UT running back D'Onta Foreman celebrates the win over Texas Tech at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Sadly, deserving D’Onta Foreman is no Heisman shoe-in

Posted November 5th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Charlie Strong's probably a better bet to return to Texas in 2017 than possible top NFL draft pick junior D'Onta Foreman.
  • Foreman has had 10 consecutive 100-yard rushing games and finished with 341 yards on the ground, third-most in history.
  • Teammate Breckyn Hager thinks Foreman "should win the Heisman."

LUBBOCK — D’Onta Foreman lost a shoe. But he got it back, 74 yards and a touchdown celebration later.

Foreman lost a fumble, too. He didn’t get that back, but he more than made up for it.

Sterlin Gilbert seemed to have lost his mind. The guy who calls the plays for Texas didn’t call on Foreman at critical times, but got away with it.

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But those were the only things lost here on the Plains because the Longhorns found an awful lot.

Among those things discovered in the lost-and-found department are serious momentum, with two straight victories; a 300-yard rusher and a truly Heisman Trophy-caliber running back; a team that got fed up with losing and finally came together to win one on the road, 45-37; and a beleaguered head coach under fire who’s looking more secure by the minute.

And it all starts with Foreman, a two-star running back from southeast Texas that nobody wanted out of high school and that nobody can stop now in college. If anyone is saving Charlie Strong’s job, it may not be school president Greg Fenves. It’s Foreman. The way it’s looking now, Strong’s a much better bet to return in 2017 than Foreman, who’s a junior but a terrific candidate to leave early as a high NFL draft pick next spring.

And his overshadowed, under-rated brother, Armanti, is having an outstanding season as well. But D’Onta is a clear All-America candidate and already a top 10 running back at Texas who, if he stays another year, could barge into a top five that includes Earl Campbell, Ricky Williams, Roosevelt Leaks, Chris Gilbert and either Cedric Benson, Jamaal Charles, James Saxton or Steve Worster.

UT running back D'Onta Foreman scores a touchdown against Texas Tech in the third quarter at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT running back D’Onta Foreman scores a touchdown against Texas Tech in the third quarter at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

D’Onta Foreman has developed into a runaway force, combining sheer power and breakaway speed and an iron will to carry a team on his broad back. His legs never stop churning. He’s Shane Buechele’s security blanket, a weapon so impactful that the defensive front has to first account for Foreman before rushing the freshman quarterback. He’s a first down to be named later.

“He’s done an amazing job,” Buechele said. “He kind of had a silent 341 yards if that can happen. Everything he does, he does well.”

Foreman is Gilbert’s safety valve, too.

And too often a decoy as well when the offensive coordinator spread him wide on a two-point conversation against Baylor a week ago. On Saturday, he left him on the sidelines on two crucial third- and fourth-and-1 plays on Texas’ final series when Gilbert inexplicably turned to Tyrone Swoopes in the 18-Why-ler and came up shy of a first down. Twice.

“Coming downhill, we wanted to pick up the first down,” Gilbert said in vague explanation. “We wanted to go big.”

And Foreman’s not big enough at 249 pounds?

UT running back D'Onta Foreman(33) breaks tackles with the help from tight end Caleb(42) and offensive lineman Kent Perkins(76) on a touchdown drive against Texas Tech at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT running back D’Onta Foreman(33) breaks tackles with the help from tight end Caleb(42) and offensive lineman Kent Perkins(76) on a touchdown drive against Texas Tech at AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock Saturday November 5, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

That makes no sense, but then neither do the wacky, video-game numbers that Foreman put up, either. He finished with the third-most in school history. And that’s a school history that includes franchise running backs like Campbell and Williams. Those two have a little bronze man on their trophy shelves.

Foreman has no shortage of endorsements. That includes teammate Breckyn Hager, who declined comment on the game in the tunnel leading to the team bus but did offer an opinion on Mr. Foreman.

“D’Onta should win the Heisman,” Hager said before taking off.

Strong added his support, labeling Foreman’s performance “an A-plus. It’s as good as I’ve seen.” Walking out, he was asked if Foreman should at least get a trip to New York City as a finalist and said, “Oh, he’s got to be.”

For his part, Foreman’s his usual humble self. Asked if he should get a plane ticket there, he said, “I can’t control it.”

Oh, but he can. Few have had the sustained excellence he has, topping the century mark for the 10th consecutive game. Sure, it helps when defenses play nickel and dime coverages geared to stop the pass in the Big 12, and that defenses are nowhere as potent as decades ago, but others benefited from stronger, veteran offensive lines although this Texas one is growing hair fast.

Foreman won’t win the Heisman Trophy this year. He’s good enough, deserving enough, but he likely won’t even get an invite. That speaks more to a team that’s crawled over hot coals just to get to 5-4.

One player who did win it, though, loves Foreman’s game.

“I really enjoy watching D’Onta because has so much passion for the game, plays extremely hard and is a complete football player,” Williams told the Longhorns’ website this week. “I can see that he really cares about being great. A lot of people talk about wanting to be great but he seems to embrace doing what it takes to actually be great. The sky’s the limit for what he can accomplish.”

And shoes, maybe. They can come in handy, too.

[brightcove_video video_id=”5198228290001″ caption=”On Sat. Nov. 5, 2016, Texas beat Texas Tech, 45-37, at the AT&T Jones Stadium in Lubbock, with a record-breaking performance by UT running back D’Onta Foreman. “]

 

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