With today’s UCLA/USC contest the only remaining obstacle for the latter’s 3rd consecutive National Championship appearance — most likely against Texas in the Rose Bowl, barring a Colorado miracle —- the LA Times’s A.J. Adande is well aware that the Heisman Trophy battle is a two horse race between Matt Leinart and Reggie Busch. Just the same, he makes a case for UCLA’s QB Drew Olson and RB Maurice Drew.
At UCLA, the job demand for Olson and Drew (above) is like an air traffic controller: no margin for error. While USC wins by an average of 27 points a game, the Bruins’ average margin in their nine victories is 13.5 points ” a perilous 6.7 in Pacific-10 Conference games. At UCLA, opposing punters can get in some quality study time during the games; the offense has to be on high alert.
The one time Drew was shut out, the Bruins were shut down, losing to Arizona, 52-14. It’s no coincidence.
Now that ESPN has stopped showing continuous-loop highlights of Bush’s 513 all-purpose yards against Fresno State, they might want to dig out a tape of the 299 yards and five touchdowns Drew produced against California. It was the first time I allowed myself to think “Drew might not be as good as Bush, but you can’t say he doesn’t mean as much to his team.”
Drew even manages to top Bush in my little statistical category inspired by Bush: Timely Touchdowns. Game-changers, if you will. Last season, 12 of Bush’s 15 touchdowns came when the Trojans were losing, tied or leading by seven points or fewer. He’s on a similar pace this season, with 12 of his 16 TDs meeting those criteria. For Drew, 16 of his 19 touchdowns this season came when the Bruins were tied, trailed or led by a touchdown or less. That’s 84%.
Drew also compensates for his defense’s inability to win field position by returning punts a national-best average of 29 yards. Factor that against USC’s suspect special teams and you see why USC Coach Pete Carroll called Drew “one of the real issues in this game, a guy that can make a difference.”
Drew scored the winning touchdown in the victories over Washington, California and Washington State, plus the game-tying touchdown against Stanford.
And now, some love for the quarterback who directed the fourth-quarter comebacks.
I read a column suggesting Texas’ Young should get the Heisman, and the first statistical argument was that Young was second in the country in pass efficiency at the time. Well, guess who’s No. 1? Drew Olson.
And if we’re going to say USC has comfier games, let’s not forget Texas’ average margin of victory is 36.7 points.
Olson’s most important numbers are his touchdowns vs. interceptions: 30 to three. It’s not only the minimal mistakes, it’s the confidence he has instilled in teammates. You can’t start game-winning drives on the road without a confident quarterback, and Olson brought a swagger that spread to all.