Flutie backs Te'o's 'longshot' Heisman candidacy


Flutie backs Te'o's 'longshot' Heisman candidacy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Doug Flutie knows the Heisman Trophy usually winds up in the hands of whatever quarterback puts up eye-popping numbers on a successful team. He won the award in 1984, leading Boston College to a 10-2 record with 3,454 yards and 27 touchdowns.

With that in mind, Manti Te'o's chances of winning the Heisman are slim -- not while West Virginia's Geno Smith, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Kansas State's Collin Klein are topping the polls. But that doesn't mean Te'o isn't a deserving candidate in the eyes of a former winner.

"From a Heisman standpoint, I think he deserves to be in the conversation," Flutie, now an analyst on NBC Sports' college football studio show, told CSNChicago.com on Saturday. "He may, if he continues to play the way he has, end up with a trip to New York. I really doubt -- it's just such a longshot for a defensive player to win it, (Charles) Woodson's the only one. It's tough because it's not glamorous, it's not flashy, you don't have the numbers to put up against everyone else."

Flutie's point about Te'o at least getting a trip to New York for the ceremony may be the Irish linebacker's best bet at recognition. Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the last defensive player (who didn't make an impact on special teams, as LSU's Tyrann Mathieu did last year) to be named a finalist and head to New York, with that being in 2009 (Alabama RB Mark Ingram win the Heisman that year). Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk finished sixth in 2005, as did Miami's Warren Sapp in 1994, and FSU linebacker Marvin Jones was fourth in 1992.

Fellow NBC analyst and former wide receiver Hines Ward, though, pointed out that Notre Dame's defense is right up there with Alabama -- which probably will be No. 1 when the first BCS standings are released Sunday -- and Te'o is at the heart of it.

"He's an impact player. He's somebody that offensive coordinators, they spotlight him," Ward explained. "You gotta know where he's at at all times. He has to be held accountable because he will create havoc on that field either by pressuring the quarterback or get some turnovers. I think if anything, he's the emotional leader of that defense. I think everybody thrives off him."

As long as Notre Dame's defense continues its run of success -- the Irish haven't allowed a touchdown since Sept. 8 - -Te'o will continue to get Heisman recognition. Enough to win the award? Probably not. Neither Flutie nor Ward would go that far, and the same can be said for most everyone outside of the campus at Notre Dame.

But a trip to the Heisman ceremony would still be a special accomplishment for a defensive player, one that's a rarity in college football.

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.

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