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The Inside Track | ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

New Conspiracy Theory: 'Cane Mutiny by Voters

December 30, 2002|Chris Dufresne

PHOENIX — And the winner is ... ?

Willis McGahee and Ken Dorsey heard those words often on this month's rubber-chicken award show circuit, yet not once did the sentence end with one of their names.

Interesting.

Here were the top two players on the nation's top team, Miami, yet every time a guy in a tuxedo cracked open an envelope some player from a school that has not won 34 consecutive games stood to collect a prize.

Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back: And the winner is ... Penn State's Larry Johnson.

Davey O'Brien, awarded to the nation's top quarterback: And the winner is ... Iowa's Brad Banks.

Maxwell Award: And the winner is ... Johnson.

Walter Camp Award: And the winner is ... Johnson.

Johnny Unitas Award: And the winner is ... USC quarterback Carson Palmer.

Then, of course, there was the Dec. 14 presentation of the 68th Heisman Trophy, McGahee and Dorsey once again squirming in seats.

And the winner was?

Palmer.

McGahee, a sophomore tailback who had more impact on opposing defenses than any player in the country, finished a distant fourth.

Dorsey, a senior who is 38-1 as a starting quarterback, ended up fifth, two spots worse than his 2001 Heisman finish even though the threw for more yards and touchdown passes in 2002.

Dorsey and McGahee, combined, did not get as many votes as Palmer amassed.

Nothing personal ... or was it?

What had those award winners done on the field that McGahee and Dorsey had not?

For one, every hardware-taker not named McGahee or Dorsey played for a school that lost at least one game in 2002. Banks lost one, Palmer lost two, and Johnson's three-trophy haul matched the number of Penn State defeats.

Miami went 12-0 but nearly 0-for-the-trophy case, the exception being center Bret Romberg winning something called the Rimington Award.

Nation's best shaver?

No, nation's best center.

"I was probably upset more than any of the players," Miami Coach Larry Coker said of the McGahee-Dorsey snubs. "As their coach I want to see them win every award and every game. I'm over it now and I think they're over it now."

Maybe not.

At Sunday's first Fiesta Bowl news conference, McGahee suggested people out there don't want Miami players to win awards or the Hurricanes to extend their remarkable winning streak to 35 in Friday's national title game against Ohio State.

Call it Miami fatigue, born of clothes worn by the ghost of Fiesta Bowls (1987) past.

"Not too many people out there like Miami, so we didn't get as many votes as everyone else did," McGahee said bluntly. "I think it goes way back to the days when they got off the plane with [military] fatigues on, but I really don't know."

So, if we've got this story straight, writers with an ax to grind purposely stuck it to Miami players at award time.

"That's the impression I got," McGahee said.

As for Dorsey, it got to the point this year where he could no longer stand the criticisms of him -- average arm strength, product of a great system, you know, another Gino Torretta.

Romberg, Dorsey's roommate, said the senior quarterback was quick with the television remote control whenever discussion turned to him.

"We'd be watching and he'd flip the channel," Romberg said. "He wouldn't want to hear it anymore."

You sense Dorsey would like to lash out and name names but is smart enough not to make it an issue six days before Friday's national title game.

With typical poise in the pocket, Dorsey speaks in measured tones about alleged slights against him.

"I learned a lot this year in terms of how to handle myself," Dorsey said Sunday, "in terms of criticism and people not always having a positive opinion of me."

The reality?

It's ludicrous to believe there was an orchestrated plot to deprive Dorsey and McGahee of their just rewards.

The reality is Dorsey and McGahee had the misfortune, if you can possibly call it that, of playing on the same team. Their achievements were tempered by each other and their Heisman votes, in essence, canceled out.

Dorsey had a terrific season, throwing for 3,073 yards and 26 touchdowns, but not quite as terrific as seasons posted by USC's Palmer or Iowa's Banks.

McGahee rushed for 1,686 yards and 27 touchdowns, yet Penn State's Johnson rushed for more than 2,000.

Dorsey might have thrown for more yards without McGahee, and McGahee might have rushed for more yards without Dorsey, yet together they have formed a so-far unbeatable combination.

McGahee also was up against history, as no sophomore has won the Heisman.

"I didn't really think I was going to win it," McGahee said, "because it was my first year and I really didn't do too much to run up my stats like everybody else did. I was just happy to be there. I was expecting Dorsey to get a little bit more credit than what he got."

Any way you look at the Miami situation can not be good for Ohio State.

Miami, on the threshold of becoming the next college football dynasty, is continually looking for ways to motivate itself. The Hurricanes tend to play their best when challenged or provoked.

Earlier this year, the empire looked ready to crumble during a three-game stretch against Florida State, West Virginia and Rutgers. The Hurricane defense was giving up rushing yards by the chunk and the winning streak appeared in jeopardy.

Then, on Nov. 9, right on cue, Miami traveled to Knoxville and crushed Tennessee, 26-3.

At a time when Miami seeks to become the first team since Nebraska in 1994-95 to repeat as national champion, Hurricane players are looking for any motivational hook to keep their edge.

It seems odd that a school on a 34-game winning streak would think it has something to prove, but that appears to be Miami's pitch.

As for all those other players not named Dorsey or McGahee who took home trophies this month?

"We're the only two that's going to play for the national championship," McGahee said. "So that's something they can't take away from us."

And the winner is ... ?

We'll find out Friday.

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