Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh Has His Heisman Moment

Dale ThortonCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 05:  Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh #93 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Cowboys Stadium on December 5, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In the week leading up to the Big 12 championship game, I had a feeling the majority of Heisman Trophy voters were starting to lean toward giving the award to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy simply because he looked like the safest pick.

McCoy was the guy guiding the undefeated Longhorns to a possible BCS title game, he had a recognizable name, he played the quarterback position and he was one of the few preseason picks for the Heisman still standing.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the awards ceremony. McCoy messed up, didn’t play well in the Big 12 Championship and didn’t have that signature Heisman moment. In fact, he stunk.

Sure, Texas still pulled out a victory over Nebraska on Saturday night, but don’t give me the “McCoy still did enough on the last drive to win the game for Texas” line. McCoy almost flat-out lost it with his poor time management at the end of the game, forcing senior kicker Hunter Lawrence to bail him out with a 46-yard field goal.

Heisman winners don’t get “bailed out.” They make everyone around them better.

McCoy finished the game 20-of-36 for 184 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Once again he struggled to be decisive in the pocket any time he felt pressure up the gut.

Yet throughout his struggling performance, we still heard the ABC announcing crew routinely beg for that signature Heisman moment from McCoy. But it never materialized, as drive after drive ended with a three-and-out, a sack or an interception.

The reason McCoy never had his Heisman moment: Because the man with a big No. 93 on his chest, standing on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage, was Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

I wrote a piece in early November breaking down the reasons that, from a pure statistical standpoint, Suh should win the Heisman.

I talked about the “poorer statistical seasons” being posted by this year’s quarterback and running back contenders, while highlighting the numbers Suh has posted compared to past defensive tackles who have been up for the award.

My point was simply to say that because of the down year by the typical skill-position players up for the award—paired with Suh’s dominant numbers this season—he should be this year’s winner.

It was a crazy theory at the time, and I never really thought a defensive tackle would actually end up winning the award. But you have to think at least some twinkling of a light went on Saturday night for Heisman voters when it was Suh who had his Heisman moment, which in turn kept McCoy from having his.

Suh was absolutely brilliant inside against the Longhorns, finishing with 12 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, consistently dominating the line of scrimmage against both the run and pass game. He opened up countless opportunities for teammates to make plays around him. The Cornhuskers’ defense finished with nine sacks and was the only reason Nebraska had a chance to win it in the fourth quarter.

But this type of dominance wasn’t just a one-night performance.

Suh currently leads all defensive tackles in the nation in sacks with 12 (tied for sixth overall) and is second among DTs in tackles for loss with 23 (fifth overall). Pair that with his team-leading 50 solo tackles, 82 total tackles, 24 quarterback hurries and three blocked kicks, and you can easily make the case that no player in the nation means more or does more for his team than Suh.

Also, consider that the Nebraska offense hasn’t really helped Suh’s cause. The Cornhuskers finished with only 106 yards Saturday night and rank 11th in the Big 12 in pass offense and total offense. Consequently, Nebraska getting a sniff of the Big 12 Championship, let alone having a chance to win it, would not have happened without Suh.

The Heisman Trophy goes to “the most outstanding college football player in the United States,” not the most outstanding quarterback nor the most outstanding player on the best team, nor even the player who received the most preseason hype.

After having a national stage to perform on and going up against another Heisman hopeful, there’s no question in my mind that that player is Ndamukong Suh.

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