Iowa state junior tailback Troy Davis is rarely given to self-promotion, but as he stood in the end zone after a fourth-quarter touchdown run last Saturday against Kansas State, he brashly struck the Heisman pose. Although it cost Iowa State a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, Davis, who earlier in the game had become the first NCAA player to twice gain more than 2,000 rushing yards in a season, was unapologetic. "Rushing for 2,000 yards twice was worth the penalty," he says. "It's unbelievable that I did it. All those good players out there, and nobody ever did it before? It must be hard."
Before this season, in which Texas Tech junior Byron Hanspard also reached the milestone, only four other Division I-A players had rushed for more than 2,000 yards in one season, and each won the Heisman Trophy. Nonetheless, Davis, who rushed for 2,185 yards after gaining 2,010 last year, is likely to get another stiff-arm from Heisman voters, who ranked him fifth a year ago. Granted, the Cyclones lose often: Their 35-20 defeat by Kansas State dropped them to 2-9. Yet Davis's standing with Heisman voters is hurt by several false assumptions.
Too many of his yards come against bad teams or with the game out of reach. The Cyclones' schedule was recently rated by The NCAA News as the second-toughest in the country. Four of Iowa State's nine losses were decided by a combined 10 points, and Davis averaged 171 yards in I hose games. "He would get my vote," said Kansas State's All-America cornerback, Chris Canty, after Davis rushed for 225 yards on 48 carries against the Wildcats. "Did you see what he did to us out there?" Says Colorado linebacker Matt Russell, "You have to grab hold of his jersey or anything you can find, then wait for your friends to get there. He's the Heisman guy." It should be noted that Colorado, which gave up 228 yards to Davis, and Kansas State are a combined 18-3.
Davis is too one-dimensional. True, he is not much of a pass catcher—which, along with his diminutive stature (5'8", 185 pounds), makes NFL people fidgety about his future. But Davis is a solid blocker, an exceptional attribute given that he averaged 37 carries a game this fall.
His high number of carries per game is a shameless ploy to cop the Heisman. A month ago Virginia standout tailback Tiki Barber was asked who he thought deserved the Heisman. Without hesitating, he mentioned Davis. "I don't think people understand the beating you take if you run the ball 25 or 30 times, let alone 40 or 50," Barber said. "But he wants the ball every time, and I admire him for that."
"People don't know how much I've put into this," Davis said, almost sadly, after Saturday's game, "They don't know how much I've worked. They don't understand."
Up from the Ranks
After Northwestern coach Gary Barnett withdrew last Thursday as a candidate to replace Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz—for "personal and private" reasons, Barnett said—the Irish could have redoubled their efforts to hire a coach with an off-the-charts Q rating. Instead, school officials were prudent. They stayed in-house and promoted Bob Davie, Holtz's defensive coordinator for the past three seasons.
The hiring of Davie, 42, was not without irony. Holtz has gone through defensive coordinators as if they were Bics, having had five of them in his 11 years in South Bend. Certainly Davie has not been immune to Holtz's frequent fits of pique, but Holtz has been relatively hands-off in dealing with him. At times, in fact, Holtz has seemed downright deferential toward Davie. Says one former Notre Dame assistant, "It's clear that Lou is very fond of Bob. He might almost view Bob as an equal. And that's no small thing for Lou."
Indeed, when Holtz was hospitalized last season for surgery on a bulging disk in his neck, he named Davie interim head coach. Davie won his one game as the acting boss, a 41-0 rout of Vanderbilt. In five subsequent games during Holtz's recovery, all Notre Dame victories, Davie was the sideline coach while Holtz oversaw the team from the press box. Those games, says Davie, "whetted my appetite. They made me feel I could coach at a place of Notre Dame's magnitude."