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DORSEY'S PERFORMANCE SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT HIS HEISMAN CREDENTIALS

The Heisman Trophy race isn't really a race at all. It's an advertising campaign, a contest to see which school can do the best job of hyping its candidate to an impressionable and somewhat ill-informed electorate.

Ken Dorsey will have none of it. Miami's senior quarterback isn't interested in lobbying for his own cause.

"To be honest, I'm not even thinking about it," Dorsey said Saturday after the Hurricanes blew out Syracuse, 49-7, at the Carrier Dome. "They can vote however they want. I don't care."

Apparently, he's the only one on Miami's team who is indifferent. Players, coaches, they all feel he deserves college football's highest individual honor. Brett Romberg might feel a little stronger than most. Romberg is Dorsey's center and roommate, a bright, voluble senior who has no problem stumping on his pal's behalf.

"Dorsey is the bacon in your breakfast if you're having bacon and eggs," said Romberg, a senior from Windsor, Ont. "He's the guy who kind of puts it all together for us. He's the conductor on the field for our offense. Without him, I'm certain we wouldn't be the team we are today.

"I definitely think he deserves the Heisman, man," Romberg said. "The stuff I see that guy do, it's unparalleled."

The problem is, many of the 906 people who vote for the award don't agree. Dorsey has a legion of critics who treat him like a rancid piece of bacon, a rotten egg. They scoff at his statistics. They call him unexciting, a good player fortunate to be surrounded by a great supporting cast.

One writer said we might have to settle for Dorsey because there's no other worthy candidate. Another called him "the worst Heisman front-runner since Gino Torretta." Lately, it seems the Heisman voting has devolved into a desperate search to find someone -- anyone -- more worthy than Dorsey.

Well, on Saturday he gave the voters something to think about. Dorsey reminded the skeptics what all the fuss was about in the first place. He played one of the best games you'll ever see from a college quarterback, putting on an awesome passing display against an overmatched Syracuse defense.

Dorsey completed 16 of 25 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. The numbers fail to express how good he was. For 20 minutes, in fact, he was perfect. Early in the second quarter, he was 10 of 10 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. If the Orangemen had kept the game close, he might have thrown for 500 yards.

Unexciting? Dorsey made every throw against the hapless Syracuse defense. He sliced, he diced, he did everything but serve the Orangemen as halftime appetizers. He hit Andre Johnson over the middle for 34 yards. He found him deep for 68 yards. He threaded a perfect 4-yard pass to Johnson in the back of the end zone.

Presumably, some of Dorsey's skeptics were nodding their heads in recognition. Maybe the guy is a real talent, after all. Maybe he is a big reason the Hurricanes are on a 33-game winning streak and stalking a second straight national championship.

"Ken made a statement recently that he hasn't had many Heisman moments," said Miami coach Larry Coker. "I could list a dozen of them right here. He's special. You can use all the cliches you want . . . in our opinion, he's the best football player in the country."

If it's cliches you're after, Dorsey is your man. He called Saturday's rout a "complete team effort." He credited his blocking, the defense and special teams. He complimented the game plan. He said the team needs to focus this week for Virginia Tech, the only obstacle remaining between Miami and a date with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Dorsey has always been about team. One hour after Miami whipped Nebraska in the national title game last January, he was already pleading with teammates Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis, Philip Buchanon and William Joseph not to leave early for the National Football League draft. Miami had never repeated as national champ. They could be part of it.

Shockey, Portis and Buchanon went pro, anyway. Miami lost a dozen starters to the pros. And yet here they are, favored to win another title. Meanwhile, the critics search the team and its quarterback for fatal flaws.

Miami is 37-1 with Dorsey as the starter. That should count for something. It doesn't make him the best player in the sport, as defined by the Heisman. People can certainly justify casting their votes elsewhere. But if Dorsey made a statement Saturday, it's that he belongs in the argument.

Romberg graduated last December. He could have gone into the NFL draft, but enrolled in graduate school and came back for his senior year. How many chances do you get to repeat as national champs, to extend one of the longest winning streaks in history?

"There was no reason I was going to leave early," Romberg said. "These are the best times of our lives -- the camaraderie, the teammates, everything you have here. That's why we're winning football games, because it carries beyond the field. We care a little more about each other than a lot of other teams, I imagine."

And how much of that traces back to Dorsey?

"He's one of the best leaders I've ever seen," Romberg said. "The thing is, he's not a vocal leader. He's very quiet and he goes about his business. He leads by example. He's not lip service. He's just hard-nosed, bring it on the field, whatever it takes to win a football game. That's what the young guys should look up to."

The Heisman voters, too.
e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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