Heisman A Two-Horse Race Between Young, Leinart?

Facing a six-point deficit with 2:37 remaining, and the ear-splitting north end of Ohio Stadium, and Ohio State's home streak of 36 straight victories against non-conference foes, and a school record 105,565 in full-throated delirium, QB Vince Young had the Buckeyes exactly where he wanted them.

The 24-yard toss to just inside the left pylon, vs. double coverage, to sophomore SE Limas Sweed not only gave Texas the lead for good but was also just the latest in a series of heroics in which Young has led the Horns to comebacks in seven of the past eight ballgames. Shortly after Texas' dramatic 25-22 comeback win over Ohio State, an incredulous Buckeye fan recognized my Texas press credentials and asked, "Does Young always do that when things are dire?"

Yes, as a matter of fact, he pretty much does. He thrives on adversity. He relishes the national stage. About the only thing he doesn't do is fly out of phone booths wearing a red cape and an 'S' on the front of his uniform (as far as we know). Even so, VY took to the air Saturday, completing 18-of-29 passes for 270 yards and two TDs, after the Buckeyes determined that the junior would not beat them with his feet.

"It looked like to us that they decided to keep everybody in the box and make us throw the football," head coach Mack Brown said. "We had a great game plan with play action pass."

Ohio State also sprinkled in some hard blitzes from their renowned trio of linebackers to try to keep Young off-balance. He was guilty of two INTs (isn't he always?) but his second nationally televised comeback over a traditional Big Ten power in the past three games is the stuff that Heisman Trophy winners are made of.

"That whole Heisman thing is in the back of my mind right now," Young said. "I'm all about my teammates right now."

But his Heisman bid is presumably at the forefront of nearly everyone's minds who follow college football and who saw VY raise his record to 19-2 as a starter Saturday. Buckeye WLB Bobby Carpenter's comments last week turned the national media's attention to VY's Heisman bid when he said, "Our goal is when Vince Young leaves here he won't be a candidate for the Heisman."

"Trash talk always inspires me, man," Young said. "That's where I'm from, just growing up and hearing things like that. But Carpenter knows. He did a great job playing a great game."

Carpenter's comment wasn't so much a piece of bulletin board fodder as it was an indirect compliment to Young. Carpenter, in essence, stated that Ohio State's goal was to win the game because, if they did, Young's Heisman's bid would be derailed. But after having his hand in 346 total yards of offense, Young's Heisman bid received such a significant boost that the early race shapes up as neck-to-neck photo finish between himself and current Heisman winner Matt Leinart (assuming both programs run the table).

Oklahoma RB Adrian Peterson, last year's Heisman runner-up, saw his stock fall when he couldn't single-handedly lift his club to a home win over TCU on September 3 (that would be the same Horned Frog team that fell to lowly SMU Saturday). Peterson will be rendered an also-ran when OU loses again, and OU will lose again.

Ohio State's Ted Ginn, Jr. saw his Heisman bid take a serious hit when he collected all of nine yards on two receptions Saturday, and lost two yards on his only carry of the night, before his Buckeyes fell to Texas. (You can chalk that up, in part, to a head coach who hasn't figured out how to tap into Ginn's game-breaking capability. For now, he's college football's best decoy.)

A couple of dark horse candidates, Michigan QB Chad Henne and Texas A&M QB Reggie McNeal, will only be mentioned in the same breath as Young and Leinhart if they can rally their team from losses to lower ranked opponents and win their conference titles. (Not gonna happen in either case.) We'll still hear plenty from Virginia Tech's Marcus Vick, but missing all of last year due to off-the-field troubles likely means the current season is a primer for a solid bid in 2006. Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn will start to get some buzz but his bubble may burst when the Irish face USC, Tennessee and Purdue during a four-week stretch.

The 2005 Orange Bowl matched a pair of teams that boasted a Heisman winning QB. The 2006 Rose Bowl could as well. Should USC stumble at a markedly improved Notre Dame on October 15, Texas would be No. 1 nationally (assuming the Horns hold up their end of the bargain) and the Heisman could be Young's to lose.

Young has, thus far, lived up to Brown's assertion that his QB's passing game has improved considerably since the Rose Bowl. At least one Buckeye, who saw VY up-close-and-personal, would readily concur. That would be senior FS Nate Salley, who had coverage on Sweed during his decisive TD grab.

"(Young) is a very tough guy," Salley said. "Obviously he can run well but he's also improved his throwing. He did a very good job on us."

A very good job, indeed, but not necessarily an atypical outing for Young. In other words, he did it again. It's just another clutch performance for the unflappable Mister Young. Only, this season, it isn't just the eyes of Texas that are upon him.

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