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Heisman attention focused on McGahee

Posted: Monday, December 09, 2002

CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- Willis McGahee has three losses this season, all to Miami teammate Ken Dorsey in a video game.

The last time, McGahee had the lead and the ball in the last two minutes. He didn't want to run out the clock, though. He started throwing, was intercepted, and lost.

''I wanted to score again,'' McGahee said. ''I like scoring.''

Now there's an understatement.

McGahee shattered the school record with 27 touchdowns this season, one of the many stats that make the 6-foot-1, 220-pound sophomore a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy as Saturday night's award ceremony approaches.

The running back also set school records for rushing, total yards, and 100-yard games -- prompting some to call him the best player on the best team in the country.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't even supposed to start this season.

He certainly has been the No. 1 Hurricanes' most consistent threat on offense, even more so than quarterback Dorsey, another possible Heisman winner.

McGahee ran 39 times for a career-high 205 yards and broke a 69-year-old school record with six touchdowns in Saturday's 56-45 win over No. 18 Virginia Tech, a game that completed Miami's 12-0 regular season.

When the Hurricanes needed tough yards, they turned to McGahee. When they needed big plays, they turned to McGahee. And when they needed to work the clock, they turned to McGahee.

''Willis probably earned himself a few more Heisman votes from people across the country, and rightfully so,'' center Brett Romberg said. ''It's nothing new to us. It's the same old performance from Willis McGahee.''

Indeed.

McGahee has 262 carries for 1,686 yards, including 10 100-yard games, and is Miami's third-leading receiver with 24 catches for 350 yards. He ranks second in the nation in scoring and fourth in rushing.

And he played his best in big games.

He had 214 total yards against Florida, 173 against Florida State, 171 against Tennessee, and 226 against Virginia Tech. No team was able to stop him; the only time McGahee was held under 100 total yards was in the opener against Connecticut, when he gained 60 yards on six carries before sitting out the second half because Miami had a big lead.

''What more can I say about Willis McGahee?'' Miami coach Larry Coker said. ''He's done so much for us this season.''

Enough to win the Heisman?

McGahee doesn't think so. The quiet and unassuming Miami native figures his numbers aren't good enough and the competition is too good. McGahee hopes Dorsey wins the award given to the nation's most outstanding player, and he hopes he doesn't take too many votes away from the senior quarterback.

''I doubt I can get it because I've only been on the scene for like one year, and I didn't do as much as Kenny or the other quarterbacks did,'' McGahee said. ''I don't know what the Heisman means in their terms, but in my terms it means the best overall player who has been performing the best to help their school win and getting the job done. I think it's a career thing. You just can't pop on the scene and try to win something that's such a great achievement.''

Maybe next year.

McGahee vows to return but also\ says he will take a look at his NFL draft status after the Fiesta Bowl against No. 2 Ohio State.

McGahee also has become a good receiver and a solid blocker, skills he improved while playing fullback last season. After playing behind Clinton Portis and sharing the backup role with Frank Gore, McGahee moved to fullback last year because of an injury to Najeh Davenport.

He started the Rose Bowl and played well but refused to celebrate the national title, choosing to watch from afar as Dorsey, Portis, Ed Reed and others hoisted the championship trophy.

''I was telling myself after we won that I was going to be back in the title game again, and I was going to be the one holding the trophy up, and that's what I plan on doing,'' said McGahee, who moved back to tailback and became the starter when Gore injured his knee this spring.

Now, thanks partly to McGahee, the Hurricanes are back in the title game, where McGahee has a chance to win the only trophy he really wants.

''That's all I care about right now,'' he said. ''Nothing else matters.''



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