N. Illinois’ Heisman hopeful will dash past Owls

The words ‘Heisman Trophy’ and ‘Temple’ likely don’t belong in the same sentence. But in four days, a frontrunner for college football’s top honor will host the 0-7 Owls. And the chips likely won’t be

The words ‘Heisman Trophy’ and ‘Temple’ likely don’t belong in the same sentence.

But in four days, a frontrunner for college football’s top honor will host the 0-7 Owls. And the chips likely won’t be stacked in Temple’s corner.Enter Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe.

Wolfe, tearing it up on the field, has sprinkled his name into the national media and onto Heisman Trophy Watch lists all across the country.

And justifiably so.The senior needed just seven games to accrue 1,368 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns.

Not enough to make him Heisman worthy? Allow me to put Wolfe’s achievements
into perspective: The senior from Chicago has averaged 195 rushing yards per game, which is 40 more yards than Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson pulled in per game before suffering a season ending injury Saturday.

Wolfe’s per-game rushing average ranks higher than all but a half-dozen of the 119 Division I teams. Here’s the kicker – Wolfe’s single-game high of 353 yards against Ball State Sept. 30 is comparable to Temple’s team rushing total (449 yards) for the 2006 season.

That’s pitiful. Or should I say Wolfe is remarkable?

In either case, Wolfe has garnered some attention for himself this season. If he keeps it up, he’s on pace to finish with college football’s single-season rushing title of 2,628 yards set in 1988 by a lesser known Oklahoma State running back. Some guy named Barry Sanders.

So he’d have that going for him. Not to mention having a Heisman to store away in his trophy case.

Wolfe has done something undone in 20 years: He’s made it acceptable to group together the terms ‘Temple’ and ‘Heisman Trophy’.

Long, long ago, a tailback named Paul Palmer garnered the national spotlight for Temple football. The Owls’ all-time rushing leader, Palmer finished second in the Heisman balloting in 1986 to Miami quarterback Vinny Testaverde.

And that’s about where the comparisons
end between Temple and Wolfe.

But Wolfe likely won’t be concerned with a history lesson when he lines up against Temple Saturday. He’ll be looking to churn out some more offensive production against one of the worst run defenses in Division
I football.

Temple’s run defense has been non-existent this season. And at his personal record-
setting pace, Wolfe will be dangerous.The Owls have allowed 248 rushing yards per game (fourth-worst in the nation) through seven games, not to mention 27 rushing touchdowns, which is good for dead last in the country.

It’s scary to think what Wolfe is capable of against the Owls. Especially when he’ll be playing in front of the home crowd in DeKalb, Ill., in his final homecoming game.Consider yourself warned, Temple.More importantly, it’s easy to make an argument against Wolfe, saying the talk around him is just that – talk. After all, he’s turning it up against Mid-American Conference teams. And before
this season, Wolfe had just an average resume.The other factor working against Wolfe is somewhat of an obvious one – who would award the Heisman Trophy to a player from the MAC, a conference which has never had a player win the illustrious award?

Don’t put it past Wolfe to become the first to do so.

There have been Heisman-Trophy-winners-
turned-professional-football-flops in the recent past. Remember Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne? Or Colorado’s Rashaan Salaam? Point made.

But Wolfe isn’t one of them. He’s legit.If his numbers don’t speak for him, maybe his play will against Temple and the rest of Northern Illinois’ schedule this year.

Keep an eye on Wolfe. He won’t disappoint.

Christopher A. Vito can be reached at christopher.vito@temple.edu.

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