One 'Heisman moment' can turn heads
You hear a lot about "Heisman Moments," and there's a reason for it.
One moment can win the coveted trophy, and one moment can lose it, too. Just ask Collin Klein.
Klein was on his way to one of the biggest Heisman landslides of all time, until he ran into that stalwart Baylor defense. One terrible game against a bottom 10 defense and Klein might as well have been invisible, despite historically strong stats as a dual threat quarterback.
Klein got himself to the dinner (8 tonight, ESPN), but his chance to get a portrait on the wall disappeared in that one moment in Waco.
Heisman voters are a fickle bunch who get fixated on one guy until suddenly, that guy disappoints them. Then they go looking for a new hero, and that's where Johnny Manziel comes in.
Johnny Football had better numbers than Klein all along, and he did it against the SEC, not the Big 12's sieve defenses. When you break records set by former Heisman winners Tim Tebow and Cam Newton against what amounts to the NFL's top farm league, you're in nice company.
But no one would have given one thought of giving the award to a freshman if Manziel hadn't knocked off No. 1 Alabama, the best college program of this generation.
His perfectly-thrown touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Tide was a Heisman Moment if I ever saw one. But even with that, no one made a big deal out of it as it related to the old stiff-arm until Klein fumbled the ball -- or rather, had it intercepted. Several times. By Baylor.
Manziel filled the void left in the voters' hearts.
But what if Alabama, which came up a mere two yards short against Texas A&M, had beaten the Aggies? Would a noble effort/moral victory have been enough to put Manziel into the hunt? Maybe not.
Just ask Oregon's Kenjon Barner how the moment can giveth and taketh away. Barner toiled in obscurity on late-night ESPN2 broadcasts of the Ducks whooping up on inferior opponents, then had his breakout game against USC with five touchdowns.
Two weeks later, he had disappeared from the landscape after Stanford shut him down. He still had a terrific year with 1,624 yards and 21 scores on a team with weapons to spare, but that didn't even get him a ticket to NYC. The Heisman has had a running back in the top five in voting in all but four years in its history, and this could be the fifth with USC's Marqise Lee and Ohio State's Braxton Miller threatening to round out the group despite not getting dinner invites.
(Side note: Incredibly in 2001, no running backs made the top 10. Barner will at least do that.)
If Bama had beaten A&M, that might have left Manti Te'o to have his Heisman Moment when he led his defense to a goal line stand against USC with everything on the line.
Te'o is hoping to be the first exclusively defensive player to take home the Heisman, but he would have been trying to be the second if not for another moment in 2009.
Flash back to the final day of that season. Alabama's Mark Ingram had just bested Tebow in a Heisman showdown, but folks hadn't quite cast their ballots yet. Most voters probably grabbed a bite to eat, then settled in to see if Colt McCoy could lead Texas to an undefeated year.
But out of nowhere, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh -- before he was kicking NFL quarterbacks in the nether regions -- completely dominated a game like no interior lineman had in decades. Suddenly, voters asked themselves if Suh could steal the trophy in a wide open race.
And he might have, if not for something completely out of his control.
Texas rallied to win the game on a miracle field goal with one second left, and it took a lot of the wind out of Suh's sails. Had he single-handedly led them to a Big 12 title win -- instead of a "nice effort" -- he might have won the Heisman that night too.
While we're on the topic, that Texas field goal was kind of like the lightning that hit the clock tower in many ways.
If it misses, Suh gets the Heisman, Cincinnati gets to the national title game and makes Brian Kelly's decision to leave for Notre Dame a heck of a lot harder. What if he stays? Is Notre Dame in this year's title game then? Maybe not.
But Suh's moment passed, just like Klein's.
Klein had a great career at Kansas State after four years of blood, sweat and tears. But to get that moniker of "Heisman Trophy Winner" attached to your name for life, it takes just a moment to make it happen.
Or make it go away.
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