You thought this was going to be about Drew Brees, didn't you? Well, any person with a modicum of common sense realizes that our hero should have won the 2000 Heisman. He didn't, but he was the best player in college football that year.
Purdue fans should be used to it, however. We have suffered Heisman slights As Purdue had a player in the top three of the Heisman voting for four consecutive years. In three of those years a Boilermaker was a runner-up, but could not get of the hump as a player at a school with more national appeal took home the award. Here is a quick review of what happened.
Winner: Steve Spurrier - Florida (1,679 points)
Runner-Up: Bob Griese - Purdue (816 points)
As we know, Griese led Purdue to a 9-2 season and the only Rose Bowl victory in school history. The only losses were 26-14 at Notre Dame and 41-20 at Michigan State. both of those teams shared the national title with identical 9-0-1 records, the tie coming against each other. Purdue went to the Rose Bowl not as the Big Ten champion, but because of the rule that teams from the Big Ten could not go in consecutive years. This was not even the best Purdue of that era, but Griese threw for 1,749 yards and 12 TDs in addition to kicking extra points and field goals. Spurrier threw for 2,012 yards and 16 TDs.
Spurrier kicked three field goals that season while Bob was 4 of 6 and made 33 extra points. Florida was also 9-2, winning the Orange Bowl but losing to Georgia 27-10 and Miami (21-16). Georgia went on to win the Cotton Bowl and was 10-1. We can't even compare the two against a common opponent. Florida pounded Northwestern while the Wildcats were off the schedule. In the end Spurrier likely won based on superior numbers.
Winner: Gary Beban - UCLA (1,968 points)
Third place: Leroy Keyes - Purdue (1,366 points)
This was a damn travesty for all involved. Beban, Keyes, and runner-up O.J. Simpson were far and away the top three contenders. Fourth place Larry Csonka of Syracuse was more than 1,200 points behind Keyes. Keyes would finish with more first place votes than O.J., but what cost Keyes is that he appeared in the top three on just 668 ballots. Simpson was in the top three on 841 ballots and Beban 898.
The 1967 Purdue team was ranked No. 1 for a good portion of the season and if not for a 22-14 loss to Oregon State and a 19-14 loss at Indiana it would have likely been the National Champion despite not being eligible for a bowl game. The same rule that benefited Purdue in 1966 hurt them in 1967, as Purdue led the Big Ten with a spotless record going into the Bucket game. Had Purdue won, Minnesota would have gone as the runner-up. Instead, Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota shared the title and Indiana went to its only Rose Bowl. Purdue also might have been able to overcome the Oregon State loss to be voted to the title.
Leroy was hurt for much of the IU game, which was critical since he was a two-way player. He still ran for 986 yards and 10 scores, caught 45 passes for 758 yards and six touchdowns, completed 5 of 10 passes for 59 yards and three TDs, returned five kicks, and had an interception on defense.
By comparison Beban, a quarterback, led UCLA to a 7-2-1 record with a tie against Oregon State and losses to USC and Syracuse. He threw for 1,359 yards and only 8 TDs against 8 picks. He also rushed for 227 yards. Clearly, Leroy was better.
For O.J., he was coming into his own on that USC team. He rushed for 1,415 yards, but had fewer yards per carry than Keyes. He also only caught 10 passes for 109 yards and no scores. He did throw three touchdown passes. O.J. also did not play defense. He scored 11 total touchdowns compared to Leroy's 19. USC went 10-1 and beat Indiana in the Rose Bowl. They lost to Oregon State 3-0, as the Beavers went 2-0-1 against the three Heisman candidates.
This was Leroy's Heisman that got stolen from him. Beban and Simpson were not two-way players and Keyes' offensive numbers alone were good enough to win. When you factor in that he returned kicks and was a key member of Purdue's secondary it is a tragedy he didn't win. If Purdue beats Oregon State he probably does win.
Winner: O.J. Simpson - USC (2,853 points)
Runner-Up: Leroy Keyes - Purdue (1,103 points)
There is not as much of a debate here as Keyes and Simpson went at each other in a rematch. Keyes ran for 1,003 yards and 11 TDs, caught 33 passes for 428 yards and a score, threw for 81 yards and 3 TD's, but stopped returning kicks.
Simpson, however, simply went off for 1,709 yards and 22 total touchdowns. USC was 9-1-1, tying Notre Dame and losing to National champion Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Purdue was 8-2, losing to Ohio State 13-0 and Minnesota 27-13. It's fair that Simpson won one of the largest margins in history.
Winner: Steve Owens - Oklahoma (1,488 points)
Runner-Up: Mike Phipps - Purdue (1,334 points)
This is the closest Purdue has ever come to winning a Heisman Trophy. Phipps led Purdue agonizingly close to another National title, as the greatest four-year run in school history came to a close. He threw for 2,527 yards and 23 touchdowns against 18 interceptions. Those are just huge numbers for the era. Owens rushed for 1,523 yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns.
Purdue would finish a strong 8-2, but the emergence of Ohio State and Michigan prevented it from going to a bowl game. Michigan won 31-20 over Purdue while Ohio State beat us 42-14. Oklahoma was a pedestrian 6-4 and also did not go to a bowl game. In fact, Oklahoma beat just one team, Colorado, that finished with a winning record. Purdue beat two in Notre Dame and Stanford.
It's hard to see what was the deciding factor between these two. Phipps has more second and third place votes, but Owens had an edge in first place votes of 294-226.
So if you're counting, that is three different players that finished in the top three in an era was consistently a top 5 team Nationally, went 37-8, won a Rose Bowl, won a Big Ten championship, but still could not get one Heisman win. If I were to rank the snubs I would say Keyes in '67 was the biggest, followed by Phipps in '69. In both cases one more victory likely gives the Heisman. If Phipps leads Purdue to wins over Oregon State and Indiana in '67 it also likely gives Purdue a National Championship.
Unfortunately, like most things Purdue, we came agonizingly close without finishing the deal.
This post was sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 13. Check out the video for the game below.
EA SPORTS NCAA Football 13 TV: "Son" (via EASPORTS)