BLAIR KERKHOFF

Bad weekend for Jameis Winston and three other quarterbacks puts Heisman race in flux

Updated: 2013-11-25T05:06:06Z

By BLAIR KERKHOFF

The Kansas City Star

Clarity makes things easier this late in the football season. But when it comes to the Heisman Trophy race, confusion is what we have.

The weekend may have been the worst for front-runners in recent memory, on the field and off.

Three quarterbacks — Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Baylor’s Bryce Petty and Oregon’s Marcus Mariota — crashed in lopsided losses Saturday.

The contender who amassed nice numbers in his team’s rout, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, had a bad Heisman weekend for another reason.

On a weekend when he otherwise would have zoomed passed competition and into a his-to-lose category, Winston finds himself in an off-field battle.

The investigation into sexual-assault claims begins a third week, and we learned on Saturday that a decision to charge Winston with a crime probably won’t happen until after Thanksgiving.

A quick review: The alleged assault occurred on Dec. 7, 2012. The alleged victim called the police that night to report the incident.

The Tallahassee Police contends it pursued the case until February and was told the victim no longer wanted to prosecute. At that point, the case was put on inactive status. The victim’s family insists she wanted the case to go forward but was pressured to drop it.

The case returned to the public eye when two media outlets earlier this month requested information.

Patricia Carroll, the attorney representing the victim, said last week that the victim had been told by a detective that Tallahassee is “a big football town and the victim needs to think long and hard before proceeding against him because she’ll be raked over the coals and her life will be made miserable.”

When an attorney representing Winston issued a statement last Thursday saying the relationship was “consensual,” Carroll shot back with her on statement on Friday.

“To be clear, the victim did not consent,” Carroll said. “This was rape.”

The Heisman Trust’s mission statement requires the winner to be about more than football excellence. It includes such language as “pursuit of excellence with integrity.” The award doesn’t specifically address legal issues, and one winner, Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers, was convicted of a felony larceny charge for his part in robbing a gas station two years before winning the award in 1972.

On Saturday, Winston threw four touchdown passes as Florida State defeated Idaho 80-14. Afterward, he spoke with reporters, but only about the game.

“The football field is a sanctuary to me,” Winston said. “It’s like that for all my teammates. On that field, everything is zoned out. We focus, and we’re out there to get a victory.”

But there’s a chance Winston won’t get more opportunities. If Winston is charged, he could be suspended. That not only damages his Heisman chances but also with those who vote in the two polls that make up two-thirds of the BCS standings.

Florida State is weaker without Winston. If he’s not playing, would the Seminoles continue to be voted highly enough to finish first or second in the final BCS standings on Dec. 8 and gain a spot in the BCS National Championship Game?

Winston received a loud ovation when he took the field Saturday, and as long as he’s taking snaps, Florida State will be favored to advance to its first BCS title game since 2000. The regular season ends with a trip to struggling Florida this weekend, and on Dec. 7, the Seminoles will be the prohibitive choice to win the ACC championship game.

Voting deadlines for the title game and the Heisman Trophy are in two weeks. I’m not sure we’ll have clarity, but perhaps there will be more answers.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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