The Back Nine: Some Heisman Trophy voters off mark

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Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray holds the Heisman Trophy after winning the award Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The Back Nine comes at you after a weekend that saw Florida’s volleyball season end, the basketball team find a way to lose and some of us trying to figure out what to do on a Saturday night without football.

10. The Heisman Trophy has been awarded so that means we are out of the ESPN cone of silence and can tell you who we all voted for. My vote was exactly the way it turned out, as was colleague Robbie Andreu’s. We both felt the same way — that Kyler Murray had to be great every time he took the field because Oklahoma was so bad on defense. It was nothing against Tua Tagovailoa, but his performances did fall off a little as the schedule got tougher late in the season. Still, I was ready to vote for him much of the season. Heading into the last weekend, it was going to be a tough call. The irony is that Jalen Hurts may have cost Tagovailoa the Heisman because he saved the day. I was a little surprised in the voting because it wasn’t as close as I thought it would be. Murray carried every region except the South and even there it was tight with Tua winning by 19 points. Whoever the voters voted for, there are no right and no wrong votes. Except the ones cast before the season is over. And the 27 voters who left Murray off their ballots and 40 voters who left Tagovailoa off their ballots. That’s either regional bias on steroids or people who just wanted to be different or people didn’t watch any games. I’ve been saying for years the number of voters needs to be pared down, but that doesn’t seem to be an option.

11. You all know how much I love college football. And maybe I am late to the party on this. But it seems to me that college football has it backward. One of the common themes for bowl eligible teams is that the coaches are happy because they get an extra 15 or so practices. For many of these teams, a portion of that time is devoted to work with younger players to get them ready for next year. A lot of what you will see this weekend if you go to Florida’s open practices will be developmental work. But shouldn’t the teams that are not very good and were not bowl eligible (a handful of them going 6-6 and being snubbed) also be allowed to practice? It’s like college football is the opposite of the NFL, which tries to help its worst teams with the draft. College football does the opposite, giving the best teams every advantage for the following year, including exposure and extra practice time. I was talking to Dan Mullen about this the other day and he agreed. His suggestion is that the teams who don’t make a bowl game get a few extra practices in the spring or at the start of fall camp. That makes sense. Too much sense.

12. So, one of my mantras is that you have to play around poor officiating and I’m sure Eagles fans won’t agree with that today. It was so bad in their game against the Cowboys that even the experts for Fox were flabbergasted by some of the calls. Philly’s Malcolm Jenkins was so upset that he said the officials should “stay off the bottle.” That’s a little harsh. That said, Sunday was a spectacular day for watching NFL games including the Miracle in Miami. No, I can’t explain how a coach as smart as Bill Belichick would put Rob Gronkowski at safety to defend a Hail Mary when you knew that wasn’t going to be the call. Instead, the Gronk looked like a tight end trying to get the angle on a running back and the result was what you might expect (and led to some hilarious GIFs on Twitter). Anyway, thanks for the entertaining day, everyone. Now, work on those officials.

13. You could tell how frustrated Mike White is with his basketball team after the tough loss to Michigan State in part because it was an opportunity lost. Florida is struggling and its difficult schedule in the non-conference was set up to give the Gators chances to garner quality wins. But those chances are slipping away. I know it’s early, but somehow, some way, White has to get these guys to be efficient offensively. I can’t explain the funk that has enveloped Jalen Hudson. If he’s not making shots, it’s difficult to keep him on the floor with this team because of the things he doesn’t do like defending and rebounding. I love Florida’s young talent, but it is the upperclassmen who are not getting the job done. We all know Florida has issues inside, but they were the same issues last year’s team had and — to a point — were able to overcome. The SEC hasn’t been as good as many of us thought it would be (fifth right now in RPI) but there will be plenty of opportunities for quality wins down the road because of how good the top half of the league has been.

14. Kudos to the Florida volleyball team that made it to the Sweet 16 before falling in an unbelievable environment at BYU. UF had to deal with the difficulty of injuries and a young team to have a really great season, even though the expectations are so high here at Florida. “We lost four first-round draft choices from last year,” said Florida coach Mary Wise. “That’s hard to replace. This team grew so much. Really, it was one of the best coaching jobs our staff has done.” Florida loses only two players for next year and the key will be to get the seeding to host next year. Watch out for the Gators in 2019.

15. We still have a lot of college football to be played, but The Back Nine is curious what the excitement level is for spring football with Steve Spurrier coaching the Orlando Apollos. I have talked to a lot of people who believe the plan for the Alliance of American Football will work and the chance to watch football in the spring is something that is near and dear to my heart because of my years covering the USFL. Gainesville will have a chance to be part of a fan event Dec. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 at Celebration Pointe’s City Walk where ticket packages will be available for purchase. I just can’t wait to see Spurrier calling plays again. Neither can he.

