VY: Maxwell, O'Brien In Bag; But Heisman?

NEW YORK CITY -- Vote For Vince, and your wildest dreams will come true. Or, something to that effect. Although Heisman ballots were punched by Tuesday, several Longhorns stated their case for their favorite candidate as Texas QB Vince Young, USC QB Matt Leinart and USC RB Reggie Bush emerged as the three finalists for the coveted hardware, considered college football's preminent award.

Tuesday's announcements marked the first time this millenium that the list of finalists was limited to just three hopefuls. The winner will be revealed here Saturday night, and, despite Young's Thursday Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Award wins, all indications are that Bush will be the third Trojan to claim the Heisman in four years.

Head coach Mack Brown has asked voters to consider Young's body of work throughout the entire season. Yet, the myopic emphasis on how a candidate performs down the stretch is the primary reason why Bush's approval rating is at an all-time high. (The argument here is that if you were to flip-flop in the schedule the A&M game with either the Ohio State or Oklahoma State game, Young would still be the frontrunner.) His staff of student volunteers would concur.

"In addition to all the amazing things he's done, he leads the team," said FL Quan Cosby. "Once we get going, it's definitely him leading it, whether he's throwing it, running it or handing it off. He's in total control of this offense."

This offense has generated an NCAA-leading 50.9 ppg and will shatter both the program's scoring and the total offense record established by the 1969 national champion. Yet, Bush had a monster game (513 all-purpose yards) in Southern Cal's eight-point win against Fresno State just days before Young's relatively pedestrian outing against Texas A&M. Bush has run for 1,658 yards and 18 TDs, averaging 8.9 ypc. Meanwhile, Leinart has put up better numbers in 2005 than during his Heisman-winning campaign last year. The senior has thrown for 3,450 yards and 27 TDs in leading the Trojans to another undefeated season, extending a 34-game win streak that many (incuding Brown) deemed impossible in modern day college football.

Young raised his record to 29-2 with that 70-3 thumping of Colorado in the Big 12 Championship Game, eclipsing legendary Bobby Layne's UT record for most wins. His .935 winning percentage is the sixth best in NCAA history.

"Some say (Young's) stats aren't as good," said LG Kasey Studdard, "but Vince was out before the end of the third quarter in nearly every game. He hardly ever played a full football game."

VY's stats are still preety freakish. He owns the school record for career total offense (8,705) and for single-season yardage (3,624). Young is responsible for a school record 78 TDs, including 26 passing TDs in 2005 which ties Chris Simms' mark set in 2002. He broke his own school record for completion percentage when Texas played CU on October 15 by going 25-of-29 (86.2 percent). Young's greatest assests, according to SE Lima Sweed, was his ability to remain "the same humble guy" but still "going out there and handling his business and showing that he is the man. I think he should win."

Young is now the first Longhorn underclassman to rank among the top three Heisman finalists since All-American FB Roosevelt Leaks finished third in 1973 during his junior season. Leaks was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame here on Tuesday.

"Just look at him: he can take any game under his wing and turn the game around," said FS Michael Griffin. "Last year, people used to comment that he couldn't complete his passes. This year, he stepped his game up and showed everybody he could do that."

VY finished the regular season ranked third nationally in passing efficiency (No. 1 Big 12) with a rating of 165.

USC coach Pete Carroll admitted earlier this week that he has seen very little of Texas' 12-0 campaign, but said the few highlights he has managed to catch of the Big 12 champs have typically centered around a big play courtesy of Young.

"He just keeps scoring plays and long touchdowns," Carroll noted. "Whether it's on-rhythm or out of rhythm, he's a remarkably talented athlete. He gives a defensive coach all the problems a guy could every give you. We'll have to focus tremendously on how to keep him under wraps. The problem is they've got a lot of other players that play really well, too."

But only three players have been invited to the Big Apple for Saturday's presentation. This much we know: they will be on the same field come January 4.

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