Terry Miller has been fighting a losing battle all season. He thinks he's a better running back than Earl Campbell, but he can feel the Heisman Trophy slipping away from him and into Campbell's grasp.
That is unfortunate. Not because Campbell, playing for the No. 1 ranked Texas Longhorns and the nation's leading rusher with 1,188 yards and a 148.5 yards a game average, doesn't deserve the trophy, but because Miller of Oklahoma State was doomed almost as soon as the Cowboys lost their first game.
Until today Miller had gained 1,279 yards in one more game than Campbell and was averaging 142.1 yards, but his team is 4-5 and going nowhere. That, perhaps more than anything else, makes Campbell the favorite to win the Heisman.
"Both Campbell and Miller are great football players," said Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer. "Campbell has had injuries, but he's having a great senior year. Miller has never been injured, and he had an outstanding career for four great years."
Miller's leg was fractured in his freshman season, causing him to miss three games.
"Campbell is more physical," added Switzer. "He bigger, stronger and harder to bring down, but he doesn't have the speed and acceleration of Miller. Terry Miller has performed throughout his career and that's what the voting should be based on. He's been the best overall player in the nation during the past four years.
"Right now, he's better than Tony Dorsett.
"But people tend to vote on the basis of a team's record Texas is unbeaten and that's going to mean a lot to the voters.It's going to work against Terry andthat's wrong."
Nebraska coachTom Osborne is another strong believer in Miller. "He's as durable a back as I've seen." Osborne said. "It's amazing the consistency he has considering the number of times he has carried the ball.
He's got speed, durability and all the assets a great back should I have."
Said Miller, "I know he (Campbell), is probably ahead of me but I'm doing all I can do. I've got two games left. I don't think what our team does should affect my chances. They give the trophy to the individual, don't they?"
Miller is already the No. 4 rusher in collegiate history with 4,353 career yards, putting him right behind Dorsett, Ed Marinaro and Archie Griffin.
He also has 47 touchdowns and in 17 consecutive games he has rushed for 100 yards or more.
At 6-0, 194, Miller can run a 4.3 40-yards dash. He carries the ball an average of 27 times a game and with virtually no passing attack, the defenses are concentrating him.
The Cowboys run Miller from either a veer halfback of form tailback.
Some thought Miller had the inside track in the race to the Heisman before the season. The Cowboys were 9-3 last season and he had run for 1,745 yards and 23 touchdowns. But he was the only returning offensive starter and the team never quite jelled.
Making matters worse for Miller, the NCAA recently completed a 13-month investigation that produced 100 alleged violations at Oklahoma State.
A source close to the scene said that Miller was not involved in any of the alleged violations.
Oklahoma State already has received two delays on the NCAA's ruling and a final ruling probably won't be made until January, a school spokesman said.
Miller concedes it will hurt if he doesn't win the Heisman and if his team had performed a little better he feels he would have been a cinch. "But this is a team game and everything I do is for the team," he said. Based on what he's done this season, Miller said, "I don't see where I've hurt my chances, but I don't know if I've helped them.
"I can't complain, though. Miller added. "Even if I could it wouldn't do much good."