Palmer wins Heisman Trophy

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 14, 2002

NEW YORK -- Carson Palmer capped his rise from mediocrity to stardom by winning the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night, taking the bronze statue back to the West Coast for the first time in 21 years.

The Southern California quarterback became the first player from the region to win college football's most prestigious award since running back Marcus Allen did it in 1981.

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

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Palmer went 16-16 as a starter before his senior season, unable to live up to all the expectations he brought with him when he joined the Trojans.

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 this year.

He is the fifth winner from USC, joining Allen, Charles White (1979), O.J. Simpson (1968) and Mike Garrett (1965). USC now 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 was fourth and teammate Ken Dorsey finished fifth.

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

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

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-place votes and 152 third place-votes 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, who broke the school record with 27 touchdowns and also 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 votes.

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

Last year, there was no clear favorite for the Heisman and only four finalists were announced. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch ended up beating Florida quarterback Rex Grossman by 62 points, the fourth-closest vote in the 68-year history of the Heisman.

This year's result was a disappointing end for the Hurricanes 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.

Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich was sixth, followed by Washington State quarterback Jason Gesser, Colorado running back Chris Brown, Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury and Oklahoma running back Quentin Griffin.

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 also threw a school record 147 straight passes without an interception in 2002.

''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.

''A lot of people have been talking about the East Coast bias and I think this takes care of that.''