Back in December, 2005, Texas quarterback Vince Young boarded a flight to New York City for the 71st Heisman award ceremony.
Young had done just about everything a Heisman candidate could be asked to do.
He had racked up eye-popping statistics, created an endless display of highlight reel material, and led his team to a 12-0 record, earning the Longhorns a trip to Pasadena for the BCS title game three weeks later against USC.
However, Young lost out on college football’s highest individual honor to the Trojans’ Reggie Bush by a substantial margin.
Texas fans across the country cried foul, arguing that Young’s season ranked among the greatest ever for a collegiate quarterback and was surely deserving of the award.
Three years later, another Longhorns quarterback, Colt McCoy, found himself aboard another flight to New York.
McCoy also lost, as he was edged out by Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford in one of the closest votes in Heisman history.
Once again, Longhorns nation felt that their star player had been robbed of the stiff arm trophy.
So, here we are in 2009. And once again McCoy will be in New York City Saturday night for the 75th Heisman ceremony .
But, once again, the competition is tight and many “experts” seem to think McCoy may come up short again.
If both Young and McCoy a season ago fell short in voters’ minds, what kind of chance do McCoy’s numbers give him this year?
To start, let’s compare raw passing numbers each player put up in their respective seasons:
Vince Young (2005): 212 completions/325 attempts (65.2 completion %), 3,036 yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 163.95
Colt McCoy (2008): 332/433 (76.7%), 3,859 yards, 34 TD, 8 INT, 173.75 rating
Colt McCoy (2009): 330/468 (70.5%), 3,512 yards, 27 TD, 12 INT, 147.46 rating
Clearly, McCoy ’08 had the strongest passing numbers. However, it is notable that McCoy ’09 has surpassed Young in yards and touchdowns, though he ranks behind Young in interceptions and quarterback rating.
Now let’s take a look at rushing statistics:
Young ’05: 155 attempts, 1,050 yards, 12 touchdowns
McCoy ’08: 136 attempts, 561 yards, 11 touchdowns
McCoy ’09: 128 attempts, 348 yards, 3 touchdowns
The numbers here obviously skew toward Young who was, after all, one of the best running quarterbacks of all time.
But McCoy’s rushing statistics in 2008 sharply dropped off this season. You can blame that on many factors, including a lessened necessity for McCoy to run the ball, but voters may have a difficult time ignoring the sharp decline between seasons.
Next, let’s take a look at each player’s team during their respective seasons:
Texas ’05: 520 yards/game, 50.2 points/game, 12-0 record, Big 12 Champions
Texas ’08: 475.8 yards/game, 42.4 points/game, 11-1 record, Big 12 South co-champions
Texas ’09: 432.4 yards/game, 40.7 points/game, 13-0 record, Big 12 Champions
Unquestionably, Texas’ offensive numbers were most impressive during the 2005 season. And once again, 2008’s impressive numbers for the McCoy-led offense declined a bit in 2009.
The one significant difference between McCoy’s seasons is that 2009’s squad is the Big 12 champion, while 2008’s squad lost the tiebreaker with Oklahoma to play for that right (sorry to bring that up, Horns fans).
Of course, Heisman voters often vote on factors that numbers can’t describe. These “intangibles” can include everything from a stand-out performance in a big game to a tendency to credit players who have excelled throughout a long collegiate career.
Taking a look at a few of each player’s tangibles:
Young ‘05: Predicted his team’s return to the Rose Bowl a season before, led comeback victory against Ohio State, 286 yards/4 TD’s against Oklahoma, 4 TD’s in 70-3 blowout of Colorado in Big 12 title game
McCoy ’08: Three-year starter, 308 total yards in win over Oklahoma, 394 yards, 4 TD’s versus Colorado, three wins over ranked opponents, did not win Big 12 title due to tiebreaker
McCoy ’09: Four-year starter, “robbed” of 2008 Heisman, three wins over ranked opponents, 479 yards, 5 TD’s in win over Texas A&M, led game-winning drive over Nebraska for Big 12 championship
Anyone who watched Young play in 2005 could attest to just how explosive a player he was. In almost every game it was clear he was the best player on the field.
While McCoy has never been as flashy a player as Young was, his 2008 season was impressive in that he really never turned in a bad game. McCoy’s QB rating dipped below 100 only twice, 96.8 against Colorado and 94.5 against Texas Tech.
But this season has been a bit of a different story for McCoy. On five occasions McCoy has posted a QB rating of under 100, including a 58.4 rating against Oklahoma and a woeful 35.0 in the Big 12 Championship against Nebraska.
And it was that final game against the Huskers that could spoil McCoy’s Heisman pose.
While Young and McCoy ’08 excelled on the biggest stages, McCoy ’09 played below average against several of his team’s toughest competitors.
Looking at all of these numbers together, it is difficult to make an argument that McCoy has put together a better season in 2009 than Vince Young did in 2005 or McCoy himself did in 2008.
And neither Young in ’05 nor McCoy in ‘08 had seasons deemed worthy of a Heisman.
Though voters may give him extra credit for four years as a starter (and for losing such a close vote last season), it is unlikely McCoy’s 2009 campaign will, either.
The good news for McCoy, of course, is that the last time a Texas quarterback lost a close Heisman vote and went on to play for a national championship, things worked out pretty well.
Young put on a display unlike anything college football had seen before, leading the Horns to a BCS championship in a classic game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Win or lose Saturday night, McCoy’s next flight will be to Pasadena, where he will get his own chance to make history and lead the Longhorns to another national title .
Perhaps McCoy would prefer not to win this award after all.