16. One more thing on the bowls — ESPN ranked their entertainment value and had the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl as No. 7. But the list came out before Will Grier announced he’s skipping the Camping World Bowl, which was sixth. The number of players skipping out keeps rising and fans become indignant with each decision. But remember that — other than the playoff games — these are basically exhibition games. Enjoy them for what they are, but don’t get down on players who want to prepare for their full-time jobs.

17. The Tweet of the Week comes from Barrett Sallee of CBS Sports, a must-follow for football and Braves fans — “The Oakland A’s have more Heisman Trophy winners than Tennessee, Clemson and Michigan State.” Wow. Just wow. Of course, the Murray win was not without controversy as some anti-gay Tweets showed up from when he was a 14 year old. He apologized and we all do stupid things when we are that age. Not that it makes those decisions any less offensive. There was another old Tweet from Murray that got some attention — “Florida Gators #BestTeam.” That was from 2012, but was brought up by Florida commitment Diwan Black. I don’t think Florida would have been wandering in the offensive wilderness if Murray showed up here. But who knows?

18. OK, so we are officially in bowl season for college football which means we are closing in on Christmas and I felt obligated to skip the music portion of this week’s column and give you my five favorite Christmas movies (in order):

• “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

• “Elf.”

• “Christmas Vacation.”

• “Scrooged.”

• “Miracle on 34th St. (the original)”

For the record, I believe there is a difference between a Christmas movie and a movie that has Christmas as a backdrop, so “Die Hard” and “Batman Returns” and “The Apartment” — while all fine films — do not qualify in my mind.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at pat.dooley@gvillesun.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.

33 COMMENTS

  1. In theory, the losing teams need 15 more practices more than the winners. Let’em practice. In the end, Murray had a clear cut edge. As far the people who didn’t have Murray and Tau on their ballots, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote again, since they obviously are not qualified college football observers. Mike White needs to go with the new talent and not worry about Hudson. Play for the future. No “White Christmas”?

    • Love Danny Kaye. So gifted. Certainly top-five deserving. As much as the “he’s an angry elf” scene kills me, I’d have to swap “Elf” for “A Christmas Story” on my top five list, if only for the unintelligible swearing by Darren McGavin. (“Naddafinga!”) And of course the triple dog dare. And so much more…

  2. I really didn’t care who won the Heisman but here’s my input on it. Murray is in a system (BIG 12) that allows him to put up padded numbers. NO DEFENSE allows that and having to play all 4 quarters because both teams have NO DEFENSE does that. Tua did what he did in the SEC which has GREAT DEFENSE and in 3 quarters most of the time. Tua didn’t lose a football game while Murray did. Tua got hurt early in the SEC championship game and instead of taking himself out kept on playing but anyone who was watching could see he wasn’t himself. Last point Baker Mayfield did the same thing at Oklahoma last season because all they play is high school defenses in the Big 12. In comparison it’s just like UCF playing inferior opponents all year to be 12-0 and crying to be in the playoff. Murray is a great QB and his stats prove he’s very good but that would not happen against SEC defenses. Maybe next year voters will look past the gaudy numbers QBs put up against inferior defenses….

    • The question you have to ask though is what kind’ve numbers do you think Mayfield and Murray would put up if they were playing for Bama and the ridiculous amount of talent they’d have around them? The fact of the matter is, in OU’s biggest games against the only ranked opponents they faced, Murray dominated. Even in the loss to Texas he had over 300 yards passing almost 100 yards rushing and 5 TDs. In games against MSU and UGA, Tua only passed for 164 yards, which is probably what lost it for him. Yeah he was knocked out of the UGA game, but that was obviously a good thing as he wasn’t playing great at all. The great defense argument for Tua doesn’t really fly considering they played a joke of a schedule for most of the season in which he padded his stats. Not sure how you don’t think Murray and Mayfield would do it against great SEC defenses, when Mayfield put up 48 pts against a very dominant UGA defense last season. Good thing is, we’ll get to see what Murray can do against probably the best SEC defense soon. Bama struggles with duel threat Qbs, so I’m guessing he puts up some big numbers. He definitely deserved to win.

        • Sorry I guess I was confused. It kind’ve seemed like you were implying that he didn’t deserve to win cause he was facing inferior defenses. I agree that the Big 12 doesn’t know what defense is, but like I said, Mayfield proved last season that that he could do it against one of the best defenses in the SEC. The only reason they lost that game was because they had a Big 12 defense. What I don’t agree with is you thinking guys like Murray and Mayfield couldn’t still be great against SEC defenses every week. Hell Franks went 5-3 against the SEC and we all know he can’t hold a candle to those guys. Lets see what Murray does against Bama.

