NEW YORK, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Eric Crouch, known more as a runner than a passer, emerged from a quartet of quarterbacks Saturday night to win college football's highest individual honor.
The Nebraska star was awarded the Heisman Trophy in the fourth-closest voting in the award's 67-year history. Crouch received 162 first-place votes and 770 points in balloting of 924 electors.
"I just made history today," Crouch said. "Something deep down inside of me said I really wanted it, but win or lose, I would have been the same person."
Florida sophomore Rex Grossman was second with 708 points. The 62-point difference was the closest since John Lattner of Notre Dame won by 56 points in 1953. Bo Jackson of Auburn edged Iowa quarterback Chuck Long by 45 points in 1985 and Ernie Davis of Syracuse won by 53 points in 1961.
"Any of the guys was deserving," said Crouch, the 25th quarterback to win the award. "It's quite an honor to be thought of in this exclusive company."
Crouch's candidacy appeared to suffer a major hit on Thanksgiving weekend, when the Cornhuskers were routed by Colorado, 62-36. But Crouch carried 18 times for 162 yards and two touchdowns that afternoon and the defeat was due more to a shaky Nebraska defense.
"I think after the game some people may have written me off," said Crouch, noting that 90 percent of the ballots were received this week. "But people took a lot of time with their vote and that may have given me a second chance."
With Crouch idle last weekend, all three of the other finalists had chances to move to the front of the Heisman race. But none was spectacular and Crouch was able to move back to center stage and become Nebraska's third Heisman Trophy winner, joining Johnny Rodgers in 1972 and Mike Rozier in 1983.
Crouch is the first Nebraska quarterback to be honored. Tommie Frazier, another run-first signal-caller, finished second in 1995.
The signature play for Crouch this season had him using his feet as much as his hands. He caught a 63-yard touchdown pass on a trick play, sprinting to the end zone to give the Cornhuskers a win over Oklahoma in October.
"The voters looked at a complete guy who can score in so many ways," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said.
The Heisman Trophy was the latest postseason hardware for Crouch, who won the Walter Camp Award as player of the year and the Davey O'Brien Award as top quarterback on Thursday.
Crouch was the double-threat of the four finalists. In addition to 1,510 passing yards, the 6-1, 200-pound senior ranks second on the Cornhuskers with 1,115 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns on 203 carries. He has completed 56 percent of his passes for seven scores with 10 interceptions.
"We've built our option offense around him," Solich said. "We put the ball in his hands and he wins football games."
Crouch was the leading vote-getter in just one of the six geographic regions -- the Southwest -- but finished second in two others, which put him over the top.
A native of Bloomington, Ind., Grossman had the best numbers of the finalists, completing 66 percent of his passes for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. But that was not enough for him to become the first sophomore to win the Heisman.
"It's an unbelievable honor to finish second," Grossman said. "Winning the Heisman was not on my goal sheet."
Safety Roy Williams of Oklahoma was seventh, was followed by Miami offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie. Defensive ends Dwight Freeney of Syracuse and Julius Peppers of North Carolina completed the voting.
For logistical reasons, this year's Heisman presentation took place at the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square instead of at the Downtown Athletic Club, which is located just a few blocks south of the leveled World Trade Center.