Can IU have a Heisman Candidate?

By: Tori Ziege

The whispers started in the third quarter at Bowling Green.

Tevin Coleman had just scored, side-stepping his way for 46 yards and his second touchdown on back-to-back IU scoring drives.

Both times Coleman found the end zone, he gave the lead back to the Hoosiers.

He wasn’t done yet.

The Falcons went up again on a goal-line push from running back Ted Coppet, and Coleman, not to be outdone, responded in his usual way: a touchdown, this time for 31 yards on fourth play of the drive.

Throughout the IU football “twitterverse”, the whispers grew to a dull roar: Tevin Coleman… Heisman candidate?

Yet the clamor was barely audible outside the IU community.

The Heisman hush surrounding Coleman was stifled by a last-second loss, and a shadow fell over IU football once more.

And who can blame the nation?

Why would anyone—outside of Indiana or Ohio—watch this game airing on ESPNU, a channel that was not even made available to IU students with campus housing?

How could anyone—outside of the IU fan base—understand what Coleman signifies for this football program, and its hunger to be nationally relevant?

The Kevin Wilson era has earned the Hoosiers a reputation for their explosive offense.

Yet no one took notice of that offense’s lynch pin, Cody Latimer, until ESPN analyst Todd McShay unearthed tape of the wide receiver while preparing for the 2014 NFL Draft.

McShay said that Latimer was “the most underrated player of the draft.”

Underrated, because no one paid attention to him at IU: a bottom-feeder school in a Big Ten conference that has scant national prowess to begin with.

As Hoosiers, we know the facts about our football team, yet we believe in spite them.

So it was somewhat disheartening to hear Coleman, our torchbearer, echo these sentiments last week in a phone interview with the St. Louis Dispatch.

“It’s hard to get recognized as a running back here at Indiana,” he said. “Maybe if I were somewhere else I’d probably be noticed because it’s a bigger school and they win much more. I just have to keep working and we have to keep working hard and we have to win more games and maybe I’ll be noticed.”

Then came last weekend: IU on the road, at No. 18 Missouri.

Coleman ran for the game’s first touchdown, but headed immediately for the locker room after the 1-yard scoring play.

He would not return until the second half.

It didn’t matter.

Despite his injury, Coleman racked up 132 total yards, including a pivotal 44-yard shovel pass in the fourth quarter that (in addition to a facemask penalty) lead to the Hoosiers’ game-winning touchdown.

Cue IU beating a top-20 SEC team.

Cue IU leading the Big Ten’s campaign for relevance.

Cue IU receiving national attention, enough to get an AP top-25 vote, and enough to get murmurs of “Tevin Coleman, Heisman candidate” circulating the web once again.

Yes, you heard me right.

Celebrating the Hoosiers’ first win over a nationally ranked team since 2006, it’s easy to get carried away in the wake of this victory.

A loss to Maryland, and this program will go back to being what it was—and what it has been for many years—after a loss to Bowling Green: irrelevant.

But for one week, thanks to his team’s historic upset, Tevin Coleman will receive the recognition he deserves as the nation’s third-leading rusher.

And if this IU football team continues to win, fans might just hear “Tevin Coleman, Heisman finalist”—not in whispers, but announced on national TV.

Follow Tori Ziege on Twitter @ToriZiege and listen to her on “The War Room” Fridays from 6-7pm