Hardly Bush League

Dec. 7, 2005

  • CSTV.com Heisman Watch


    By Elliot Olshansky



    At the beginning of the 2005 college football season, the name "Archie Griffin" was thrown around a lot.  As in the question, "Will Matt Leinart join Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman Trophy winners in the award's history?"


    Leinart has certainly had another impressive season for USC, well worthy of a second Heisman.  However, as Saturday's trophy presentation nears, it appears that the only thing this year's winner shares with Griffin will be his position on the field.


    The man in question, of course, is Leinart's MattReggieTV co-star, Reggie Bush, who has justified the twin billing with his dynamic play all season long.


    If Bush wins, which seems more and more likely as the presentation approaches, he'll do it with the fewest total rushing yards - 1,658 - of any running back to win the Heisman since Griffin's second campaign (1,450).  However, that number hardly tells the story.


    Sure, at first glance, Bush's 1,658 total rushing yards don't stand up well to Barry Sanders' 2,628 yards in 1988, Ricky Williams's total of 2,124 in 1998, or even Ron Dayne's 1,834 yards in 1999.  Then you look at the number of carries that Bush has had: 187 compared to 361 for Williams, 303 for Dayne and 344 for Sanders.


    Do the math, and you'll find that Bush averages an astonishing 8.9 yards per carry, blowing away nearly every running back who's walked out of the Downtown Athletic Club holding the most famous trophy in college sports.  Williams averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his Heisman year, Dayne ran for 6.1, Eddie George just over 6.0, and Bo Jackson gained 6.4 yards per carry in 1985.  Sanders makes a nice showing with 7.6 yards per carry, but still, Bush reigns supreme.


    And that says nothing of Bush's success catching passes out of the backfield: 31.9 yards per game, to be precise.  Add in his punt and kick returns, and Bush accounts for 217.6 all-purpose yards per game.


    But don't get tied up in averages, because Bush is anything but an average player.  Just ask Fresno State, which Bush torched to the tune of 513 all-purpose yards in a game where the Trojans needed every last one of them to keep their undefeated season alive. Or Notre Dame, who saw Bush contribute 265 yards, not to mention a certain little push for Leinart.  Or UCLA, who Bush ran all over, getting 260 of his 273 all-purpose yards with his feet.


    Even if Leinart doesn't become the first two-time winner since 1975, he and Bush will accomplish an even longer-unaccomplished feat.  Leinart and Bush would be the first teammates to win the Heisman in consecutive years since Army's Felix "Doc" Blanchard and Glenn Davis in 1945 and 1946, respectively.  However, Leinart and Bush will have an opportunity to do two things that Davis and Blanchard did not.  Army's season had concluded when Davis won the 1946 Heisman, so he and Blanchard never played together as Heisman winners, which, with a Bush win, Leinart and Bush do on January 4 in Pasadena.


    The other feat?  Well, while Davis also won the Heisman on the heels of an undefeated season for his team - Army went 9-0-1 in 1946 - the Black Knights were not named national champions, stopping Army's title streak at two.  With their Rose Bowl tickets already punched, Leinart and Bush will be able to earn that elusive third national championship on the field.


    And, as both Bush and Leinart will tell you, that's what really matters.



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