Suh named nation's top defensive player

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had a rough couple of days, from a last-second loss in the Big 12 championship game to losing his luggage on his way to the Bronko Nagurski Trophy banquet.

Suh's bag arrived just in time Monday for him to slip on his dark suit and shiny black shoes, learn he was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, and then win the Nagurski as the nation's top defensive player.

Not a bad turnaround.

"There have been greats that won this. They have all their posters around the hotel," Suh said. "It's a very well-known trophy and it's really the Heisman of the defensive players."

Now, after a dominating performance Saturday in which the senior had 4½ sacks in a 13-12 loss to Texas, the 6-foot-4, 300-pound Suh will head to New York this weekend with an outside chance to be the first interior lineman to win the Heisman.

"I've been really focused on the Nagurski award," Suh said. "I'm just trying to enjoy this night."

Suh, TCU defensive end Jerry Hughes, Alabama defensive tackle Terrence Cody, Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer and Tennessee strong safety Eric Berry were the other finalists for the Nagurski, awarded by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.

All have had great seasons. Hughes has 11½ sacks for the unbeaten Horned Frogs. Cody has anchored the unbeaten Crimson Tide's stout defense. Angerer has 135 tackles for the Orange Bowl-bound Hawkeyes. Berry has a chance to set the NCAA record for interception return yards in the Volunteers' bowl game.

But with Suh's 12 sacks, 23 tackles for a loss, 10 pass breakups and three blocked kicks, there was little real competition to possibly the No. 1 overall pick in April's NFL draft.

"The fact that he can do all of that while being double-teamed or triple-teamed, it's unbelievable," Angerer said. "He's the best player in the country by far."

Suh said he faced only one blocker on two of his sacks of fellow Heisman finalist Colt McCoy on Saturday. Suh was pursuing the Longhorns quarterback in the closing seconds when McCoy scrambled and threw the ball out of bounds with the Cornhuskers leading 12-10.

"I had just pushed down McCoy and I was on the field. I was wondering why everyone was rushing the field and rushing at me because I was right there on our sideline," Suh said. "Then I looked at the clock and it was :00. I was like, 'Wow, we just won.'

"It started to hit me and then all of a sudden the refs were around and some of the other Big 12 folks running the show were telling people to get off the field."

The officials ruled there was 1 second left. It allowed unbeaten Texas to kick the game-winning field goal. Instead of a trip to the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Suh and Nebraska will play Arizona in the Pacific Life Holiday Bowl.

Suh, awakened early Monday with a message that his bag -- including his dress shoes -- had finally arrived in Charlotte, didn't watch the closing seconds again until he was doing a radio interview Monday afternoon.

"I didn't think I would get as angry as I did when I saw it," Suh said.

He was smiling later when he won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, named after the two-way star at Minnesota from 1927-29.

It likely won't be the only hardware he'll take home. Suh is a finalist for several other awards, and now has another trip to make as one of five Heisman finalists.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Suh said. "I'm going to soak it all in."