With all the Heisman trophy talk generated by the release of NCAA Football 13, it seems like an appropriate time to bring up something I had always kind of thought, but had never really discussed with anyone: should Pat White have won the Heisman in 2007?
Pat's 2007 season is probably fairly memorable for most WVU fans. He led the Mountaineers to a 10-2 regular season on 134/197 passing for 1548 yards, 12 TD and 4 INT and 177 rushes for 1185 yards and 14 TD. Those stats (especially the rushing) are pretty good, but not exactly eye-popping. Heisman worthy, though? Let's take a look at the other choices.
The award was actually won that year by sophomore Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who ended up with ridiculous numbers: 217/317 passing for 3132 yards, 29 TD and 6 INT and 194 rushes for 838 yards and 22 TD. The other contenders were Arkansas running back Darren McFadden (304 rushes for 1725 yards and 15 touchdowns) and Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel (372/534 passing for 4170 yards, 33 TD and 10 INT; 104 rushes for 284 yards and 4 TD).
The award is supposed to go to "the most outstanding player in college football." And while stats go a long way in determining who is "outstanding," you have to look beyond that to other factors like how valuable is the player to his team? How well did the team fare? How does he play in big games? What kind of competition does he face? Does he make memorable plays in big situations?
White had all those qualities in abundance. He was the unquestioned leader of a high-scoring WVU offense and could beat teams with his arm or his legs. He could improvise. When the team needed a play, he was the guy to do it. You want a signature play? How about his 50 yard touchdown dash off a broken play to break a late tie with Louisville on national TV? You want highlight reels? How about his long touchdown runs on the first play from scrimmage against Maryland and Mississippi State? Or his multiple jukes of a hapless ECU defender early in the season? Or his running circles around the entire UConn defense en route to 66 points to clinch the Big East?
Okay, so maybe the Big East wasn't the best conference in the country. But there were a number of quality (ranked or not) teams on that schedule, and the Mountaineers handled them all with relative ease. Except for two. Oh, and about those two losses? White got hurt in both of them, which should tell you all you need to know about his value to the team.
But there's the rub. White was hurt, and the Mountaineers lost. The USF loss was one thing. It was early in the season and both WVU and White had pretty much recovered from that misstep. Then, with the entire country watching and a trip to the national championship game hanging in the balance, Pitt happened. If Pat put on another of his patented shows that he seemed to reserve especially for the Pitt Panthers and WVU wins that game, I think he gets the trophy. The rest of the contenders were good, but they had their flaws. Tebow was a sophomore with all kinds of talent around him and still lost 3 games in the SEC. McFadden's Razorbacks lost 4. Daniel gakked away his chance by losing twice to Oklahoma. All Pat needed to do was beat Pitt and look good doing it and 2007 probably becomes the year WVU wins its first national championship in football.
The way things really played out, Pat White shouldn't have won the Heisman. He had a small consolation prize in the drubbing of Oklahoma he helped orchestrate, but the voters got it right. I think it's fair to say, though, that Pat "deserved" to win it that year. With all that he gave the WVU football program---the way he played, the way he led, the way he competed---he deserved not to get hurt in that stinging loss to Pitt. He deserved to lead the team to a national championship. And he deserved to win the Heisman. It's just a shame that so many times, things don't work out for people to get what they deserve.
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