Dave Reardon Press Box

Dave Reardon

Friday, September 10, 2004

Moats joins Chang
in Heisman race

There's an unsung, underrated offensive star putting up huge numbers at a lonely outpost of the Western Athletic Conference. He went to a private high school, where he set all kinds of records.

In college, he compiles lots of big yardage, but a good share of it comes against porous defenses, and his team doesn't always win. The offense is built around him, and he has a very experienced and talented line to work with that should help him to a record-breaking season. Dare we say maybe even a season worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration?

No, not Tim Chang.

We are referring, of course, to Ryan Moats, the Louisiana Tech running back.

If the Heisman Trophy really goes to the best player in college football for the current season, Moats so far is as good or better a candidate than anyone else in the WAC -- and he'll have a chance to show more in the coming weeks.

Moats rushed 33 times for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-21 victory over Nevada on Labor Day. Last year, he ran for 1,300 yards and he wasn't even the focal point of the offense since slinging Luke McCown was still on the scene.

After the Bulldogs play rival Louisiana-Lafayette tomorrow, they visit Miami and Tennessee, host Fresno State and go to Auburn in successive weeks.

It will be interesting to see if Moats can run through that gauntlet with any success. It will also be interesting to see if he makes it through with his body intact, considering LaTech's inexperience at quarterback will dictate Moats be the workhorse.

If he puts together a 100-yard game or two against such competition, it's gotta count for something in the Heisman voters' minds -- if not for this year, then next, assuming Moats sticks around for another.

» Fresno State: After a 35-16 win at Washington (despite former Saint Louis School linebacker Joe Lobendahn's 16 tackles for the Huskies), the Bulldogs could be poised for another run like in 2001. That's the year Pat Hill's crew got up to No. 8 in the nation by beating Colorado, Oregon State, Wisconsin and Colorado State (three of 'em on the road) before losing to Boise State and Hawaii.

The Bulldogs' next hurdle is tomorrow, at No. 13 Kansas State.

Hill said it's like being at the World Series of Poker.

"We're all-in this week. We're going to stay all-in every week and hopefully at the end of the year we have enough chips," he said. "I think it's all about getting to a BCS game. Why can't we?"

» Southern Methodist: Under normal circumstances, SMU coach Phil Bennett is a gentleman as affable as they come.

But Texas Tech coach Mike Leach got Bennett fired up when it seemed Leach was trying to run up the score in SMU's 27-13 loss, the Mustangs' 13th in a row to tie the school record.

After several late Red Raiders passes into the end zone, Bennett charged over to Leach yelling. The verbal confrontation led to some player skirmishing.

"I liked Mike before the game, and I like him now," Bennett said. "Anybody who knows me knows I'm pretty passionate about what we're doing. It's hard enough where we've been. Obviously there are times when you wish you'd reacted better."

» Nevada: Former Kamehameha quarterback Caleb Spencer made a nifty debut at receiver for the Wolf Pack, catching seven passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Dave Reardon is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter who covers University of Hawaii football and other topics. His column appears periodically. E-mail him at dreardon@starbulletin.com



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