Jimmy Clausen proved last week that he has the nads to play with the big boys, bringing the Irish to the brink of a tie with USC on the last play of the game.
He would have cemented the lead for the Heisman if that ill-conceived last play had somehow connected for a touchdown. Maybe the right play was called and he threw to the wrong guy, because Kyle Rudolph, split wide left, was open in the back of the end zone.
The same play worked to beat Purdue, but on that day, Rudolph was the slot receiver who caught the TD. This time, it was Duval Kumara, but he slipped on the route and the rest is history.
ESPN's Skip Bayless, who definitely underestimated the Irish as did everyone else, was right about one thing. It would have been different if ND had Michael Floyd. USC could not gave doubled Golden Tate.
So chalk it up as getting one step closer to the elite and one step closer to the Heisman. Notre Dame played the first half the same way it did the past two years aaginst USC, conservative and scared. But something happened on defense that changed the complexion of the game in the second quarter. Freshman linebacker Manti Te'o blasted Matt Barkley (cleanly I might add) as the quarterback scrambled to the sidelines after a broken down passing attempt.
The ND freshman sent a wakeup call to USC -- and his own Irish teammates -- this is how the big boys play. This is how you join the elite. You run just as fast and you hit just as hard. (Except in this case, it was a clean hit, thank you very much Trojans for keeping numerous drives alive with late hits and dirty shots, including the last one against Robby Parris. You are the second best team in the country after Alabama, but this is why people don't like you. That and your offensive lienmen have AARP cards.)
Now, schemewise, the Irish are still light years away. USC rushed only four and ran Clausen ragged back in the always disappearing pocket. Clausen, who perfected a new move, the pirouetting right turn and run for your life to gain time as you find a receiver downfield 12-step, started to make the throws that separate him from the rest of the Heisman hopefuls (curiously, Clausen has mysteriously moved up to No. 2 on Todd McShay's pro QB potenntial list while the ESPN Heisman indicator, or whatever that meaningless drivel of a mathematical equation is, still has Tim Tebow at 1, Colt McCoy at 3 and Cincinnati's Tony Pike at 4.
This is why this bogus predictor has to go. Last week was a Heisman primary. Colt McCoy vs. Oklahoma, Clausen (and don't forget Matt Barkley, mind you) vs. USC.
McCoy failed miserably and should disappear immediately from any consideration. He also demolished his pro stock portfolio. Oklahoma took away Jordan Shipley and McCoy was forced to run the Texas version of the wildcat for any meaningful yardage. He also had a critical fumble near the goal line. Texas beat Oklahoma after Sam Bradford went down, but just barely and not because of McCoy.
McCoy was only the second best McCoy on the field that day. Oklahoma's defensive tackle Gerald McCoy was in the Texas backfield as much as Colt. If you include the ND-USC game, Colt McCoy was only the third-best McCoy last week. The real Big McCoy was USC tight end Anthony McCoy, who made some amazing catches, averages over 20 yards a catch, and should be a first-round draft pick and may be the most underrated player in the country.
So while the ESPN fraud indicator has Colt McCoy third on its list, I have him third on my Big McCoy list.
2009 Big McCoy Award
1. Anthony McCoy, USC.
2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma.
3. Colt McCoy, Texas.
Now, back to the Heisman.
1. Jimmy Clausen, Notre Dame, QB.
2. Mark Herzlich, Boston College LB
3. Mark Ingram, Alabama, RB
Yes, you read that right. Mark Herzlich of Boston College, the ACC's defensive player of the year as a junior last year, was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer, Ewing's sarcoma in his left leg, and has made remarkable strides and says he is 99 percent recovered. (He is still undergoing chemotherapy.) He has appeared on national TV, especially ESPN's Game Day a few weeks ago and has been an inspiration to all. He has, perhaps. the highest profile in college football once you forget about Tim Tebow's concussion (rest him, please, Urban) and Sam Bradford's shoulder (gone for the year, hope he has a policy with Lloyds of London because his pro stock -- location of the injury, his throwing shoulder -- has knocked him out of the No.1 overall pick and is now a crap shoot for the NFL).
Herzlich, a Conestoga High graduate. would have been an elite player and definite all American this season. His courage and strength exemplify all that is great about college football (the Heisman Trophy being emblematic of that) and he has united the entire country with numerous football programs participating in charity work and emotional support, including Charlie Weis, who should be commended for his actions in keeping Herzlich's spirits high. The coach lit a candle at the Grotto at Nore Dame in Herzlich's honor when he heard about the BC linebacker's situation and has kept in touch with him ever since.
I believe Jimmy Clausen deserves the Heisman and will prove it by season's end.
But should he falter, heck, even if he doesn't, start thinking about voting for Mark Herzlich for the Heisman. It even sounds right.