Sunday, November 19, 2017

San Diego State's Rashaad Penny: The Best College Football Player In America In 2017

A few weeks ago, I wrote here that any sportswriter or other member of the Heisman Trophy voting committee that doesn’t select San Diego State University running back Rashaad Penny as a finalist for the prestigious award for college football's best player should have his or her voting priveledges taken away. 

But after watching last night's game, in which Penny finished with an astounding 429 all-purpose yards, allow me to amend that declaration a bit: Those of you who don't vote for Penny as a Heisman finalist should never be allowed to write about college football again!

Penny is easily one of the best three college football players in the nation in 2017. He deserves to be a Heisman finalist. If you've watched him play this year, you surely agree. It's indisputable at this point. 

San Diego State beat Nevada last night 42-23 in a game that will only confirm and expand the Aztecs’ postseason options. This will mark the eighth bowl game in the last eight years for San Diego State football. But the bigger story last night was the historic performance from Penny, who leads the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards. 

It was a game for the ages for Penny, who ran for 222 yards to bring his total to 1,824, putting him atop the nation's running backs. Stanford’s Bryce Love, a surefire Heisman finalist who Penny outplayed in San Diego State's win over #19 Stanford in September, is in second place with 1,723 yards.

In addition to running for 222 yards last night, Penny also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown (it was the first punt return of his college career). Not long after that, Penny returned a kickoff 100 yards for another touchdown. The kickoff return for a TD is the seventh of his career, tying the college record. He had four touchdowns total. 

Nevada played well and was shooting for the upset, but Penny sealed the game for San Diego State. His 429 all-purpose yards broke the school record of 422 set 26 years ago by Marshall Faulk during his monster 386-yard rushing game against Pacific. 

I was at that game back in 1991. It was the greatest performance by a running back I'd ever seen in college football. Until last night.

Sports Illustrated college football writer Bruce Feldman wrote yesterday that the top five Heisman candidates in his book are Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, and four running backs: Stanford's Bryce Love, Penn State's Saquon Barkley, Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, and Auburn's Kerryon Johnson. 

Now Bruce, before you crack your knuckles and start typing me defensive reasons why I'm wrong and why Penny doesn't deserve to be a Heisman finalist, save it. The only argument you can really come back with when a player who isn't in a Power Five conference has these kind of historic numbers is that he hasn't done this against any legit competition.

But Penny demonstrably outplayed Bryce, who is your #2 candidate on the Heisman list, when San Diego State beat Stanford. Penny finished that game with 206 total yards on offense vs. Love’s 187 yards. Both are great athletes. Penny's just a little better.

Penny also had a remarkable game against Arizona State, another Power Five team that beat #5 Washington and #24 Oregon and is headed for a bowl game this year. Against the Sun Devils, in Tempe, Penny had 353 all-purpose yards, including 216 rushing on just 18 carries, 38 yards receiving and 99 yards on special teams.

The opponent does not matter. Penny dominates all comers. There is simply no sound argument left for Bruce or anyone else to justify leaving him on the outside looking in to the Heisman ceremony in New York City next month. 

Don't let this happen yet again, Heisman voters. You slighted Faulk, the college and NFL hall-of-famer who was easily the best football player in the nation when you gave the trophy instead to Gino Torreta, who quarterbacked a great Miami team but was in no way, shape or form a better football player than Faulk was that year or any year. 

You did it again last year to Donnell Pumphrey, the unstoppable and unbelievable San Diego State mighty might who broke the all-time college football rushing record last season and ran for more than 2,000 yards. He deserved to be a Heisman finalist, too.

But this time y'all are out of even bad excuses. Those of you who didn't vote for Pumphrey embarrassed yourselves, but if you make the even bigger blunder and leave Penny out, you will leave your credibility left hanging by a thread from your wrinkled Dockers.

If I sound pissed... bingo! Enough is enough is enough. I have great respect for sportswriters, generally, and often defend them when I'm in the company of those who have no clue how tough the gig really is. But when it comes to the Heisman vote, sportswriters, and especially ESPN analysts, have been displaying a regrettable amount of ignorance and bias for far too long.

Notice I’m not even saying Penny deserves to win the dang thing. He does, of course. I called him the best player in college football above because he is the best player in college football. But all I am saying here is that he deserves to be part of this ceremony. The Heisman finalists are supposed to include the best individual football players in the country. Penny is one of those. 

Some years, Heisman voters make a reasonable argument when Division One players have amazing stats but haven't played against strong competition. But I will say it one more time: two of Penny’s finest games this season were against Power Five teams. He's great no matter who he is playing.
Heisman voters, please stop shaming the award with your myopic, clueless votes. 

1 comment:

  1. You didn't even include the 70-yard return for touchdown that was called back and that Rashaad Penny shares running back duties with Juwan Washington. Otherwise, he'd probably be looking at 3,000 yards this season. Same for Pumphrey last year. It's a sham to call themselves sports reporters when they can't even stay up after midnight to watch a game on the west coast. What are they? Cinderella?
    Faith M