NEW YORK — Bo Pelini doesn't much enjoy losing, whether it's a football game or in the Heisman Trophy race.
While quick to congratulate Mark Ingram, the Alabama running back who won his school's first Heisman on Saturday night at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, the second-year Nebraska coach made clear his feelings on Ndamukong Suh's fourth-place finish.
“I think everybody in that room knew who the best player in the country was,” Pelini said. “He's a defensive guy, and I don't think anybody's ever got past the bias that he's a lineman. I've said it before: Maybe they should redefine what the qualifications are.
“Call me biased, but I talked to a lot of people in that room, and every one of them thought (Suh) was the best football player in the country.”
Suh finished with 815 points, the most ever for a fourth-place finisher. The NU defensive tackle trailed Ingram (1,304), Stanford running back Toby Gerhart (1,276) and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy (1,145).
The margin of victory for Ingram — the third straight sophomore to win the Heisman — was the slimmest in the 75-year history of the award.
Suh received 161 first-place votes and was named on 388 of the 904 ballots. He won the Southwest region, which includes every Big 12 state but Iowa, over McCoy and Ingram. But Suh finished fourth in the other five regions, ahead of only Tim Tebow among the finalists.
None of it could convince Pelini that Suh finished in the right spot.
“Unfortunately, the people who vote, some of them are uninformed,” Pelini said. “But I think when he's the No. 1 pick in the (NFL) draft, everybody will realize who the best football player in the country was.”
At Suh's urging, the Huskers' defensive coaching staff, plus strength coach James Dobson and Assistant Athletic Director Jeff Jamrog, flew to New York on Saturday for the presentation.
Last week, before he arrived in New York for the Heisman happenings, Suh won the Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, the Outland Trophy and the Bednarik Award — an unprecedented haul. He travels today to Newport Beach, Calif., for the presentation of the Lott Trophy.
Suh said he “wasn't expecting to win” in New York but that he appreciates the support of his coach.
“That's his personal opinion, and I appreciate it a ton,” Suh said. “Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to win. I'm a competitive guy.”
Ex-Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch, who won the Heisman in 2001, applauded Suh's showing.
“It will inspire a lot of young defensive linemen, offensive linemen to get some of the glory as well,” Crouch said. “A lot of times, the quarterbacks and running backs are always taking the credit. For an interior lineman to be represented here and finish the way that he did, it speaks volumes for the player he is.
“I think he's affected a lot of people.”
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