      • Great post Joe. I told all my Bama friends go and have a look a Cam, Tebow’s, and Danny Heisman seasons and find me one game as bad as UGA, or MSU you can’t so why should the Heisman be different for Tua. Also Dewayne Haskins should have been the run away winner in my opinion, however I think his soon to be retired Head Coach, and program is being punished.

  3. 1.

    The losing teams are likely practicing poorly, and protracting the poorly practiced practice process will probably result precisely the same predicament. Poorly practiced teams perpetually perform poorly no matter how many poor practices they get.
    2.
    Tua was exposed against better teams. He looked average, and I know he kept limping around, but the Keyser Soze act just exposed his lack of accountability in terms of a poor performance.

    3. Players skipping bowls makes sense. I just look at it as an opportunity for the next year’s guy to get some experience.

  4. The Heismann needs to move its voting deadline to after the bowls./playoffs Almost every year the Heismann winner plays bad and/or loses their bowl or playoff matchup. Kyler winning over Tua is the best Christmas present possible for Nick Saban and the Tide. Secretly Nick Saban is just giggling to himself every moment of every waking day over the fact that Kyler won over Tua. That is some mighty strong rat poison. Alabama is going to destroy Murray and the Sooners.

  5. The SEC as a whole plays significantly better defense than the Big 12. Offensive success/stats are earned at higher cost/effort. That said, Kyler Murray was must watch for me – much like Robert Griffin III a few years ago. I don’t know if that makes him Heisman worthy – but he won. It’s a subjective award. If he gets exposed in the Orange Bowl game (likely), then we’ll know better. But for now, good on him. I enjoyed the heck out of his season.

  6. ”We all know Florida has issues inside, but they were the same issues last year’s team had…” -Pat Dooley.
    And therein lies THE PROBLEM, Pat. It has been 2 seasons now that Chase Johnson is in ”concussion protocol”, or ”you got your bell rung” protocol back when I played sports.
    And INSIDE THE PAINT is where U.F. lost the game. The Michigan State bigs combined for over 20 pts., and there were only 2 of them! Florida, with FOUR INSIDE PLAYERS (Hayes, Stoke, Bassett, and Keith Stone), only combined for 16 points. Enough said!
    So perhaps you all at Gatorsports.com (we’re missing the old Gator Basketball beat-writer) could write about the ”inside the paint problems that we all know about.” And how that won’t work year in and year out at for Mike White’s SEC basketball team. Especially at a school that has ‘5’ Final Four appearances, like U.F. But then again, U.F. had ZERO APPEARNCES in the NCAA’s ”Final Four” back when I was their age… maybe that’s the problem!?!?!

  7. Maybe the NCAA has it right when it comes to not allowing non-bowl the extra practices. These teams need an infusion of new talent, not extra practices at the end of a season. Their coaches need to be recruiting, not practicing, during the month of December with an early signing period. The 7-day rule for no player participation in team activities after the season ends needs to be modified to allow players to participate in non-contact activities such as hosting recruits during official visits.

  8. Florida fan is going to need to have some patience when it comes to Mike White and the basketball team. When was the last time Florida was led by a dominant front court? You could argue the only time was Horford, Noah and Brewer. They have never had an O’Neal, Jabbar or Ewing type player. Recently, they have been unlucky with injuries to front court players. Mike White finally admitted to the shortcomings of the front court and hired Al Pinkins. Developing front court players takes more time than development of guards and wings where natural talent is more important. Mike White is recruiting at a higher level than even Billy Donovan with the recent class. Florida needs to take their lumps this year an play the underclass men. Allen and Hudson were never going to lead a team to greatness. My only concern is that Mike White is setting up Nembhard for a one and done by showcasing him this year. Nembhard combined with next year’s freshman would be a title winning combination.

