reevaluated a handful of Heisman Trophy votes reevaluated a handful of Heisman Trophy votes reevaluated a handful of Heisman Trophy votes

Friday Flashback: The 1992 Heisman Trophy Vote Revisited

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SaturdayBlitz.com’s Friday Flashback series

reevaluated a handful of Heisman Trophy votes

last summer, among them 1992. The race is one worthy of its own breakdown, since frankly, it’s one of the more bizarre in recent memory. The most bizarre is 2001, but I will save that entry for another Friday.

Gino Torretta left Miami with his name all over the record book as career leader for completions (555) and yards passing (7,690). At a university that produced Vinny Testaverde, Bernie Kosar and Jim Kelly, such marks are impressive. That makes Torretta’s Heisman winning ’92 season all the more surprising, because he left the Downtown Athletic Club owner of college football’s loftiest honor with some underwhelming stats.

Comparing Torretta’s numbers through the lens of today’s game would be a distortion. Quarterbacks of the era weren’t putting up the figures Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or Robert Griffin III accrued. Still, Torretta’s output isn’t breathtaking in the context of the time. His 19 touchdowns were a far cry from the previous Heisman-winning quarterback (Ty Detmer, who threw 41 in 1990).

The next year’s winner was 1992 top 10 finisher Charlie Ward. Ward used an OK ’92 as a springboard into a stellar ’93, one of the best individual campaigns a quarterback has ever had with 27 touchdowns, four interceptions and a nearly 70 percent completion rate — the latter figure 13 percent better than Torretta’s percentage in ’92.

Of course, any season’s Heisman vote can only exist in the confines of that season. Bearing that in mind, Torretta’s blandly decent year garnering historic honor is fitting, because 1992 was an odd campaign for one with a Heisman vote.

Miami was still the swag-tastic machine celebrated in Billy Corben’s “The U,” rattling off a perfect 11-0 regular season to punch its ticket to the Sugar Bowl. Alabama would kick Miami from its perch atop college football, but that has no bearing on the Heisman race. However, the fashion in which the Crimson Tide dispatched The U. was indicative of the Hurricanes’ most glaring vulnerability: their offense.

Defending national champion Miami played an ambitious schedule that included three top 10 opponents (Florida State, Syracuse, Penn State). Each game was on the road, and the Hurricanes won them all. However, Miami failed to crack 20 in any of those contests. In a fourth game, Miami beat Arizona 8-7, maintaining its Orange Bowl win streak only when Steve McLaughlin’s would-be game winning field goal missed.

The offensive MVP of the nation’s No. 1 has a decided leg up in Heisman voting. Torretta also swept the various quarterback awards that season, another typical indicator of Heisman stature. Even so, it’s intriguing to juxtapose Torretta’s Hurricanes with the 2011 LSU Tigers.

LSU scored points en masse, yet no one would deny it reached the BCS championship on the strength of its defense. That was reflected in the selection of Tyrann Mathieu as the Tigers’ Heisman finalist. And while as stated above that evaluating an era passed with today’s game isn’t accurate, it is worth noting that Jarrett Lee accumulated stats comparable to Torretta’s in only part-time starting duty.

Like LSU, The U had its own defensive top 10 finalist in the Heisman running, linebacker Micheal Barrow. If the Heisman truly reflects Most Valuable on a top team, Barrow would have been a worthy choice. That Miami team won with defense, and Barrow was its anchor. On a roster that included Warren Sapp and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Barrow led. His keen insight from the linebacker position came into play later at Miami, when he joined the staff as an assistant.

However, linebacker is a virtually impossible position from which to win the bronze statue. The final pool of 10 was also comprised of three defenders who surely took some votes from one another. Florida State’s Marvin Jones was in the mix, as was Alabama’s Eric Curry.

Furthermore, Heisman voters had gone the non-traditional route just a season before. Michigan wide receiver and special teams star Desmond Howard won the ’91 award in a landslide. Howard was the last in a run of unusual selections over a half-decade stretch. Notre Dame’s Tim Brown became the first wide receiver to win in 1987; Andre Ware staked claim to history in 1989 from Houston, then a Southwest Conference member but certainly no consistent power; and BYU’s Detmer won out of the WAC in ’90.

Torretta was a safer, more traditional choice. Certainly more so than his runner-up, San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk. Faulk was at several disadvantages: he played in the WAC, out of the national consciousness. While a WAC player had won the award just two years prior, Detmer’s BYU team was Top 25 caliber; 5-5-1 San Diego State was middling at best. SDSU even drew Torretta’s Hurricanes in the season finale, but a knee injury sidelined the Aztecs’ star. What could have been a memorable entry in the annals of college football for its Heisman implications is only noteworthy for the fights (that’s fights plural) that broke out.

Still, in 10 games that season Faulk built an impressive resume. He rushed for 15 touchdowns and over 1600 yards, one of his lesser statistical seasons — he scored 21 touchdowns and averaged more yards per carry in ’91, and notched 21 scores again ’93. Ironically, it was his best Heisman balloting. Faulk wasn’t all that close to catching Torretta though, instead finishing just barely ahead of Garrison Hearst of Georgia.

It’s likely that Hearst usurped some of Faulk’s votes, or vice versa. The Georgia running back put up statistics comparable to Faulk’s, in the much more challenging SEC. Hearst surpassed 1500 yards rushing and racked up 19 touchdowns, and added another two on the pass. The Dawgs even had a solid all-around season, topping Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl for a 10-2 finish.

Hearst’s disappointing finish is an exercise in one of the Heisman’s fundamental flaws. So much of the award is based on hype. Faulk was a top 10 finisher in 1991; Torretta quarterbacked the No. 1 ranked team and defending national champion. Though playing at a powerhouse in Georgia, Hearst was not on the national radar until late in the season.

Perhaps Hearst could have benefited from today’s social media impact, a la Griffin.