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College football

Palmer captures Heisman

The QB wins every region but one to become 5th at USC to earn the award.

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 15, 2002

NEW YORK -- Carson Palmer can forget those first three seasons at USC, when he lost as much as he won and failed to fulfill the high expectations.

The Heisman Trophy does that for a player.

Palmer capped his rise from mediocrity to stardom by winning college football's most prestigious award Saturday night, taking the bronze statue back to the West Coast for the first time since USC's Marcus Allen did it 21 years ago.

Palmer received 242 first-place votes and easily won by 233 points over Iowa quarterback Brad Banks.

He turned around his career dramatically this year, leading the Trojans to a 10-2 record and a spot in the Orange Bowl -- against Iowa and Banks. Palmer's season highlights included a stunning performance against Notre Dame on national television, crucial for a West Coast Heisman hopeful who doesn't get as much exposure as other candidates.

Palmer completed nearly 63 percent of his passes for 3,639 yards and 32 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

He is the fifth winner from USC, joining Allen, Charles White (1979), O.J. Simpson (1968) and Mike Garrett (1965). USC has the third-most winners, behind Notre Dame (seven) and Ohio State (six).

In what was expected to be one of the closest races in Heisman history, Palmer topped Banks, with Penn State's Larry Johnson third. Miami's Willis McGahee, the only non-senior, was fourth and teammate Ken Dorsey fifth.

It was the first time five finalists each received more than 100 first-place votes. Palmer won five of the six regions. Banks won the Midwest Region with 289 points, 100 more than Palmer.

When his name was called, Palmer kissed his fiancee.

"My heart's about to come out of my shirt," Palmer said. "This has been amazing, this whole journey through this season."

Voters list three choices on their ballots, and players are awarded three points for first place, two for second and one for third.

Palmer, the first USC quarterback to win the award, had 242 first-place votes, 224 second-place votes and 154 third-place votes for 1,328 points.

Banks, who led the nation in passing efficiency and went 155-of-258 for 2,369 yards, 25 touchdowns and four interceptions, had 199 first-place votes, 173 second and 152 third for 1,095 points.

Johnson, who became the ninth player in Division I-A history to rush for more than 2,000 yards when he finished with 2,015, had 108 first-place votes, 130 second-place votes and 142 third-place votes for 726 points.

McGahee, a sophomore who broke the school record with 27 touchdowns and set school records for yards rushing (1,686), total yards (2,036), and 100-yard games (10), received 101 first-place votes, 118 second-place votes and 121 third-place votes for 660.

Dorsey, who was 38-1 as a starter, received 122 first-place votes, 89 second-pace votes and 99 third-place votes for 643 votes.

The result was a disappointing end for the UM teammates. It was the first time teammates finished in the top five since 1994, when Penn State's Ki-Jana Carter was second and Kerry Collins fourth.

"It's good for Willis and myself not to have that added pressure going into a bowl game," Dorsey said. "Even though I finished dead last, the last time I looked, we're still going to the Fiesta Bowl."

In a race that was unpredictable, perhaps Palmer's performance against Notre Dame in the season finale put him over the top. In a 44-13 victory over the Fighting Irish, he passed for 425 yards and four touchdowns -- the most passing yards ever allowed by the Fighting Irish.

Palmer was at his best during USC's final eight games, passing for 2,676 yards and 27 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

He is the Pac-10 offensive player of the year and won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as the nation's top senior quarterback.

This year, he set USC season records for yards passing (3,639), passing TDs (32), pass attempts (458) and total offense (3,513). He had a school-record 147 straight passes without an interception.

"I couldn't be more honored to take this trophy back to share with my teammates in Los Angeles," Palmer said. "This award is as much theirs as it is mine."

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