Looking for suspense Saturday night when the winner

By Richard Rosenblatt Associated Press Published:

Looking for suspense Saturday night when the winner of the Heisman Trophy is announced? Forget it.

Texas tailback Ricky Williams, who ran for 2,124 yards and broke Tony Dorsett's 22-year-old record for career rushing yards, is a cinch. The only question is the margin of victory.

For those keeping score, the largest Heisman victory was in 1968, when Southern California's O.J. Simpson beat Purdue's Leroy Keyes by 1,750 points. On three other occasions, the margin was more than 1,500 points.

In '93, Charlie Ward won the Heisman by 1,622 points over Heath Shuler; in '91, Desmond Howard won by 1,574 points over Casey Weldon; and in '86, Vinny Testaverde won by 1,541 points over Paul Palmer.

Woodson, the first primarily defensive player to win the award, beat out Peyton Manning by 272 points in '97. The closest vote was in 1985, when Auburn's Bo Jackson edged Iowa's Chuck Long by 45 points.

"If I win, I think it would be a great end to my career," Williams said Friday after arriving in New York. "It will be great for the whole university and the program."

Williams, the 6-foot, 225-pounder with the dreadlocks, did more than just put up spectacular numbers this season.

First, he made the stunning decision to pass up NFL millions and returned to a dreadful team whose coach was fired after a 4-7 season. Then, Williams went out and led the Longhorns to an 8-3 record and Cotton Bowl berth against Mississippi State.

In the process, he set 15 NCAA records and 40 school marks, and also dedicated his season to 1948 Heisman winner Doak Walker, who died in September.

Williams became a close friends of Walker last year, when he won the Doak Walker award as the nation's best running back. He stayed in touch with the Walker family after Walker was paralyzed in a skiing accident.

When the 71-year-old Walker died, Williams donned Walker's legendary No. 37 jersey for a game against Oklahoma.

"I think the thing that excites me the most about the season is the fact that people are giving me credit for having on impact on my team," Williams said. "That's what has always been the most important thing to me, helping the team win games."

Last season, the Longhorns won just four games, even though Williams ran for 1,893 yards and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. John Mackovic was fired, and Mack Brown arrived from North Carolina.

"Last year, I think I didn't get as much credit because the team lost a lot of games," Williams said. "But this year I put up better numbers and tried to be a leader on our team. I think a lot of people took notice of that."

People certainly took notice in the Longhorns' season-finale against rival Texas A&M, ranked No. 6 at the time. Williams entered the game needing 63 yards to break Dorsett's career mark of 6,082 yards and moved within 11 in the first quarter.

Then came his Heisman-defining run _ a 60-yard touchdown dash that gave him one of college football's most impressive records.

Kentucky quarterback Tim Couch, one of the four Heisman finalists, perhaps said it best about Williams: "As many times as he carries the ball, he's just as strong in the fourth quarter as he is in the first quarter. He's an amazing player. I'd give him my vote."

Williams averaged 33 carries per game in rolling up his 2,124 yards and 28 touchdowns _ 27 rushing, one receiving. Along the way, he had two 300-yard games, spearheaded the game-winning drive in a 20-16 upset of Nebraska _ ending the Huskers' 47-game home winning streak _ and finished with 259 yards against the Texas A&M.

Among his NCAA records are career yards (6,279), rushing TDs (72), points (452) and all-purpose yards (7,206).

Couch, along with quarterbacks Cade McNown of UCLA and Michael Bishop of Kansas State, put up some impressive numbers of their own.

Couch, who led the Wildcats to a 7-4 record and a berth in the Outback Bowl, completed 400 of 553 passes for 4,275 yards and 36 touchdowns.

Bishop and McNown led their teams to the brink of perfect seasons before K-State lost to Texas A&M and the Bruins to Miami on the final day of the season.

Bishop hit on 164 of 295 passes for 2,844 yards and 23 TDs (he also ran for 748 yards and 14 TDs), while McNown was 188 of 323 for 3,130 yards and 23 TDs.

Want to leave your comments?

Sign in or Register to comment.