Hawai'i: Injury Steals Heisman?
Based on his record-setting performance in 2006, Colt Brennan came into his senior season expecting to have another eye-popping year. A couple of injuries and 12 missed quarters of play later, Brennan left the 2007 regular season with an undefeated record and plenty of high-flying numbers, but not as many popped eyes as he was hoping for. His 4,174 passing yards and 35 touchdowns earned him not only an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, but 54 first-place votes and a third-place finish in the final tally for the sport's most prestigious award. But despite all his successes, it is hard not to wonder - if he hadn't been injured, would the trophy belong to Colt?
In all honesty, the answer to that question is probably no. Tim Tebow had an outstanding year and Brennan's five-interception performance at Idaho in September most likely knocked him out of the running for the title of the most outstanding player in college football (the most outstanding player cannot turn the ball over five times in a single game). But even so, it's worth a look at the numbers.
Even with a combined 12 quarters of sideline time due to a sprained ankle, a concussion and a couple of blowout scores, Brennan led the nation in seven statistical categories, broke or tied 18 NCAA records and threw for more yards and touchdowns than the other two quarterback finalists for the Heisman, Florida's Tim Tebow and Missouri's Chase Daniel.
Daniel's numbers were the closest to Brennan's - he passed for 4,170 yards and 33 touchdowns, but it's important to note that he had three extra games in which to hit those highs. Give back to Brennan those 12 quarters of football, and he certainly would have hit 5,000 yards passing (he averaged 379.5 yards per game this season), and who knows how many touchdowns he could have added to his tally (he threw for 5 TDs in each of the season's final two games).
Brennan's 632 points and third-place finish gave him the highest final tally for a player from a non-major conference since Steve McNair, out of Alcorn State, took third in 1994. Brennan was the only 2007 Heisman finalist to play on an undefeated team, as Hawai'i was the only team to finish the season perfect this year, and he is the only finalist who will play in a BCS bowl come January (the Warriors take on Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1).
After the results of the Heisman voting were released on Saturday, Brennan spoke about how important going undefeated was to the Warriors. He acknowledged Hawai'i's cupcake schedule, but also pointed out that the team could do no more than beat the teams it was scheduled to play, which they did.
"Michigan State paid us $250,000 not to play us," Brennan said. "Michigan didn't want to play us. They chose Appalachian State. There are plenty of other teams that decided not to play us. We had to play who we lined up against. We beat those teams. Now against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, it's a great opportunity for us to get some respect. We can talk after the game."
If the Heisman were awarded after bowl season, and if Brennan does succeed in leading his team to an unprecedented win over a red-hot SEC team, then he can pen his letter to the Heisman committee asking for a re-vote. For now, however, he'll have to be content to blame the injury for taking him out of 12 quarters worth of chances to break the records that the non-believers would not have been able to ignore.
But remember: the kind of injury-related Heisman frustration is not Brennan, who made it to a BCS bowl game, but Oregon QB Dennis Dixon, who still finished fifth in the final vote.