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December 9, 2006

Troy Smith runs away with Heisman Trophy

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Exactly three months after establishing himself as the frontrunner from the Heisman Trophy, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith was awarded the coveted bronze statue on Saturday night.

Like Southern California running back Reggie Bush, last year's recipient, Smith won the voting in a landslide. He received a record 87 percent of the first-place votes and had 2,540 points 1,662 more than runner-up Darren McFadden of Arkansas. It was the second-widest margin ever. Only USC running back O.J. Simpson's 1,750-point victory in 1968 was more lopsided.

Unlike Bush, who swayed voters away from Texas quarterback Vince Young with a phenomenal late-season performance against Fresno State, there never was a serious question whether Smith would prevail this year.

Smith, the central figure in top-ranked Ohio State's undefeated season, established himself as the favorite for the trophy on Sept. 9 when he completed 17 of 26 passes for 269 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-7 victory over defending national champion and then-No. 2 Texas.

He closed his run to the trophy with a brilliant performance in a 42-39 victory over then-No. 2 Michigan. Smith completed 29 of 41 passes (70.7 percent) for a season-high 316 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

He did nothing to lessen his standing as the leading contender in the nine games in between, completing 65.8 percent of his passes for 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions. That span also included perhaps his best highlight play of the season when he sidestepped a heavy rush and spotted Brian Robiskie for a 37-yard touchdown pass to give the Buckeyes a 14-3 lead early in the fourth quarter against Penn State.

Smith finished the season completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,507 yards and 30 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He also rushed for 233 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the players viewed as his primary challengers fell back after early-season struggles and injuries.

Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn started the year with a sluggish performance in a 14-10 victory over Georgia Tech and two weeks later threw three interceptions in a 47-21 loss to Michigan.

Although Quinn closed the season strong with 2,511 passing yards and 29 touchdowns with just two interceptions in the final nine games, he could not overcome that slow start.

Oklahoma tailback Adrian Peterson could have presented a strong challenge to Smith, but could not lift the Sooners to a victory over Texas and lost a costly fumble in that game on Oct. 7. The next week he broke his collarbone while scoring a touchdown against Iowa State, missed the remainder of the regular season and finished with 935 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns.

McFadden started the year hobbled by an off-season toe injury and wasn't viewed as a prime contender after rushing for just 42 yards in a loss to USC and 71 in a 21-19 victory over Vanderbilt.

However, he came on strong and rushed for 868 yards and scored seven rushing touchdowns in the Razorbacks' last six games to prove he was one of the best players in college football this season.

But Smith clearly remained the best.



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