'Outstanding' USC back an easy pick for the Heisman
Posted: Friday December 9, 2005 12:22PM; Updated: Friday December 9, 2005 5:51PM
Reggie Bush all but wrapped up the Heisman by compiling a jaw-dropping 513 all-purpose yards in USC's win over Fresno State.
Peter Read Miller/SI
Having done everything in his power to lead Texas to a 12-0 record and a spot in the national-title game, I can understand why Vince Young might be a little frustrated at hearing talking heads across the country say that USC's Reggie Bush, not him, deserves the 2005 Heisman Trophy. So I'm willing to cut the Longhorns quarterback a little slack for the undeserved dig he took at his Trojans adversary during a last-minute lobbying campaign on Monday.
Said Young: "If they look at that and how much I love my teammates, how good we play together and how big of a leader I am to those guys, I should win it. If they are looking for just the big, big highlights, you've got Bush winning it."
With all due respect to Vince and his supporters, the Reggie-is-just-a-highlight-guy argument no longer holds water. It may have earlier in the tailback's career -- maybe even earlier this season. But the reason Bush wound up running away with the trophy over his final two games was because he proved to be the complete package.
Bush has always been known for his closing speed, and in busting open what was widely considered a dead heat between the two players as recently as three weeks ago, Bush closed with an overpowering flurry: 23 carries for 294 yards against Fresno State and 24 for 260 against UCLA. The numbers are significant in that they happen to represent career-highs in both rushing attempts and yardage, completing a season-long transformation from Reggie Bush, the all-purpose guy, to Reggie Bush, the unmatched tailback.
"What impressed me most about his last two games," said Arizona coach Mike Stoops, "was that, for the most part, they just used him as a running back, and he showed just how amazingly well he runs the ball."
Like many Heisman voters, I found myself torn between Bush and Young as late as mid-November. Like them, I'd long believed Bush to be the most talented and most dangerous player in the country, as I saw first hand covering the Trojans' early-season games against Arizona State (in which he scored second-half touchdowns of 24 and 34 yards to rally USC back from an 18-point deficit) and Notre Dame (in which he carried 15 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns).
But I was also bothered by the undeniable fact that on any given week, depending on the circumstances, Bush would fade into the background and Matt Leinart or LenDale White would carry the Trojans. To support Bush statistically, one had to pull out the somewhat obscure all-purpose category (which he led nearly the entire season). Meanwhile, I'd watched Young go into Ohio Stadium at night and orchestrate a last-minute touchdown drive, torch then-undefeated Texas Tech in the second half of an Oct. 22 win, singlehandedly rally the 'Horns from potential disaster against Oklahoma State and basically carry them on his back the entire season. If college football had an MVP award, there's no question Young would win it.
But the stated criteria says to honor "the most outstanding" college football player. Simply put, the guy on display against Fresno State and UCLA was not only the most outstanding player this season, but also the most outstanding I've seen in eight years of covering the sport.