Despite perfect record, Te'o behind Manziel for Heisman Trophy


Despite perfect record, Te'o behind Manziel for Heisman Trophy

Amid the revelry of Notre Dame's first-ever bid to a BCS Championship was a question that's persisted for months, regarding if it's actually possible for a linebacker to win the Heisman Trophy. Manti Te'o has built as impressive a rsum as any defensive player in recent history, but despite being the backbone of a defense that led its team to a 12-0 record and national title shot, he's either second or third in most polls.

"If a guy like Manti Te'o's not going to win the Heisman, they should just make it an offensive award," coach Brian Kelly said Saturday. "Just give it to the offensive player every year and let's just cut to the chase."

That offensive player this year is Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, a dynamic redshirt freshman quarterback who's accounted for 4,600 yards of offense and 43 touchdowns for the 10-2 Aggies. It's tough to argue with those numbers, especially with Manziel playing in the SEC.

"Its something that you dream about as a kid," Manziel said on a teleconference Monday. "When youre sitting there playing all these NCAA games when youre a kid, and you create a player and you win the Heisman as a freshman because you just put up crazy numbers, its something that you can only sit back and dream about."

As long as a quarterback, running back or wide receiver is putting up monster numbers in a power conference, a defensive player -- one who doesn't play special teams -- is a longshot to win the Heisman Trophy. Manziel's electrifying style of play has captured attention nationwide, and with one week of games remaining, he's the frontrunner to be handed the Heisman in New York Dec. 8 -- even if he doesn't want to admit it.

"I dont know if thats the case," Manziel said of leading the Heisman chase. "I feel like that situation, itll play itself out, and whatevers meant to be will happen. ... I think that the Heisman and all the other awards like that, theyll play themselves out."

The award doesn't go to the best player on the nation's best team. It's not a most valuable player award, it's a best player award with plenty of wiggle room for team success.

Te'o may be the best player in the country, but there's really no comparing tackles to touchdowns. It's the same debate baseball goes through when a pitcher emerges as the most valuable player -- and hey, Justin Verlander won the AL MVP in 2011.

But it's much more difficult to quantify a single player's defensive impact than that of a quarterback, running back or wide receiver, all of whom rack up yards, touchdowns and time on highlight reels. Te'o's seven interceptions are the most by an FBS linebacker in a dozen years, and are the second-highest total in college football's top division. He has 103 tackles, 1 12 sacks, 5 12 tackles for a loss, four quarterback hits and two fumble recoveries.

That's an impressive line, but likely not enough to win the Heisman. But Te'o's largest goal of the season is still on the table.

"I wanted to go to the National Championship, and now I am," Te'o said. "If I win, that's going to be a great honor for my family, but if I don't, I'm just glad we're going to Miami."

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

Morning Update: Blackhawks fall to Jackets; Cubs look to close out Dodgers in NLCS

Morning Update: Blackhawks fall to Jackets; Cubs look to close out Dodgers in NLCS

Complete Cubs-Dodgers NLCS Game 6 coverage on CSN

IHSA Football Playoff Pairing Show Saturday on CSN

Penalty kill struggles again in Blackhawks’ loss to Blue Jackets

Clayton Kershaw stands between Cubs and World Series: ‘To be the best, you got to beat the best’

For Bears QB Jay Cutler, an unwanted second chance – audition? – presents itself

White Sox: Chris Getz's new player development role is to carry out 'vision of the scouts'

How game-changing Kyle Hendricks deal came together for Cubs team on brink of World Series

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

Week 8 Big Ten previews: After last week's clash, Badgers, Buckeyes hit the road

High School Lites Football Roundup: Week 9