behind 21-3 in the first quarter but forced two crucial turnovers and held the Cardinal scoreless in the second half (28-0). As for James, all he did was run for a career-high 257 yards (on 31 carries) and score three TDs. It marked the second-most rushing yards in Oregon history (Onterrio Smith ran for 285 yards in 2001 vs Washington St) and clearly places James in the Heisman 'discussion.' He ran for 1,546 yards last season (6.7 YPC / 14 rush TDs) to set a new Pac-10 freshman record. However, he was kept out of this season's opener against New Mexico while he served a one-game suspension for offseason misconduct. James returned on September 11 in Oregon's 48-13 victory at Tennessee, rushing for 134 yards and a score. He made that effort look pedestrian the following Saturday, rushing for a then career-high 227 yards on 14 carries with two TDs in No. 5 Oregon's easy 69-0 win over Portland State. Only one other Pac 10 player has run for 200 or more yards on as few attempts (as James did on 9/18) since 2004 and that was Jahvid Best of Cal in '08. Some may remember that James carried just 11 times in his first two games of his freshman season (2009) but then topped 100 yards in NINE of Oregon's final 10 regular season games (high of 183 vs USC). James had a 'quiet' 114 yards on 28 carries (one TD) in Oregon's 42-31 win at Arizona State (9/26) but that gave him 12, 100-yard games in the 14 contests he had played as the team's featured back. This past Saturday night's outburst makes it 13, 100-yard games in 15 contests, including two games of 200-plus yards (both this year). Oregon gets a 'breather' this coming Saturday, visiting a Washington State team which has followed 2-11 and 1-11 seasons by opening 2010 at 1-4 (win came vs Montana State). His season stats are: 89 carries for 712 yards (8.0 YPC) 7 TDs.
KNOCKING ON THE DOOR: I had Auburn's Cam Newton No. 5 last week but made room this week for Oregon's LaMichael James in my fifth and final spot. I'm taking nothing away from Newton, as Auburn had an easy time of it this past Saturday, beating UL-Monroe 52-3. Newton faked a handoff and then lofted a throw to Emory Blake, running all by himself down the middle of the field in the early first quarter. The TD pass put the Tigers up 14-0 (and well on their way to an easy win) but also marked the longest play from scrimmage in school history. Newton entered the game leading the Tigers in rushing yards (485) and carries (75) but had only one rush in this game and that was a sack (minus-11 yards). However, he threw for 245 yards and three TDs while completing 14-of-19 passes (did have one INT) in Auburn's "stress-free" win (sat out most of the second half). Where did this guy come from? Newton began as a freshman in 2007 backing up Tim Tebow in his Heisman-winning season. Newton played in Florida's season opener against Hawaii in 2008 but then agreed to take a redshirt season. Later that season he was arrested for stealing a laptop and tossing it out of a dorm room window to hide the crime from the police. Newton transferred to Blinn College in Texas in January 2009 and that fall led his team to the 2009 NJCAA National Football Championship. He was ranked the No. 1 QB from either high school or junior college by Rivals.com, and he committed to Auburn in December of 2009. Good move by both parties and what a turnaround Newton has made. Auburn's up to No. 8 in the latest AP poll and will play at Kentucky on Saturday. Newton's season stats are: 57-of-87 for 928 yards (65.5 percent) 12 TDs 4 INTs / 76 carries for 474 yards (6.2 YPC) 5 TDs.
My next Heisman report will be available Monday, October 11.
Here's a complimentary selection for Saturday...Take Louisiana Tech
After suffering an embarrassing 41-7 loss at San Diego State two weeks ago, Utah State returned home to host Brigham Young in a season-defining moment for Gary Andersen's club. The Aggies responded by dominating the Cougars on both sides of the football to earn a 31-16 win in a prime-time game last Friday night. A quick start was key for Utah State and it was 31-3 by the 3rd quarter. However, the inconsistent Aggies must go back on the road where I expect them to suffer from a big emotional letdown after such an important win for their program. Utah St has already played tough at Norman (31-24 loss on Sep 4) plus a game with Fresno St at home on Sep 18 (lost 41-24) which some were calling the school's "biggest game." Throw in the BYU win and this is a lot of emotion spent by these Aggies, who have also suffered a number of injuries. Utah State scored 24 at Oklahoma but then just seven at SDSU, while the running game has gained almost 90 less yards per game on the ground at home. The defense has been awful in two road games, allowing 36.0 PPG along with an average of 458 total yards. The Aggies will be facing a desperate Louisiana Tech team which at 1-4, will be facing its own "season-defining" moment in this game. The Bulldogs were in Hawaii last week where they were taught a lesson in the spread offense, as the Warriors passed for an incredible 532 yards (while gaining 647 total yards), on the way to their 41-21 victory. Perhaps the Bulldogs learned a thing or two about operating their own spread offense though, as they have installed their own version of it after hiring offensive coordinator Tony Franklin from Texas Tech in the offseason. I look for a big passing game from Louisiana Tech in this contest, as BYU freshman QB Jake Heaps passed for 270 yards against this Utah State defense last week (Utah State's pass defense allows 289.5 passing YPG on the road). Louisiana Tech has been averaging 228 passing YPG so far this season against pretty good competition. After the school's opening game win against Grambling, the Bulldogs have played Texas A&M, Navy, Southern Mississippi and Hawaii, teams which are a combined 12-6 entering the week. Louisiana Tech has been the underdog in all four of those losses and I think it is telling that the line now lists them as a favorite in this contest. La Tech will have the additional incentive of seeking to avenge its 23-21 loss at Utah State last season. In the end, there a few things that concern me about Utah State coming into this game. Despite the Aggies' big effort last week, they still made plenty of mental mistakes that resulted in 12 penalties. This inconsistent club has failed to cover the point spread in five of its last seven games after covering the point spread in their previous game, which is not a good trait plus Utah St has the added dimension of coming off an emotional win, in this instance vs BYU. In addition, Utah State's best offensive linemen, Spencer Johnson, remains listed as questionable for this game with his ankle injury. His injury in the San Diego State game contributed to Utah State's complete offensive breakdown in that contest. Louisiana Tech retains a strong home field advantage where the Bulldogs have exceeded expectations and covered the point spread in NINE of 11 home games since the beginning of 2008. They are getting Utah State at JUST the right time to earn some payback and turn their season around.