    • MexiGator,
      I enjoy your posts, which is why I shall expound on the subject of recruiting. Florida is MISSING (and missed greatly while he was here with a knee-injury in his last year at U.F.), big John Egbunu. Or how about a Patric Young? Or how about a Justin Leon, who I liked to call, ”Jumpin’ Jack Leon!” Where is Mike White’s Patric Young, or Egbunu, or even his Casey Prather type recruit? Coach White’s had 2 ”one year transfer recruits” that made all the difference, so far, for White’s U.F. coaching career. Like the 3 point shooting Russian, Egor Koulechov last year. But John Egbunu, Casey Prather, even (G) Cheese were all, in fact, Billy ‘D’s recruits. Actually, Mike White went to the ”Elite 8” in his 2nd year at U.F. with Billy D’s guys (to be truthful). And Coach Mike White took them to another level, no doubt! But as of today, where is Mike White’s good big men recruits!?!? There aren’t any (who stay healthy).
      I am very pleased with his recruiting and landing to U.F. (G) Nembhard, though. However, (I will give my age away now) even Gator great, Vernon ”Hawk” Maxwell, had some good bigs to play with in his great U.F. career, which ”Florida has tried to erase.” A very big ”BIG MAN” in fact, the late-great Dwayne Schintzius complimented, in a big way too, Vernon Maxwell and Andrew Moten at U.F.
      So, while I understand the ”patience part” of it all, it’s all we, Gator fans, really know anymore (esp. since Urban and Billy ‘D’ left)… ”Patience.” And just please remember in his 4th year at U.F., Coach Billy ‘D’ took Florida Basketball to the promise land, ”The Final Four” in 2000. And oh, Mike White’s in his 4th year at U.F., so…
      Either way, ”Go Gators!”

      • I’ve been wondering about Egbunu. Was he just not able to come back from that injury?

        Dwayne Schintzius was a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Terrific passer. Good rebounder (7’2″, duh). Decent defender. Developed an acceptable post game. Motor always questionable. And temperamental. It’s a shame Don DeVoe (Capt. Ahab) didn’t just roll the balls out that year and let the guys have at it. They might not have been a Final 4 team. But they would have won plenty and he’d have had the job more than a year. Instead – trainwreck – epic fail.

        Vernon Maxwell is best I ever saw lace ’em up for the Gators. He came in as a gifted scorer (and remained so). But by his Jr. year he was a stopper – capable of shutting down anyone other than a true center. And the fearless Drew Moten was almost as good. The M & M boys were a 2 man, full court press by themselves. I regret that Neal Walk was before my time. And lots of love for Ronnie Williams and Vernon Delancy.

          • Agreed. But in the moment, I remember being disappointed that a decent (appearing) coach with demonstrable SEC experience washed out so badly. I saw as a symptom of what was wrong with Gators basketball more than what was wrong with DeVoe.

          • GatorGopher, I do remember thinking at the time that the Gators had done well to get DeVoe, but the resulting turmoil was disappointing and downright depressing. Based on some things I read, my opinion was/is that DeVoe came in with a heavy-handed approach that basically said “there’s a new sheriff in town, and I won’t put up with your nonsense”. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t really know, but, if so, it was going to be a hard sell to a team that had just won the first SEC title in school history.

          • Joe,

            Yeah, Capt. Ahab came in swinging a big stick. Interesting that he was following the footsteps of [sarcasm font] “notable softie” [close font] Stormin’ Norman Sloan. It’s not like Sloan ran a sloppy ship and DeVoe needed to “change the culture”. DeVoe was just a bad fit. It happens sometimes. Did he ever coach again?

      • GI, those late ’80’s teams had a couple of pretty good forwards also, in Livingston Chatman and Dwayne Davis. You’re obviously right that CMW hasn’t landed an excellent big man yet (at least not one that’s been productive to this point), but Justin Leon was his recruit that he brought with him from La Tech. I think Ballard could be the guy that turns out to be a Casey Prather type player. My concern is shooting. I’m afraid that these guys aren’t just in a slump; I think they just may not be very good shooters. Regarding Mexi’s comments about Nembhard, I don’t think today’s NBA gets all that excited about non-scoring point guards. They’re just not sexy enough, so I really don’t think he’ll be a one-and-done unless he really increases his scoring in conference play.

      • GI, I feel you pain sir. The skit-skat “small ball” approach is ok when you have some really good AND consistent perimeter shooters that are hot, but you better have at least 1-2 bigs to do the dirty work when there not. I like coach White and he can recruit his butt off, but getting a little concerned about the seemingly same shortcomings rearing their heads again. I don’t think we get back deep in the dance until when / if he gets our front court problems solved. When good teams are getting as many or more offensive rebounds as your getting defensively, it’s going to be tough sledding.

