Last Saturday night's meeting of Miami and San Diego State was billed as the Heisman Bowl. Instead it was Dud Bowl I. For only the second lime ever, the two front-runners for the Heisman Trophy had a chance to face one another in their respective teams' last game—in 1972, Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers outduelled Oklahoma's Greg Pruitt—but Aztec tailback Marshall Faulk was scratched from the lineup with a sprained knee. The other candidate, Hurricane quarterback Gino Torretta, failed to complete seven of his first 10 passes before settling down and enjoying the fun as Miami demolished San Diego State 63-17.
Torretta finished the season with 3,060 passing yards and 19 TDs with only seven interceptions. Faulk won his second straight rushing title with an average of 163.0 yards per game, 22.4 yards more than the No. 2 runner, another Heisman hopeful, Garrison Hearst of Georgia. Hearst scored three TDs and rushed for 169 yards in a 31-17 win over Georgia Tech last Saturday, and Notre Dame tailback Reggie Brooks, who gained 227 yards and scored three times in a 31-23 defeat of USC, also gave his cause a boost. But Brooks had started too far back in the pack to leapfrog the others.
So who should win the 1992 Heisman Trophy? None of the above. Torretta is not even the best player on his own team. Faulk is a marvelous runner, but he is too fragile. Hearst and Brooks? Fine tailbacks, certainly, but hardly the heirs to Blanchard and Davis, Simpson, Dorsett and Campbell.
No exclusively defensive player has ever won the Heisman. This ought to be the season that ends the drought. Each of the nation's top three teams, Miami, Alabama and Florida State, has been carried through crucial stretches by its defense, but none of the brilliant defenders from those teams will get the trophy.
Why? "Offensive statistics are what catch the voters' eyes," says John Farrell, chairman of the Downtown Athletic Club's Heisman Committee.
So how about restructuring the ballot, which gives voters space to write in three players, in order of preference. A new ballot could require voters to include a defensive player among their picks. "The committee has talked about that," says Farrell, "but we've always decided not to tamper with it."
It's too late to change this season's ballots. But instead of Faulk, Torretta and Hearst, voters should write in these names: Micheal Barrow, Miami's middle linebacker, who had 47 tackles in three key wins over Arizona, Florida State and Penn State; Marvin (Shade Tree) Jones, Barrow's counterpart at Florida State, who had 14 tackles in the Seminoles' 19-16 loss to Miami; and Eric Curry, the Alabama defensive end who is the best player on the nation's best defensive unit. What order should be assigned to these three? We'll leave that to the voters.