Handing The Heisman To Bush

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - November 30, 2005
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If you’re a Heisman voter and are still undecided on which player deserves to win the most coveted award in college sports, turn in your voter’s card. The race is over.

When the contest began at the end of last season - and be honest, very few have ever won the award based only on what they accomplished in their winning year - the three horses in contention were last year’s winner Matt Leinart, his Trojan teammate Reggie Bush and Texas QB Vince Young.

At the beginning it looked like Leinart would become only the second person to win two Heismans. Archie Griffin was the first and Herschel Walker should have been No. 2. But a few individual stumbles along the way and the increasingly good play of Young moved the Texas thrower/runner to the top of many lists.

Then it happened.

By racking up a half-season’s worth of numbers in a single game, Bush planted himself on top of the pile with a 513-yard performance against a Fresno State team that may have been better than its No. 16 ranking.

And that’s what wins the award: Stepping up in big games with everyone watching. Look no further than Desmond Howard and Doug Flutie.

This is not to say that the closest thing yet to Walter Payton will take home the trophy. As history has proven, the award doesn’t always go to the best player in the game. From 1973 to 1983, it seemed the only thing needed for victory was a large rushing total. Lead the country on the ground and the trophy was yours. Unfortunately, this led to such NFL successes as John Cappelletti, Griffin, Charles White, George Rogers and Mike Rozier.

For the last five years it has been a quarterback’s award. Good news for Leinart and Young. In fact, in the last 16 years, 11 QBs have taken home the trophy even though some were just good role players on great teams or simply put up huge numbers in a pass-happy system. Anyone who voted for Andre Ware, Gino Torretta, Charlie Ward, Danny Wuerffel or Chris Weinke should walk lightly.

Leinart has passed for 3,217 yards, with 24 touchdowns and a 161.9 passing efficiency rating for the two-time defenders of the mythical national championship. After a so-so game against rival Texas A&M, Young has gone through the air for 2,576 yards, 23 TDs, nine interceptions and has rushed for 793 yards.

And then there is Bush.

While sharing carries with backfield mate LenDale White (1,024 rushing yards), Reggie has run for 1,398 yards - third in the nation. He has also grabbed 383 yards through the air, and gained 379 by way of kick returns and 178 from punt returns. That’s 2,338 yards and 16 touchdowns from a guy who is nearly the entire focus of opposing teams’ defensive coordinators. Yes, when playing USC, Dwayne Jarrett, Steve Smith, White and Leinart all pose a concern. But it all revolves around the talented tailback, wide receiver, returner and pooch punter. He’s the dagger in the heart.

If this were major league baseball, Bush would probably find himself on the outside looking in. The most talented player on the field, but not the most valuable. Take Bush away and USC still has the talent to win. Remove Young from the equation and Texas is a pedestrian.

Did we just kill our own argument? Should Young be the one having his named called at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York? If he is, it won’t be a robbery. Young is the MVP, but Bush is the best. And that’s the purpose of the award. At least that’s what is supposed to happen.

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