Heisman Watch: And then there were 5

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Heisman Watch: And then there were 5

The first BCS standings were released on Sunday, signifying that the chase to the BCS Championship Game is in full swing. In addition, now that we are over halfway through the season the race for the Heisman Trophy is starting to take shape. We have narrowed down the candidates from 10 to five, with a few players on the bubble. After all, only five will be invited to the presentation in New York on December 10. Without further ado...

Rank PlayerPositionSchool Recent Game Stats Season Stats Next Game 1 Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford 26-36, 336 yards, 4 TD, INT in 44-14 win Washington State 129-181 (71), 1719 yards, 18 TD, 3 INT, rush TD 25 Washington 2 Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama 17 rush, 183 yards, 4 TD in 52-7 win at Ole Miss 132 rush, 912 yards (7 yards per carry), 15 TD, 179 rec. yards, rec. TD Tennessee 3 Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin 12-17, 166 yards, TD, 42 rush yards in 59-7 win over Indiana 95-128 (74), 1557 yards, 14 TD, INT, 182 rush yards, 2 rush TD at 16 Michigan State 4 Kellen Moore, QB, Boise State 26-30, 338 yards, 4 TD in 63-13 win at Colorado State 151-199 (76), 1729 yards, 21 TD, 6 INT Air Force 5 Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma 29-48, 363 yards, 3 TD, INT in 47-17 win at Kansas 171-253 (68), 2177 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT, 2 rush TD Texas Tech
On the bubble: Brandon WeedenQBOklahoma State, Robert Griffin IIIQBBaylor, Case KeenumQBHouston, Ryan BroylesWROklahoma

Analysis:

1) Andrew Luck: Stanford has won its six games by an average of almost 35 points per game, and although their lack of competition hurt the Cardinal in the first BCS standings (8th) it hasn't hurt Luck in Heisman race. Big numbers and a big margin of victory against the 25th ranked Washington Huskies will only extend Luck's lead, and should help boost the Cardinal's strength of schedule with the computers.

2) Trent Richardson: Did you see his 76-yard touchdown run over the weekend? This guy will be carrying it 20 plus times a game on Sundays next year, and may pick up a Heisman trophy and BCS National Championship on the way. Set your DVR right this second for November 5 when a spot in the SEC Title Game, and most likely the BCS Title Game is on the line when the Crimson Tide host LSU. If Richardson shines and the Tide wins, Luck may not be feeling so lucky after all.

3) Russell Wilson: All of the quarterbacks he is battling have completed more passes than Wilson has even attempted. Wisconsin will always be a smash-mouth, run-first program but without Wilson they are an above average team. With him, they have a realistic shot at sneaking into the BCS Title Game. However, they face their biggest test of the season this Saturday in East Lansing against a Spartans squad that knocked off Michigan over the weekend. My prediction: Russell dominates and the Badgers win by double digits.
4) Kellen Moore: I've had him 3rd, 5th, 1b, 7th, and now 4th. The Broncos' weak schedule has made me flip-flop practically every week, but I think it's safe to say that he will remain in the Top 5 and be invited to New York on December 10 as long as Boise runs the table, and he doesn't either get hurt or throw three interceptions in a game. His margin for error is smaller than anybody on the list.

5) Landry Jones: He got off to a bit of a slow start (five passing touchdowns vs. four interceptions in first three games) but has thrown 11 touchdowns against just two interceptions in the Sooners' last three games. Oklahoma has the toughest route to the BCS Title Game with games at 11 Kansas State, 17 Texas A&M, at Baylor, and at 4 Oklahoma State still on the schedule. The way I look at it -- amazing opportunities for Jones to vault himself to the top of the list, and into a top draft pick he elects to enter the 2012 NFL Draft.
Note: If team records or rankings didn't matter, Robert Griffin III would unquestionably be in the top 5. However, Baylor has two losses, including a 55-28 drubbing over the weekend from Texas A&M. Maybe he should play defense, too?

Kelly benched Kaepernick to see if Gabbert could provide spark

Kelly benched Kaepernick to see if Gabbert could provide spark

CHICAGO – The 49ers on Sunday had the second-worst passing day in the 71-season history of the organization.

Coach Chip Kelly made the move at the beginning of the fourth quarter to bench quarterback Colin Kaepernick in favor of Blaine Gabbert as the 49ers sunk to new depths with a 26-6 loss to the Chicago Bears on a cold, snowy day at Soldier Field.

Kelly said he made the move because it was clear to him that Kaepernick was not coping well with the inclement conditions. Kaepernick completed just one of five passing attempts for 4 yards through three quarters. He was sacked five times for minus-25 yards.

Kelly was asked afterward if Kaepernick would regain his starting job for next week’s game against the New York Jets.

