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Saturday, December 11, 2004
Updated: December 12, 12:47 PM ET
Leinart the sixth winner from USC

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Matt Leinart got a hearty handshake and a bear hug from Jason White, one Heisman Trophy winner congratulating the other.

Heisman Trophy balloting
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total
Matt Leinart, USC 267 211 102 1,325
Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma 154 180 175 997
Jason White, Oklahoma 171 149 146 957
Alex Smith, Utah 98 112 117 635
Reggie Bush, USC 118 80 83 597

The next time the two compete will be far less cordial -- and a lot more historic.

Leinart won the Heisman on Saturday night and set up the first game in college football history featuring two players with Heisman trophies.

The Southern California quarterback faces White's Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 4 in the Orange Bowl with a national title on the line.

"I know they're going to be coming after me," Leinart said of the Sooners.

White had a chance to become just the second two-time Heisman winner, joining Ohio State tailback Archie Griffin (1974 and '75).

Instead he finished third, behind Leinart and Oklahoma freshman Adrian Peterson.

Leinart and White talked before the ceremony, and the Sooners' quarterback predicted the outcome.

"He said, 'Get ready for your speech,' " Leinart said. "I was like, 'Come on, man.' "

As a former winner, White had a vote. He said he put Peterson No. 1 on his ballot and Leinart second. The third spot he left blank and let someone else -- he wouldn't say who -- fill it out. White said he still doesn't know who that person picked.

"I think Matt showed great character on the field and leadership," White said.

Leinart talked to White during the summer about winning the award.

"He said it changed his life," Leinart said.

Last year, Leinart succeeded 2002 Heisman winner Carson Palmer with a splendid sophomore season that set him up as the preseason favorite in 2004.

Leinart has delivered, throwing for 2,990 yards and 28 TDs and leading the top-ranked Trojans to a 12-0 regular season.

The junior is USC's sixth Heisman winner, tying the Trojans with Ohio State for second-most behind Notre Dame's seven.

"I remember when Carson was sitting up here," Leinart said. "He said his heart was beating out of his chest, I think mine's about to do the same thing."

Utah quarterback Alex Smith was fourth and Leinart's teammate Reggie Bush was fifth in the voting.

Leinart received 1,325 points and won all but one of the six voting regions. He came in third in the Southwest, where White led with 263 points and Peterson was second with 197.

Peterson received 997 overall points, edging out White (957) for second. Peterson's second-place finish is the best by a freshman. Georgia's Herschel Walker (1980) and Georgia Tech's Clint Castleberry (1942) had the previous freshman high when they placed third.

Michael Vick was a redshirt freshman at Virginia Tech when he was third in 1999.

Smith, who has led Utah to a berth in the Bowl Championship Series, received 635 points, and Bush, the Trojans' explosive and versatile tailback had 597.

Matt Leinart
Matt Leinart is the sixth USC player to hoist the Heisman.

Leinart had never thrown a pass at USC when he won a four-way battle to replace Palmer in 2003.

The left-hander practically matched Palmer's Heisman numbers in his first season as a starter, throwing for 3,556 yards and 38 TDs while leading the Trojans to a share of the national title. He finished sixth in last year's Heisman balloting.

While Bush has provided a slew of dazzling plays for USC, the laid-back Leinart is the Trojans' leader.

Breaking in a new set of receivers and playing behind a rebuilt offensive line, Leinart has completed 66 percent of his passes with just six interceptions this season.

"There was a lot of questions going into the season," Leinart said. "I think we answered them."

The Trojans are 24-1 with Leinart as a starter and have won 21 straight games.

USC's first four Heisman winners were running backs, starting with Mike Garrett in 1965 and ending with Marcus Allen in 1981.

But Tailback U. has turned into Quarterback College since offensive coordinator Norm Chow arrived with coach Pete Carroll in 2001.

Chow turned Palmer from a talented enigma into a potential NFL franchise quarterback. Leinart is Chow's third protege to win the Heisman, along with BYU's Ty Detmer.

Leinart could also join Palmer as an NFL first-round pick, maybe as soon as April if he decides to skip his final college season.

That's quite a rise for the geeky kid from Santa Ana, Calif.

"No, I was a fat kid and cross-eyed and had glasses about an inch thick," Leinart said. "I used to get made fun of. It's been a long time since those days."