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Colin Kaepernick: The best quarterback with no hardware to show for it

JOE SANTORO
For the Nevada Appeal

The only place Colin Kaepernick will ever get any lasting respect from college football, it seems, is in the NCAA record book.

The most versatile quarterback in NCAA history was shut out Thursday night at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show at Disney World, losing out on the Davey O’Brien Award, the Maxwell Award, the Johnny Unitas Award and the Walter Camp Player of the Year honor.

What does a quarterback have to do to bring home some hardware?

Well, it is now apparent what a quarterback must not do.

He must not be the most explosive and dynamic player in the most explosive, dynamic, innovative (and copied) offense in college football west of the Southeast Conference. He must not plaster his name all over the NCAA record book. He must not be the best running quarterback in NCAA history. He must not be one half of the most productive running and scoring tandem in college football history. He must not be the winning quarterback in the most exciting and shocking upset in this college football season.

Kaepernick, was the best player not in New York for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy presentation, made the mistake of doing all of the above things.

Maybe Kaepernick should have hired Kanye West to help him out Thursday.

Kanye could have suddenly appeared out of nowhere as Auburn’s Cam Newton was about to receive yet another award, stole the microphone and told the nation, “Cam, I’m really happy for you and I’ll let you finish but Colin had one of the best careers of all-time. One of the best careers of all-time!”

Kaepernick wouldn’t own any more national trophies than he has now but at least the college football world would know who should have won at least one fancy award. Kaepernick, though, is still just the long-legged kid with the funny last name who runs for all those touchdowns in that sawed-off shotgun offense out west.

He much more than that. Much, much more. And it’s a shame the country doesn’t really know it.

The Home Depot Cam Newton Trophy Parade this week would have been a great opportunity to educate the country. It would have been the perfect chance for college football (whatever and whomever that is) to show off one of its most heartwarming stories – the long-legged kid with the funny last name who came out of nowhere to rewrite the NCAA record book.

Nobody is denying that Newton is the best player in the country. Nobody is denying that he should have won all of the awards he’s already won and will win in the future. That guy is Kaepernick if Kaepernick would have made friends with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire about three years ago.

But the powers that be in college football should have made sure that Kaepernick got one award this award season. It’s not right he ends up being college football’s Susan Lucci, the guy with the most nominations without an award to show for it. But even Lucci finally won her Emmy. And there’s still one more award out there for Kaepernick, the Manning Award. But Kaepernick has as much chance at winning that honor as Newton’s dad has of sitting on the Auburn bench on Jan. 10.

No, the award that should bear Kaepernicks name is the Unitas Award, given to the top senior quarterback in the nation.

Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien won it. Really? Tolzien? Isn’t that the guy who wrote Lord of the Rings? Where’s Kanye when you need him? Tolzien is now, officially, the Taylor Swift of college football.

How, exactly, can anyone justify Tolzien as the best senior quarterback in the nation over Kaepernick?

Is it just because Tolzien played in the Big Ten and Kaepernick played in the shrinking and disappearing Western Athletic Conference? Is it because Wisconsin is a BCS school and Nevada is a wanna-BCS school? Is it because the Unitas Award folks wanted the publicity that Tolzien’s Badgers would give them in the Rose Bowl?

Let’s look at the numbers.

Tolzien has passed for 2,300 yards and 16 touchdowns. Kaepernick has passed for 2,830 yards and 20 touchdowns. Tolzien has a slight edge in passing efficiency, 169.80 to Kaepernick’s 154.21 and he’s slightly more accurate, completing 74 percent of his passes to Kaepernick’s 65 percent. Kaepernick, though, has a better interception percentage (2.15 percent to Tolzien’s 2.45 percent).

So, now that we’ve established that Kaepernick is the equal to, if not better than, Tolzien through the air, let’s look at how they do on the ground.

Kaepernick is, arguably, the best running quarterback in NCAA history. Tolzien is Johnny Unitas. The Johnny Unitas of the San Diego Chargers. On two bad knees. Carrying a piano on his back. In mud.

Kaepernick has run for 1,184 yards and 20 touchdowns this year, averaging 7.2 yards every time he takes off. Tolzien? Well, add up all his runs this year and he can barely see the line of scrimmage. In 64 carries, the Badger quarterback has a net on the ground of minus-14 yards and not one single rushing touchdown.

It’s not his fault. He’s a fine college quarterback. He runs his Badger offense well, does what he’s told and wins games. Kaepernick also does all of those things. And more.

Did Tolzien compile his numbers against tougher competition? Maybe. But only slightly.

The two quarterbacks did play two similar teams this year in San Jose State and UNLV. And, oddly enough, they both played UNLV on the road and San Jose at home and in the same order in back-to-back weeks.

Tolzien passed for 388 yards and one touchdown, completing 30-of-42 (71 percent) of his passes combined against UNLV and San Jose. He was also intercepted twice and ran the ball a total of two times for one net yard and no scores.

Kaepernick? He passed for 397 yards on 33-of-44 passing (75 percent) for one touchdown and one interception against those two teams. And don’t forget his 188 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Rebels and Spartans won’t.

But don’t fault Tolzien for not measuring up to Kaepernick. The Pack QB is, without question, one of the most productive players in history. This year alone he has 4,014 total yards of offense. That’s even more than Newton’s 3,998 and almost double Tolzien’s 2,286.

Again, don’t fault Tolzien for not being Kaepernick. Few quarterbacks in college football history have been Kaepernick.

Kaepernick is the first in NCAA history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same year for three years in a row. He’s the first player to ever pass for 9,000 yards and rush for 4,000 in his career. He’s the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards three years in a row.

Along with Pack running back Vai Taua, he owns the NCAA record for most rushing yards (8,602), touchdowns (113) and points scored (682) by two teammates. He is third in history in rushing yards by a quarterback with 4,090. And he already owns the record for most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with Nebraska’s Eric Crouch at 59.

If anyone has ever earned a silly national award, it’s Kaepernick.

He should have gotten one on Thursday.