IOWA CITY Every legitimate Heisman contender needs to play for a national title-caliber team and put up great stats. But more importantly, he needs to make one play that voters remember. One play that ESPN shows dozens of times. One play that legitimizes his candidacy.

Paul Wong
The SportsMonday Column<br><br>Raphael Goodstein

Desmond Howard”s diving touchdown catch on fourth-and-one against Notre Dame, and his punt return for a touchdown against Ohio State legitimized Howard”s candidacy.

Charles Woodson”s one-handed pick against Michigan State while staying inbounds did the same for Woodson”s chances.

Marquise Walker became a legitimate Heisman contender Saturday. Not because of his six catches or 72 yards, but because of his touchdown catch on a pass that nobody thought was catchable.

By now you”ve seen the catch, and you remember this catch more than any of Walker”s other 48 catches on the season. Whether they admit it or not, Heisman voters are the same way. They remember certain plays more than other plays.

Voters don”t watch every game. They watch the big ones, and then watch SportsCenter for everything else.

Needless to say, Walker”s catch made SportsCenter. And needless to say, every reporter in Kinnick Stadium was talking about the catch. The game was also a 3:30 broadcasted on ABC.

But as important as the highlight is, it”s also important that he”s been good enough so far this year to be a known name nationally. Maybe not as much of a name as Nebraska”s Eric Crouch, or Ken Dorsey of Miami (Fla.), but enough of a name that people will now watch for him to continue to make big plays.

This play came at a perfect time for Walker. He was huge in No. 6 Michigan”s lone loss this year, catching 15 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. He was Michigan”s only offensive threat and has quietly played very well ever since then well enough to make a name for himself. Now, as the season is starting to reach its peak, he made his statement.

It”s important that Walker played well in Michigan”s only loss, because nobody can say he didn”t step up when he needed to. Walker”s play absolves him from blame in Michigan”s sole loss.

Walker and Michigan will need to continue to win if he”s to remain a candidate Michigan only lost one regular-season game combined the years Howard and Woodson won the Heisman.

UCLA”s 38-28 loss severely hampers DeShaun Foster”s hopes, just as Florida”s loss to Auburn two weeks ago ended Rex Grossman”s hopes. Much like the polls, a loss late in the season is much more damaging than a loss early in the year.

Michigan should win its last four games. Michigan State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio State are all winnable, and will all be televised. ESPN”s College Gameday will likely broadcast from Michigan Stadium for the Ohio State game, making the spotlight that much brighter.

Walker might need a little help if he”s to win the trophy. Many schools go out of their way to promote candidates. Oregon paid for a billboard of quarterback Joey Harrington as a promotional stunt.

This isn”t Michigan”s style. Neither Howard nor Woodson nor some of the candidates who didn”t win it: David Terrell, Tyrone Wheatley, Anthony Carter were promoted by the University.

Consequently, those candidates went out of their way to talk about their candidacy. This isn”t Walker”s style. “That”s for (the media) to talk about,” he says.

After Saturday”s catch, the media is talking.

Raphael Goodstein can be reached at raphaelg@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *