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Heisman Trophy Snubs: Does Raghib Ismail Qualify?

Should The Rocket have one of these?
Should The Rocket have one of these?

I have heard many Notre Dame fans declare that the Rocket got robbed when he finished second to Ty Detmer in the 1990 Heisman voting. Ty Detmer? Seriously? You mean the guy from BYU?

Yes the quarterback from BYU. The numbers are below. But do they really tell the story?

Rk Player School Class Pos 1st 2nd 3rd Tot Summary
1 Ty Detmer Brigham Young JR QB 316 208 118 1482 361 Cmp, 562 Att, 5188 Yds, 41 TD, 28 Int
2 Raghib Ismail Notre Dame JR WR 237 174 118 1177 33 Rec, 699 Yds, 21.2 Avg, 2 TD
3 Eric Bieniemy Colorado SR RB 114 153 150 798 288 Att, 1628 Yds, 5.7 Avg, 17 TD
4 Shawn Moore Virginia SR QB 46 96 135 465 144 Cmp, 241 Att, 2262 Yds, 21 TD, 8 Int
5 David Klingler Houston JR QB 7 27 50 125 374 Cmp, 643 Att, 5140 Yds, 54 TD, 20 Int
6 Herman Moore Virginia JR WR 6 14 22 68 54 Rec, 1190 Yds, 22.0 Avg, 13 TD
7 Greg Lewis Washington SR RB 4 5 19 41 229 Att, 1279 Yds, 5.6 Avg, 8 TD
8 Darren Lewis Texas A&M SR RB 0 9 13 31 316 Att, 1795 Yds, 5.7 Avg, 20 TD
8 Craig Erickson Miami (FL) SR QB 0 6 19 31 225 Cmp, 393 Att, 3363 Yds, 22 TD, 7 Int
10 Mike Mayweather Army SR RB 3 4 3 20
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/17/2012.

Discussion after the jump.

Ismail's receiving numbers made the above statistical summary. But he wasn't just a wide receiver. Rocket did a few other things that year too. Rocket was the type of dynamic playmaker that had to be accounted for on every snap. He was part receiver, part running back. Tony Alford's dream. He was also an absolutely outstanding return man. Below are Rocket's 1990 stats that you don't see in the table above.

Rushing: Att 67, Yds 537, Avg 8.0, TD 3

Kick Returns: Ret 14, Yds 336, Avg 24.0, TD 1

Punt Returns: Ret 13, Yds 151, Avg 11.6, TD 0

Rocket's 1990 numbers were strong but numbers don't ever really tell the tale when it comes to the Heisman Trophy do they? Don't wins and losses count? National Championship runs? How about your supporting cast? Don't we tend to give a lot of credit to guys that are a one man show? The RGIII types.

These are the things that make debating any Heisman race interesting. Let's take a look at how Notre Dame and BYU fared in 1990.

In 1990 the Fighting Irish went 9-3 losing games to unranked Stanford, #18 Penn State and a crushing 10-9 loss to #1 Colorado in the Orange Bowl. In the Orange Bowl the Rocket famously returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown. That touchdown was called back due to the phantom clipping call that gave Colorado the win and a share of the National Championship. The Irish finished #6 in the AP Poll.

Meanwhile the 1990 BYU Cougars went 10-3 losing regular season games to unranked Oregon and Hawaii. BYU had beaten #1 Miami in week 2 but the loss to Oregon hurt a little bit. Then at the end of the season the wheels came off. Hawaii blew the Cougars out in the season finale 59-28. Detmer and company followed that up by getting blown out again by Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl 65-14. BYU's final AP ranking was #22. Hmmmm. I guess we can't go with the "Detmer played for a great team" argument here. The one guy in the 1990 Heisman race that had that going for him was Colorado running back Eric Bienemy.

As a quick side note I have to give an obligatory hat tip to Bienemy for his "The Enemy" hand towel. That was up there with the Hart Lee Dykes "Bye Bye" and Boobie Miles "Terminator X" towels as my all time favorites. Those were never really my style but all these years later I still remember all three of those players wearing those towels. I suppose that means they had the desired effect.

Now about that 1990 Heisman. In more recent years I personally feel that the Heisman has become an MVP Award for the best offensive skill player on the top team in the nation. But in 1990 that definitely wasn't the case. Detmer put up PlayStation numbers for an arguably mediocre BYU team. Was he simply the beneficiary of being a "system quarterback" before anyone really knew what that was?

In the modern era plenty of quarterbacks at places like Hawaii, Houston and Texas Tech have all put up similar numbers. Were Colt Brennan and Case Keenum really that good? How about the string of no-names that put up crazy numbers in Mike Leach's Air Raid offense at Texas Tech? Sonny Cumbie, B.J. Symons and Graham Harrell had some insane stats and got zero Heisman love. Was Detmer any better than any of those guys?

I'm personally not convinced that Detmer deserved to win the Heisman in 1990. But was Ismail really more deserving? I think so, but I'm also admittedly biased.

What other college football players got snubbed in the Heisman vote? Tommie Frazier and Vince Young come to mind.


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