Showdown could clear up Heisman picture Torretta, Faulk top trophy speculation

November 28, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

This year's race for the Heisman Trophy is generating all th excitement of a Bowling Green-Ball State football game. Maybe less.

The best college player in the country?

Some say that Miami quarterback Gino Torretta -- one contender for the Heisman -- might be the fourth- or fifth-best player on his own team.

Others say that San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk -- another front-runner -- accumulates his yards in a conference where defense has all the stopping power of a speed bump.

Frustrated Heisman voters might turn to the long-shot candidates, led by Georgia running back Garrison Hearst. Or they may break tradition and give the trophy to a defensive player such as Micheal Barrow of Miami or Marvin Jones of Florida State.

"Right now," says Roger Ingram, a Heisman voter with the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, "I'm just as confused as ever."

The voters are so baffled that one asked Torretta this week, "Do you think they should even give out an award this year?"

Like it or not, this year's Heisman race probably comes down to one game: Miami vs. San Diego State, today at Jack Murphy Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN). Torretta vs. Faulk. Strong right arm vs. bum right knee.

Which raises two all-important questions:

* Will Faulk show up for the showdown?

* Can he win the Heisman on the bench?

Faulk, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound sophomore, sprained his right knee 52 seconds into a 45-41 loss to Fresno State last weekend. He practiced Thursday, but his coach, Al Luginbill, says he won't decide until after warm-ups today whether Faulk would play.

The Hurricanes want Faulk to play. Badly. "We want to hold him under 100 yards," Barrow says. Faulk rushed for 154 yards on 27 carries in a 39-12 loss to Miami last year in the Orange Bowl. Another big game against one of the nation's premier defenses might clinch the Heisman, but what if he can't play?

"Then I really don't think he can win," says Bob Hammel, sports editor for the Bloomington (Ind.) Herald Times and a Heisman voter.

Torretta and Faulk are minimizing the importance of today's game. "I'm not going to go out and try to win the Heisman Trophy," Torretta says. "I'm just going to go out and try to win a game."

Faulk: "It's just another game. It's not a personal duel."

Numbers? Torretta, a fifth-year senior, has thrown for 7,416 yards and 46 touchdowns since arriving from Pinole, Calif., in 1988. He has completed 209 of 367 passes this season for 2,750 yards, 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

More important, Torretta is 25-1 in career starts. He started four games on the 1989 national championship team, led Miami to another title last year and is two games away from winning a third.

Although only a sophomore, Faulk has started almost as many games as Torretta, 20. He missed three games as a freshman and still rushed for 1,429 yards.

Faulk leads the nation in rushing -- despite only two carries for 21 yards last week against Fresno State -- with 1,630 yards. He gains 6.2 yards per carry and has scored 15 touchdowns.

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