Fitzgerald edged out of Heisman

Pitt wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald was a mere 128 votes short of being awarded the Heisman Trophy for the nation's top college football player. Fitzgerald, with 1,353 votes, finished second in the balloting to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White, who had 1,481 votes.

Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning and Michigan tailback Chris Perry finished a very distant third and fourth with 710 and 341 votes, respectively.

Of the ballots, cast by members of the media, former Heisman winners, and a collective vote by the fans, 319 had White at the top of the list and 253 had Fitzgerald at top. White had 204 second place votes and 116 third place votes. Fitzgerald had 233 second place votes and 128 third place votes. First place votes count for 3 points; second place votes count for two points; third place votes are one point.

If ever there is another sophomore wide receiver as talented as Larry Fitzgerald, people will likely be a little less inclined to dismiss that player's chances for the award because he is a sophomore and a wide receiver. The NCAA record-holder (18 straight games with touchdown catches) would have been the first sophomore to win the award. As it turned out he was the first sophomore to finish second in the balloting since Marshall Faulk of San Diego State in 1992. He was the first Pitt Heisman finalist since Craig "Ironhead" Heyward in 1987.

Being a sophomore wide receiver was not the only thing going against Fitzgerald's chances for the trophy. 300 votes had been cast before White had his worst performance of the season in a 35-7 loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 title game. Also, the Panthers' four losses on the season, especially the nationally televised loss to Miami, put Fitzgerald in a hole to start out with. And to be fair, the Miami defense did effectively shut him down that game.

Jason White's no slouch to be sure. He's led Oklahoma to a 12-1 regular season record and the Sugar Bowl for at least a share of the national championship. For the season his numbers are 264 of 414 for 3,744 yards, 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions, with a rating of 168.0. He's the best quarterback in the nation, flat-out.

It's just too bad, though, that many ballots were cast before White's two-interception dud of a performance against Kansas State. It merits pondering just how close Fitzgerald came to winning the trophy.

Larry Fitzgerald was named the winner of the prestigious Walter Camp Award earlier in the week, from the Division 1-A coaches and media relations directors. He was then awarded the Biletnikoff Award winner as the nation's top receiver.


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