  9. im for a subjective heisman vote, numbers dont matter. leadership does. tua will get his soon enough, imo, but stinking it up against georgia is a disqualifier for any player. the murray kid did lead a little better imo. all of these kids, from the top to the bottom, have to go through a mental rebuilding (the new term i read is we as humans are softwired – not hardwired – and have to reprogram ourselves) as players, teammates, and people. i hope murray has successfully done his, its not that easy. most people in life cant rebuild themselves, i understand.
    speaking of having to mentally rebuild ones self, it sure looks like nembach has passed hudson, and some guys dont handle that very well. he might come back, im sure a few chances more isnt going to hurt anything, but it may be a while before hudson comes alive.
    the bowl exhibition has kind of turned into a mess, i have no clue how to fix it. i dont even know if practice for all will do much – mullen did more without practicing than many coaches did with practicing – somewhat gone are the days when you aimed for the cotton, sugar, rose, and orange bowls and anything else was called the toilet bowl. i say somewhat gone because michigan has made it clear this is a toilet bowl for them and im not doing backflips about the game myself. unless you can turn these things into a tournament, the college football playoffs kind of has given the bowl season a frankenstein problem with weird things like wil grier not playing and no one knowing if the players will care about the game or not.

  10. I have a difference take on players skipping bowl games. Those games are for the fans, yes, and can be for the development of a program.

    Players opting out have gotten their training and exposure through a lot of talent and hard work (theirs), but also via their school. That school, UAA, tickets, booster funds, etc is provided by the fans, from small to large. The pre-millionaire opting out of a bowl has been happy to reap the benefits of the season, and is now happy to give the bird and a cheery “screw you” to the fans who care about the team, program, and yes, one more game before a long, dark, dry 9 months.

    Look at Hurts roughing it out, and things paying off. Then take low-character Grier – no please, take him. Can’t imagine Wuerffel or Tebow ever dissing their school this way, even if it only was the Peach Bowl.

  11. I can’t argue with the Heisman. Tua and Murray each had their advantages. Murray plays on a team that spends about 30 seconds per series on defense and in a conference that can’t spell D-E-F-E-N-S-E. But he was spectacular anyway and the most valuable player on his team. Without him, they are not in the playoffs. Tua was also a wonder to watch, especially at his age. Great timing and accuracy. but Alabama has won many games over the years without him and would have been a contender without him this year too. Hurts did hurt him, and Tua did not have his best games against the best defenses, especially Georgia, which was the best defense he played. Each player was awesome. As for the basketball team, I agree with the lack of bigs being a weakness on this team for a while. We have had two coaches in the last two decades who were point guards. We always seem to be top heavy in point guard/guard recruiting quality. I wonder if there is something there. Not to say Coach White or Donavon didn’t try to get the best bigs, I just wonder if the centers were as attracted to Florida bc of of coaches who were guards.

  12. I understand why Deebo Samuels and others are skipping their bowl games because they don’t want to risk injury that could mess up their draft chances. But say that, don’t say it’s to prepare for the draft. They could play the bowl and still have have plenty of prep time for the draft. At least be honest. I do think it’s kinda lame to bale on your brothers on the last game you will be playing together. But that’s business. And yes college football is a business.

  13. Eek…#16 says bowls are exhibition games. Wow, Dolley, you couldn’t be more wrong; at least for fans that follow and cheer for their team. You always play to win! Think about it? Bowls have a tremendous hype, they count towards the team’s final rankings, they have twice the preparation time, they earn money, they are historically significant (4-0 v Michigan) etc etc etc. There’s also the emotional baggage that’s carried over for the year. So yeah, maybe teams don’t win championships but never never imply they don’t matter. Gators play to win. Exhibition is for other teams but not the Gators…Go Gators!

  14. Rocky IV is another movie with Christmas as a back drop.
    There are way too many Heisman voters. The best is when you see them post their vote on Twitter and think “That guy has a Heisman vote? I attend and/or watch more college football than he does”.

  15. Here’s why Tua deserved the Heisman over Murray –

    Tua:

    Top 10 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 1
    Top 25 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 4
    Top 50 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 6

    Top 10 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 3 (all in the Top 5) Top 25 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 5 Top 50 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 6

    Kyler:

    Top 10 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 0
    Top 25 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 1
    Top 50 Defensive S&P+ Teams: 2

    Top 10 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 0
    Top 25 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 2
    Top 50 Pass Defense S&P+ Teams: 3

    FYI: We’ll be the first Pass Defense S&P+ team in the Top 10 he’ll face all year on the 29th.

    CASE CLOSED.

  16. Pat – I applaud you for speaking out about the unfairness to the teams that are not very good not getting the extra 15 practices to compound their lesser position. It is an unfair system. However, trying to convince college football to be more equitable like the NFL to bring about parity is like trying to convince a far right leaning Republican controlled Congress and Executive Branch that they should adopt the same tax, economic, and social policies as the democratic socialist nations of northern Europe to benefit the less wealthy. College football is not about equity and parity. The rich gets richer under the NCAA in recruiting, funding, facilities, coaches, staff, extra practices, etc.). I wish you luck.