If David Klingler had been an explorer, he would have discovered America in 1493.
Comment It's not his fault, of course. But for all the impressive numbers the Houston quarterback has been compiling, his Heisman candidacy has been slow to develop not because of bad performances, but bad timing.Klingler simply is the poor soul who had the misfortune to become the Houston quarterback after Andre Ware, who won the Heisman last year with his own set of eye-popping numbers.
And that's just the point. The growth of the run-and-shoot offense is forcing people to rethink the way they judge passing performances.
Numbers like those the Houston quarterback - whoever he is - puts up every week are eye-popping only the first time around. After that, it becomes rather blase.
Last year, people were talking about Ware as a Heisman candidate because nobody had ever before seen 400-yard passing performances on a regular basis in Division I-A. His numbers had no comparison, and they became the No. 1 reason Ware won the Heisman Trophy even though he was uable to showcase his talent on television because of NCAA sanctions.
Ware's statistics were ground-breaking, as Houston took the passing game to a new level in 1989. But when he left a year early for the NFL, he also left a large shadow over his replacement.
Through seven games, Klingler has completed 234 of 410 passes for 2, 990 yards, with nine interceptions and 27 touchdown passes. Those numbers alone should qualify any quarterback for mention as a Heisman Trophy candidate. But it's hard to find any enthusiasm outside the state of Texas for Klingler.
So what, the reaction has been, if Klingler is averaging 425 yards of total offense a game? If you're quarterbacking the Houston Cougars, you're supposed to average 425 yards in total offense. Come back when he's averaging 500 yards a game.
Naturally, Houston Coach John Jenkins and the rest of the Cougars are quick to come to the defense of their quarterback.
"If Klingler is not a Heisman Trophy candidate right now, he is certainly headed in the right direction," Jenkins said. "He is the trigger man in our run-and-shoot offense."
Problem is, the run-and-shoot renders statistics meaningless. Unless your quarterback is the Venus de Milo, he should be able to register 300 yards passing before breaking a sweat.
It's not even certain Klingler is the most worthy Heisman candidate on the team. They like their numbers big at Houston, and several people are sporting impressive statistics.
Tracy Good has caught 51 passes for 460 yards and four touchdowns in 1990, while fellow wideout Patrick Cooper has 29 catches for 584 yards - a 20.1-yard average - and eight TDs. Superback Chuck Weatherspoon has gained 680 yards in 105 carries from the one-back set, averaging 6.5 yards a carry and 97.1 a game.
However, Jenkins and others believe Klingler should get most of the recognition because he is the one that makes the run-and-shoot go.
"He has to have more pressure on him than any other quarterback in the nation," Jenkins said. "If he is off and not hitting his receivers, he shuts down 10 other players on offense."
Klingler has been making a strong bid over the last two weeks as he helped Houston run its record to 7-0.
Against Southern Methodist, he set NCAA records with 48 completions and 76 attempts in a 44-17 victory. On Saturday, he completed 34 of 51 passes for 457 yards, tying an NCAA record with his sixth 400-yard total-offense game this season and a Southwest Conference mark with seven TD throws.
"I am working on my consistency," Klinger said. "The only record that counts is the won-loss record."
And that is about the only area in which Klingler compares favorably with Ware, whose best record was consecutive 9-2 regular seasons in 1988 and 1989.
Klingler is on a pace this year to equal Ware's 1989 mark of 4,699 yards passing, but would accomplish it in more than 700 attempts - more than 100 above the 578 passes thrown by Ware last year. And Ware would have had more yardage if he hadn't taken the fourth quarter off most of the time.
In addition, Klingler has completed only 57 percent of his passes - down from the 63 percent posted by Ware last year - and projects out to 42 touchdown passes, four fewer than Ware.
Among this year's candidates, Klingler's numbers don't stand up well against those of Ty Detmer of Brigham Young. Detmer has thrown for only 13 fewer yards than Klingler while attempting 86 fewer passes, and is second in the nation in passing efficiency behind Virginia's Shawn Moore.
Klingler doesn't even rank among the top 10 Division I quarterbacks in passing efficiency, the only Heisman-candidate quarterback missing from the list. In fact, he's rated sixth in the nine-team Southwest Conference.
Clearly, there is ample room for improvement.
"We haven't even scratched the surface of all that is possible (in the run-and-shoot)," Jenkins said.
Until the Cougars do so, Klingler will find it difficult to generate any overwhelming support for the Heisman.