September 20, 2011

Shortened games may impact Heisman race

Surprises never cease in college football.

Just three weeks into this season we've learned that a game can be won on the field without any individuals piling up stats and that a team can take three minutes between snaps and not get penalized for delay of game.

Those revelations potentially could have ramifications on the Heisman race, though it is unlikely.

Let us explain.

Michigan's season-opening 34-10 victory over Western Michigan was called with 1:27 remaining in the third quarter because of repeated lightning strikes. While the victory is official, the NCAA does not recognize any of the statistics in the game. So while Michigan's record includes three wins, the NCAA's statistics only include numbers posted from two games.

"At the Sept. 3 [game], the game officials and coaches agreed to stop the game because of weather conditions just short of the end of the third quarter," an NCAA official wrote in an e-mail to "It was decided Michigan would get a win and Western Michigan would get a loss.

[More Michigan coverage:]

"However, for a football game to count statistically, it has to be complete through three quarters. That's why the statistics for Michigan [and Western Michigan] are only two games."

Therefore, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson is not credited with the 144 yards of total offense he accumulated in that game.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, like Robinson a Heisman contender, is credited with the 343 yards of total offense and three touchdown passes he accumulated in last Saturday's 48-0 victory over FCS member Stephen F. Austin, even though that game technically was shorter than the Michigan-Western Michigan game.

[Related: Interesting stats: Georgia Tech creates buzz]

Thunderstorms and lightning strikes had forced delays during that game, and radar showed more cells were approaching Waco, so officials and coaches agreed to shorten the third and fourth quarters to just 12 minutes.

But after a field goal gave Baylor a 48-0 lead with 3:12 left in the third quarter, Baylor coach Art Briles and SFA coach J.C. Harper agreed to end the game prematurely.

After the ensuing kickoff, a touchback, SFA officially was given a "team rush" for no gain. Though no other plays were run, the remaining time in the third quarter was allowed to tick off the clock with no delay-of-game penalty.

Therefore, the game technically lasted three quarters and thus the stats were "official" under NCAA rules. Griffin was 20-of-22 for 265 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 78 yards.

Should Griffin's statistics from that game count? Even the NCAA isn't sure.

[More Baylor coverage:]

"Now you know why the NCAA Manual is so big," the NCAA official wrote in an e-mail. "We are still debating that one."

A big performance against an overmatched opponent won't sway any Heisman voters, but if Griffin still is in the thick of the Heisman race in December, some voters may just look at his total statistics when considering whether to vote for him. Every yard and touchdown pass can only help his candidacy, although those in Baylor's sports information department doubt that was considered when the decision was made to allow the clock to run.

"It was chaos," sports information director Heath Nielsen said. "In that setting, I don't think anybody was thinking about that."

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Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at

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