By Ralph D. Russo/The Associated Press
Go deep, Kellen.
If Boise State is serious about helping Kellen Moore win the Heisman Trophy, the Broncos need to show off their quarterback’s versatility. Throw the passer a pass or two.
It seems to be a trend in college football these days. Or maybe it would be better described as a gimmick, sort of like putting up a website promoting a player.
Stanford’s Andrew Luck already has his highlight-reel catch, a one-handed, toe-dragging sideline grab for 13 yards in a 45-19 victory over UCLA a couple weeks ago.
Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson made his cameo as a receiver Saturday. Wilson’s catch was more routine, but it produced a 25-yard touchdown during a 59-7 rout of Indiana.
Luck and Wilson are worthy Heisman contenders without the trick plays.
Luck, the overwhelming preseason favorite and virtual lock to be the first player taken in the NFL draft, has thrown for 1,719 yards and 18 touchdowns for No. 7 Stanford.
Wilson, the North Carolina State transfer, leads the nation in passer rating and has accounted for 13 touchdowns, including the TD grab from running back Montee Ball.
But with more than 900 voters, the Heisman balloting has a lot of popularity contest in it and schools are always looking for ways to make their stars standout.
So it helps to have something different — such as, say, a quarterback catching a pass — on that resume.
Auburn did it last year with Cam Newton, throwing the towering quarterback a fade in the corner of the end zone for a first-half touchdown in a 51-31 victory against Mississippi.
Maybe you notice a trend?
These plays tend to be pulled off in games where the team with the star has a clear advantage. They also tend to be run early to avoid accusations of trying to embarrass the opponent. Still, seeing a wide-open Wilson haul in that floater and jog into the end zone, it did feel a bit orchestrated.
“We were 10 for 10 during the week on it, so I knew it was going to be a touchdown,” Wilson said after the Badgers’ latest blowout.
A couple of other Heisman contenders added to their resumes Saturday in more organic fashion.
Alabama running back Trent Richardson had a career game in the Tide’s 52-7 win at Ole Miss, with 183 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The last score was a 76-yard run that will go down as one of the best of the season and be the centerpiece of Richardson’s Heisman campaign.
Richardson blew through several Rebels at the line, sprinted into the open, then used a stutter-step to collapse the last defender with a chance to keep him from the end zone.
The run prompted longtime Mississippi sports writer Rick Cleveland of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson to tweet: “Trent Richardson reminds me of Walter Payton. There, I’ve said it.”
Cleveland knows a thing or two about Sweetness. He covered the Bears’ Hall of Fame running back in high school and in college at Jackson State.
When it comes to jaw-dropping plays, Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins might lead the country.
The freshman receiver had the best game of his already spectacular career, gaining a school-record 345 all-purpose yards in the Tigers’ 56-45 victory against Maryland.
The last of Watkins’ three touchdowns was an 89-yard kickoff return that came right after the Terps had regained the lead and put Clemson ahead to stay in the fourth quarter.
Watkins has a chance to be the first freshman to win the Heisman.
As for Moore, the senior is having another tremendous season. He’s thrown 21 touchdown passes for No. 5 Boise State.
But the Broncos will be harder to find on television this season in the Mountain West Conference. No more of those Friday night league games on ESPN they so often played in the Western Athletic Conference. It might be time for some of that signature Boise State trickery.
Moore caught a 7-yard TD pass against in a 49-20 victory against Louisiana Tech last year, on the way to finishing fourth in the Heisman voting.
He might need to work on his post patterns this year.
One non-Heisman voters, halfway Heisman ballot — with the understanding that Luck and Wilson haven’t played enough big games yet to make the top three.
1) Trent Richardson, Alabama. Fourth in nation in rushing and second in touchdowns, playing in an offense that doesn’t pose a great threat throwing the ball.
2) Sammy Watkins, Clemson. He’s had huge performances when the Tigers have needed them to win competitive games.
3) Robert Griffin III, Baylor. The difference between Baylor playing in a bowl and Baylor winning three games, is RGIII.
— Even if Boise State declines the Big East’s overtures and stays in the MWC, it will be hard to make a case that the newly announced Conference USA-MWC merger deserves an automatic BCS bid. CUSA teams are 9-23 out of conference against FBS opponents this season. The MWC, not including TCU which is leaving for the Big 12 next season, is 10-14. Boise State has five of those wins. Nevada, Hawaii and Fresno State, WAC teams that will join the MWC next season, are 2-9 against FBS opponents.
— Ohio State beat Illinois 17-7 while throwing four passes and completing one. It was a key win for the Buckeyes (4-3), who are looking to salvage a tumultuous season and play No. 4 Wisconsin next.
— Terrible news Sunday for South Carolina star Marcus Lattimore, who was lost for the season with a left knee injury. The Gamecocks still control the SEC East race because of that early season victory against Georgia, but the Bulldogs’ path to SEC title game looks most manageable.
Time to find out just how good Wisconsin is. The fourth-ranked Badgers play their first true road game on Saturday at No. 15 Michigan State. They follow that trip with on to Ohio State.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP