MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 3, 2013

Heisman case can be made for Cowboys’ Chelf

By Dave Ruthenberg
CNHI News Service

— With all of the talk about Heisman Trophy candidates, and with some candidates faltering down the stretch, this may be the perfect time to enter a dark horse candidate into the race: Enid’s Clint Chelf. The fifth-year Oklahoma State senior has emerged as the undisputed (albeit silent) leader of the No. 7 team in the country and in most cases that would mean instant consideration for Heisman status, if it were not for OSU coach Mike Gundy’s dithering.

Chelf has shined in the team’s biggest games on the national stage, leading OSU to blowout wins. Two weeks ago, Chelf and company lit up Texas on the road for a 38-13 win in which he threw for two touchdowns, while passing for 197 yards and rushed for two more touchdowns with 95 yards on the ground. But that was just a precursor of what was to come.

Last week, everybody’s favorite Cinderella, Baylor, entered Stillwater riding a wave of momentum thanks to an Xbox-like offense that was tearing up defenses. And they were no fluke as the Bears showed when they took down the Sooners 41-12. But they hadn’t faced a team like the Cowboys.

OSU stopped the vaunted Baylor offense and Chelf shined again, throwing for 370 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another touchdown in the Cowboys’ 49-17 demolition of the Bears that puts OSU (10-1) one win away from a Big 12 title if they take down OU on Saturday.

Chelf is 5-0 as the full time starter and 6-0 overall as the starter if you count the Mississippi State game. Of course, having been the starter for only half the team’s games is keeping him out of Heisman consideration.

However, consider that in the five games he has started since emerging as the full-time starter Oct. 19 against TCU, Chelf has thrown for 1,060 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 274 yards and five touchdowns. Not too shabby. For the season he has passed for 1,592 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 305 yards and 6 scores.

However, those numbers obviously pale in comparison to the top Heisman quarterback contenders.

One of the early contenders was Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, but he has fallen precipitously thanks to four losses. Entering yesterday’s games against Missouri, he amassed 4,202 total yards with 32 passing touchdowns and eight rushing touchdowns, giving him the gaudiest numbers among the top QB candidates in a recent ESPN Heisman voters poll. But his brushes with NCAA investigators and the Aggies’ losses have him trending down.

Trending way up is Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch.  The Huskies’ quarterback is the only other QB candidate with over 4,000 total yards. Lynch has passed for 2,457 yards and 22 touchdowns against only five picks and has rushed for 1,755 yards and another 20 touchdowns.

What should make Lynch’s numbers a little more intriguing for Pokes faithful is the fact Northern Illinois (12-0) is the projected opponent for OSU should the two meet as many expect, in the Fiesta Bowl. A win by undefeated NIU over Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game and an OSU win over OU would seal the deal on a Fiesta Bowl clash.

The other QB candidates include second-ranked Florida State’s Jameis Winston and top-ranked Alabama’s AJ McCarron. Winston’s stock may be falling thanks to his currently being investigated in a sexual assault case that could see him and his 3,163 yards passing and 32 touchdowns (entering the Seminoles’ games against Florida) on the sidelines. McCarron is seen more as a cog in the machine as opposed to the main gear. Entering the Tide’s game against Auburn, McCarron has thrown 2,399 yards and 23 touchdowns this season, good numbers, but nothing outrageous.

Chelf’s numbers don’t compare overall, but if one were to extrapolate his numbers over 11 games, he likely would have over 3,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns and his rushing totals would likely reflect another 10 scores, putting him above all the other candidates except for bottoming-out Manziel and outside-looking-in contender Lynch.

Consider too that if he would not have inexplicably been pulled by Gundy as the starter after two series in the season-opener against Mississippi State, he likely would have started against overmatched Lamar and UTSA and his numbers likely would be even higher.

Of course, being a Heisman contender also means selling your candidacy to the media and as we all know, Gundy has completely silenced Chelf this season, including barring him from making an appearance on ESPN’s Game Day last week in Stillwater. Meanwhile, Lynch’s stock has risen (ESPN’s Gene Wojciechowski currently has him second on his Heisman ballot) thanks to his on-field performance and a media blitz that has Lynch appearing on national TV and radio programs such as the Dan Patrick Show.

Of the acknowledged top five Heisman contenders, there only is one running back, Boston College’s Andre Williams who has 2,073 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. But it’s not likely a Heisman winner will come from a four-loss team.  So, it seems that the race does belong to the quarterbacks this year.

It’s a shame Chelf is not part of the Heisman conversation. He has done his part on the field. And, admittedly, to consider him a Heisman candidate does require several “what if” scenarios. However, unquestionably one thing that appears to have held him back is his lack of playing time in the first half of the season for reasons that remain a mystery to all but Gundy.

Also, keeping him silenced like a cloistered monk has made him nearly a non-entity on the national scene. In several aspects, Gundy has significantly held Chelf back.

One seriously has to wonder what Chelf would say to all this? Unfortunately, it looks like we will have to keep wondering.

– Dave Ruthenberg is the sports editor for the Enid News and Eagle.