“We haven’t had any discussions about anything,” Kelly said. “It was just my decision to make a move to see if we could get a spark and see where we were.

“At that point in the game, we’re down a couple of scores (18 points) and, obviously, we have to throw it a ton. So we just wanted to see if we could get a spark for our team. There were no permanent decisions or anything like that.”

Gabbert did not have much more success in his one quarter of action. He completed four of 10 attempts for 35 yards. He was sacked in the end zone late in the fourth quarter for a safety.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Kaepernick said of his benching. “It wasn’t something I expected. I’m always prepared and ready to do everything I can to help this team win.

“It’s not about my feelings. It’s about being able to help this team win. This coaching staff didn’t feel like I was, you know, out there being able to help this team win, so they made a change -- whether I agreed with that or not.”

The 49ers stuck with the running game for most of the game. Running back Carlos Hyde gained 92 yards on 20 rushing attempts, while Kaepernick rushed six times for 20 yards.

Kelly took the conservative approach in conditions that were snowy, wet and near freezing. There was no wind. Kelly was asked afterward if he might have been too cautious with Kaepernick.

“No, I was just watching how the ball was coming off his hands and what our chances were of completing it,” he said. “Maybe I was too cautious, but it didn’t look like we were doing much in the passing game.”

Kelly pointed out that the weather did not appear to have much of a negative impact on Bears quarterback Matt Barkley, who completed 11 of 18 passes for 192 yards.

“Both teams played in the same weather, so I don’t look at that as an excuse, in terms of we had the same weather that they had,” Kelly said. “Both teams had to deal with it, and they dealt with it better, especially in the pass game.”

Said Kaepernick, “I think the weather was something that definitely played a factor. We have to be able to do a better job managing that, handing it and being able to throw the ball, still.

“More than anything, it was tougher throwing a wet football. Once again, we have to be better at, being able to handle it.”

The 49ers had just 6 yards of net passing in the game. Kaepernick and Gabbert combined for 39 yards passing. Negative yardage on sacks counts against net passing yardage in the NFL, and the 49ers had 33 yards in sacks.

The 49ers franchise-worst game in passing is minus-10 yards. Quarterbacks Bob Waters and Lamar McHan combined for 63 yards passing against the Detroit Lions on Oct. 6, 1963. The 49ers gave up 73 yards in sacks to account for the negative yardage.

“It was just one of those days,” Gabbert said. “It’s not on any single guy’s shoulders why we didn’t win this football game and why we didn’t execute as an offense.”

Kaepernick had been playing some of the best football of his career entering Sunday’s game. In the 49ers’ 31-24 loss to the Miami Dolphins a week earlier, Kaepernick threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns and gained 113 yards rushing.

“We have to continue to keep building, keep progressing,” Kaepernick said. “This is a setback, most definitely, but we have to be able to keep pushing forward.”

On Sunday, the NFL Network reported Kaepernick planned to opt out the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. Kaepernick said he is not looking ahead to the offseason.

“Once again, like I’ve said all along, my focus is on the next game,” Kaepernick said. “So my focus has been on the Bears this past week.”

When asked whether he expects to remain the 49ers’ starter, Kaepernick answered, “That’s not my decision. My feelings on it really don’t matter at this point. I’m just going to do everything I can to make sure I’m prepared.”

 

Chip Kelly coached 49ers in Chicago despite father's death

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AP

Chip Kelly coached 49ers in Chicago despite father's death

CHICAGO – Paul Kelly, the father of Chip Kelly, passed away on Friday night, the 49ers coach confirmed Sunday afternoon.

Kelly flew from Chicago to New Hampshire late Friday after learning of his father’s death. He returned for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field. The 49ers lost their 11th consecutive game, a 26-6 defeat to the Bears.

When asked if he considered not coaching in the game, Kelly told CSNBayArea.com, “My mom wanted me to coach.”

Kelly said the team was making travel plans to send him back to New Hampshire after the game to be with his family, including his mother, Jean.

General manager Trent Baalke informed the 49ers’ players during a meeting Saturday morning in Chicago.

Paul Kelly was a retired trial lawyer and a member of the New Hampshire Bar from 1960 to 2000.

In a 2009 profile on the Kelly family in the Oregonian, Paul Kelly was described as “cerebral, successful and competitive.” The article states that throughout Chip Kelly's childhood, his father preached, “Deeds, not words.”

The 49ers released a statement from Baalke on Sunday evening, as the team prepared for its trip back to the Bay Area:

“The thoughts and prayers of the entire San Francisco 49ers organization are with Chip and his family as they face the difficult process of grieving the loss of a loved one. Understandably, coach will take some time to be with his family before returning to the team this week. Chip has our continued support as he mourns the passing of his father.”