Spiller's Heisman hopes stopped short

Brilliance of Miami and ACC title games not enough for senior to travel to NYC ceremony

pstrelow@thestate.comDecember 8, 2009 

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller



    WHO: Clemson (8-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

    WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Sunday

    WHERE: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn. TV: ESPN

    TV: ESPN

    RADIO: ESPN Radio 93.1 FM

    LINE: Clemson by 7

CLEMSON - C.J. Spiller has made his name by eluding defenders with breathtaking jukes and bursts of speed.

But there was one cut Clemson's star running back was unable to make in his senior season.

Spiller was not among the five Heisman Trophy finalists who were announced Monday evening an hour after online voting concluded.

The finalists - Alabama running back Mark Ingram, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Stanford back Toby Gerhart - are invited to attend the trophy ceremony in New York on Saturday night.

"I certainly wanted to make it to New York for the Heisman presentation," Spiller said through a school spokesman. "It would have been great for this football program and Clemson University in general. But I have done the best I could in every game. I have no regrets."

It will become known how close Spiller came to an invitation when voting results are released Saturday.

The accounting firm that handled tabulation determined the number of finalists based on the "natural break" in the voting tally. No more than six finalists are invited - and that many had not gone since 1994. This is the first time five finalists have been named in the past five years.

But Spiller's chances bore monitoring when he punctuated his candidacy with career-bests of 233 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns in Saturday's 39-34 loss to No. 9 Georgia Tech in the ACC championship.

His campaign kicked off when Clemson issued more than 4,000 life-sized Spiller posters touting his Heisman candidacy to fans and media members in July.

He endured an immediate setback upon sustaining a turf toe in the first half of the season's opening game - an injury that lingered throughout the year.

But Spiller surfaced again after registering 310 all-purpose yards and several highlight-reel plays in the Tigers' 40-37 overtime win at Miami. But his candidacy probably incurred a fatal blow when he posted rushing performances of 58 and 18 yards against Virginia and USC, respectively, to close the regular season.

Spiller set the NCAA record for career kickoff return touchdowns (seven), and he can eclipse DeAngelo Williams' NCAA record for career all-purpose yardage (7,573) with 158 yards against Kentucky in the Dec. 27 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.

He, Ingram and Gerhart are the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. That honor will be presented Thursday night in Orlando during ESPN's college football awards show at 8 p.m.

"I want to especially thank the Clemson fans for their support," Spiller said. "I know they came out in great numbers in the fan voting poll and have been very supportive of me my entire career. I want to thank all my teammates, especially the offensive line.

"We have one game left. We have not won a bowl game since I have been at Clemson. The seniors want to go out with a win."

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