October 6, 2010

Heisman Watch: The Texarkana two-step?

The awards watch
A weekly look at the top three candidates for some key postseason awards:
Outland (best interior lineman)
Butkus (most outstanding linebacker)
Nagurski (most outstanding defensive player)
Thorpe (most outstanding defensive back)
Rimington (most outstanding center)
Biletnikoff (most outstanding wide receiver)
Doak Walker (best running back)
Mackey (top tight end)
Lou Groza (top kicker)
Ray Guy (top punter)

Texarkana's motto is "twice as nice" because it's actually two cities -- one in Texas and one in Arkansas -- with two mayors and two police departments.

It also has two native sons -- both of whom went to high school in Texas -- as Heisman candidates.

One of those, Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, had his candidacy weakened when he threw two late interceptions in a 24-20 loss to Alabama two weeks ago. But the other, Oregon running back LaMichael James, has emerged as one of the leading candidates after rushing for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-31 victory over Stanford.

The undefeated Ducks trailed 21-3 early, but they stormed back and clinched the victory with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. James scored one of them on a 76-yard burst.

"He's impressive, very Barry Sanders-esque," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said, referencing the 1988 Heisman recipient.

James said the Ducks never worried even when they trailed by 18.

"We're down, but we know eventually something's going to break," he said.

And James is the one likely to break it.

Since serving a one-game suspension in the season-opening victory over New Mexico, James has rushed for 712 yards and seven touchdowns. He has scored on runs of 72, 76, 66, 40 and 35 yards.

In fact, James has rushed for 297 yards on his seven touchdown runs. Based on those runs alone, he'd rank 66th in the nation among individual rushers.

The citizens of Texarkana haven't had a local Heisman contender since 1979, when '78 recipient Billy Sims of nearby Hooks was runner-up to Charles White of USC.

So, having James making a run at the Heisman is nice.

And if Mallett gets back into contention, it will be twice as nice.

Here are this week's top five:

1. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan: For the second time in five weeks, Robinson passed and rushed for more than 200 yards in a game. He threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 217 and two scores in a 42-35 victory over Indiana. He leads the nation in rushing with 905 yards and has passed for 1,008; he's completing almost 70 percent of his attempts.

2. RB LaMichael James, Oregon: His 257-yard, three-touchdown performance against Stanford entrenches James as a top Heisman contender. His 712-yard rushing total is the nation's second-highest and he didn't play in the season-opening blowout of New Mexico.

3. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State: He passed for 196 yards and three touchdowns in just more than one half of play in last week's 59-0 demolition of New Mexico State. It was the third time in four games Moore threw three touchdown passes (he had two in the other game). He's thrown for 1,069 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception.

4. QB Cameron Newton, Auburn: Auburn remains unbeaten and Newton is the main reason. He's thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game and has passed for 928 yards. He also leads the Tigers in rushing with 474 yards and five touchdowns. He's second in the nation in passing efficiency.

5. QB Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State: Although Pryor threw for just 76 yards in last week's 24-13 victory over Illinois, he still had two touchdown passes. He also rushed for 104 yards on 11 carries. Overall, he's thrown for 1,015 yards and rushed for 373.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.


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