Thursday, December 6, 2007

Heisman Race Lead by Throwbacks from Single-Wing Days

Heisman vote cast, finally
Thursday, Dec 6, 2007

By Harry King

LITTLE ROCK - Waffling between Tim Tebow and Darren McFadden, a revealing percentage pushed me to No. 5 from Arkansas.

In the morass of yards per something or other, game by game comparisons and other mind-numbing stats, it was the sixth reason on the UA's seven-point countdown that cleared my conscience to vote McFadden No. 1 on my Heisman Trophy ballot.

Coaching my son, I went through a similar predicament umpteen years ago. Unfairly, he caught heck when another 10-year-old got outside the defensive end, but nobody was going to accuse me of playing favorites at middle linebacker. Judging your own flesh and blood with detachment is impossible, and it's the same for a life-long Arkie whose job description includes witnessing to the best running back in Razorback history.

A note from a Portland, Ore., firm that polls Heisman voters was a reminder to go overboard to avoid a "homer" vote for McFadden. Asked about my ballot, I said it was Tebow one day and McFadden the next.

" ... let me know when you've got it figured out," the pollster said. "You sure you want to tell your readers you voted against McFadden?"

Tebow is second on my ballot and Colt Brennan of Hawaii is third.

The deadline for voting was 5 p.m. Wednesday and I waited until after the weekend to allow Chase Daniel of Missouri every opportunity to state his case. If he had a boffo game against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship, it would have been a three-way argument.

So prolific during the Tigers' 11-1 season and their climb to No. 1, the junior quarterback could not be ignored. Through those first 12 games, he was clicking along at a 70 percent completion rate with 33 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. The crowning gem was 40-of-49 in the Border War when the Tigers handed Kansas its first loss.

Daniel had no chance against OU's defense and he exited the discussion when he completed 23-of-39 for 219 yards with one interception and no touchdowns. Daniel was only the latest quarterback who faded a week or two after moving into the national spotlight. Once under the glare, Boston College's Matt Ryan began throwing interceptions and Oregon's Dennis Dixon was injured. Even West Virginia's Pat White might have made a pitch last weekend, but he left the Pittsburgh game with an injury. Out of uniform for a time, he donned his pads and attempted to salvage the outcome. His try was admirable, but the results were abysmal.

The various failures of the quarterbacks, plus the fact that not one of the top five teams in the BCS has a bona fide Heisman candidate, cleared the decks to vote for somebody from a team with three (Florida) or four (Arkansas) losses.

So this week, it was down to McFadden vs. Tebow, a throwback tailback-type from the days of the single wing. A stout runner, Tebow is also an accurate passer and proficient at reading the option. He is one of a kind and the fact that he is a sophomore was not a black mark to me.

Prefaced with "When you attempt to compare the statistical numbers of the Heisman Trophy front-runners, consider the disparity of opportunities between the nation's top quarterbacks and the nation's best running back to rack up yardage and touchdowns," here are the numbers that swung it for McFadden:

_Tebow ran or passed on 511 of his team's 782 plays, 65.3 percent.

-McFadden ran or passed on 315 of 855 plays, 36.8 percent.

Talk about doing more with less.

One more argument for the Razorback. Who is the best running back in the country? One answer. Who is the best quarterback? Multiple choice.

McFadden is likely to finish second again on Saturday night. It wouldn't be the first time that my candidate lost an election.


Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media's Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is

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