Montee Ball was robbed of the Heisman Trophy a year ago when he tied Barry Sanders’ single-season record for rushing touchdowns. As a consolation prize, he won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back this season.
But did he deserve it? If you ask Oregon State coach Mike Riley, I bet the answer is no.
Of the three Walker finalists—Wisconsin’s Ball was joined by UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner—none of them had particularly dazzling numbers this season:
Ball 332 carries, 1,730 yards (5.2 yards per carry), 21 TDs; 9 catches, 65 yards (7.2 yards per catch), 0 TDs.
Franklin 268 carries, 1,700 yards (6.3), 13 TDs; 32 catches, 319 yards (10.0), 2 TDs.
Barner 248 carries, 1,624 yards (6.5), 21 TDs; 19 catches, 232 yards (12.2), 1 TD.
None of those jumps out like Ball’s 39 touchdowns a season ago.
The logical step in a tight race for a single-season award is to look for a common denominator. (Unless of course we’re talking about the Heisman Trophy, in which case you need a Heisman moment—whatever that is. If those do in fact exist, didn’t Barner have one against USC when he rushed for more yards against the Trojans than anyone ever had before?)
We have a common denominator in Oregon State University.
The Beavers are the only team to have played all three Doak Walker finalists. Here’s how each of the backs fared against the Beavers:
Ball 15 carries, 61 yards. 4 catches, 18 yards. 0 TDs.
Franklin 12 carries, 45 yards. 1 catch, 11 yards. 0 TDs.
Barner 28 carries, 198 yards. 0 catches. 2 TDs.
Perhaps it goes without saying that Barner’s Ducks were the only team to beat the Beavers.
Oregon State’s defense shut out two of the nation’s top three running backs. The Beavers were shredded by one of the three.
That one, however, did not go home with a trophy Thursday night.