Burleson deserves recognition
December 20, 2002
Maybe no one pays much attention to it, but the Biletnikoff Award was handed out Thursday to Michigan State’s Charles Rogers.
The first year of the Biletnikoff award was only 1994, given to the year’s best NCAA receiver in honor of Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame receiver Fred Biletnikoff.
Well, it’s supposed to go to the best.
Then why didn’t Nevada’s Nate Burleson get it?
Because he accidentally bumped one of the judges at the awards ceremony that night? Wore a belt that didn’t quite match his shoes? Had some spinach stuck between his teeth?
Those of you that follow Nevada athletics should be outraged. When Burleson out-performs the rest of the country’s collegiate receivers hand and foot, it makes only one thing clear.
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Burleson was robbed.
He led the all NCAA receivers with 138 catches, second with 1,629 receiving yards, an 11.8 per catch average and 12 touchdown receptions in 12 games. The NCAA single season reception record is 142. In other words, he was only four shy of breaking the record.
Rogers had an impressive year himself, but not near the proficiency of Burleson. He had only 68 catches. That’s one catch shy of being half of Burleson’s mark.
His most impressive mark is 19.9 yards per catch. Other than that, he doesn’t have Burleson’s proficiency. His 13 touchdowns and 1,351 receiving yards are impressive, indeed.
He was a key component for the Spartans’ disappointing 4-8 finish, but so was Burleson in the Wolf Pack’s disappointing 5-7 season.
Michigan State is in the Big 10, a higher profile division. Nevada is in the WAC, which is an on again and off again conference, mostly off the past couple of years. So maybe Rogers made more catches under duress than Burleson did.
One even comparison can be made. Both teams played Rice and they both beat the snockers out of them. Michigan State won 27-10 and Nevada 31-21. Against Nevada, Rice’s last touchdown came on a fluke in the fourth quarter after both teams had already put in the scrubs when the back up quarterback connected for a 80 yard touchdown pass.
Am I missing something about Rogers? Does he catch passes only when it counts and Burleson only in non-clutch moments?
This is new Nevada football: Wide-open offenses that lose in the waning moments of their games. Burleson had plenty of clutch receptions.
Burleson and Rogers both had great games against Rice. On Sept. 7, Rogers had nine receptions for 155 yards and two TD’s of five and 38 yards. Two weeks later, Burleson had 14 catches for 128 yards and two TD receptions of five and 19 yards.
Rogers was clearly a player who could stretch the field. The 20 yards per catch is hard to beat, but I can’t get over his lack of receptions compared to Burleson. He doesn’t even compare when it comes to good hands.
What is this, a consolation award?
CNNSI named Rogers a First Team All-American. Burleson a Second Team All-American.
Does the Tennessee Quarterbacks club, the awarding body for the Biletnikoff trophy, discriminate against smaller conferences, such as the WAC?
Randy Moss won it for Marshall in 1997. Marcus Harris of Wyoming, an original WAC team that jumped ship to the Mountain West, won in 1996. Troy Edwards of Louisiana Tech, a team new to the WAC, won it in 1998.
So that leaves one thing: A bias for Big 10 schools. The conference claims Rogers, Bobby Engram, the first winner, of Penn State in 1994 followed by Terry Glenn of Ohio State in 1995.
That’s three out of 10 from the Big 10.
If it’s not a bias, then it’s that Nevada hasn’t been in the spotlight the past four, five years and hasn’t been winning games.
Michigan State can be a contender, but they weren’t this year.
Sure I’m a Nevada alumnus and I’m bias, but Burleson should have the award. Call a spade a spade.
Fred Biletnikoff couldn’t have done better himself.