On paper, D’Onta Foreman is an ideal candidate for the Heisman Trophy.
Texas’ junior running back has rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns in nine games, averaging 6.7 yards per carry for a team that’s scoring 35.3 points each week. No other player in the country is tallying more yards per game — heck, 67 of the 128 teams in the country aren’t rushing for more yards per game — and he trails only San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey’s 1,779 yards.
Foreman had a 341-yard performance at Texas Tech on Nov. 5, and has averaged 176.8 yards in four games against nationally-ranked teams.
So that might explain why Texas is campaigning for Foreman, and why the #HEISforeMAN hashtag has turned up on social media. National writers Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman have recently listed him on premature Heisman ballots.
“He’s enjoying the buzz, but at the same time, that’s not his main focus,” Texas receiver Jacorey Warrick said. “I think he’s very deserving of the Heisman conversation, and I think he’s the best back in the country. But (the voting isn’t) under his or our control.”
Hurdling Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson on Heisman ballots won’t be easy. The biggest obstacle for Foreman, though, may be Texas’ .500 record.
Texas is 5-5, and an injury actually sidelined Foreman for the Longhorns’ 41-7 win over UTEP. Paul Hornung is the only player to win the Heisman on a team with a losing record as Notre Dame was 2-8 in 1956. Chicago’s Jay Berwanger also won the inaugural trophy in 1935 for a program that went 4-4.
Oklahoma’s Steve Owens, South Carolina’s George Rogers, Auburn’s Bo Jackson and Florida’s Tim Tebow were the only other winners to play on a four-loss team. (Rogers’ 1980 Gamecocks, Jackson’s 1985 Tigers and Tebow’s 2007 Gators each suffered their fourth losses in a bowl game).
Will Texas’ defeats cost Foreman his candidacy, though? Maybe not. Boston College was 7-5 when running back Andre Williams was a finalist in 2013. Stanford’s Toby Gerhart (the 2009 runner-up) and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden (the 2007 runner-up) entered their Heisman ceremonies with four losses.
“We’d love to see him get that invitation to go,” said Longhorns coach Charlie Strong of a Heisman ceremony that will be held in New York City on Dec 10.
On the official website of the Heisman Trophy, it states the heralded honor “annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity.” It’s hard to argue that doesn’t describes a season in which Foreman’s worst showing was a 124-yard effort.
Or, as offensive lineman Connor Williams said, “He can only do so much.”
“I think our win-loss ratio doesn’t accurately show who we are and who we are as a team,” Williams said. “As a running back, he’s done everything you could ask for a running back to do.”
Foreman will get two more chances to plead his case. Kansas and TCU remain on the schedule, and those defenses are allowing 225.7 and 145.4 rushing yards per game. Foreman’s run of 11-straight 100-yard games has tied a school record that Earl Campbell set in 1977, and he is on a pace — if Texas makes a bowl game — to break Ricky Williams’ 1998 single-season mark of 2,124 yards.
Campbell and Williams, for what it’s worth, won Texas’ only Heismans during those aforementioned seasons. The Longhorns went 11-1 in 1977 and 9-3 in 1998.