BOZICH | Voters still like Lamar Jackson's Heisman chances despi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Voters still like Lamar Jackson's Heisman chances despite closing struggles

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Did Lamar Jackson hurt his chances of winning the Heisman with four turnovers in a loss to Kentucky? Did Lamar Jackson hurt his chances of winning the Heisman with four turnovers in a loss to Kentucky?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Winning the Heisman Trophy was not the focus when Lamar Jackson tried to lead the University of Louisville football team to tying and go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.

Beat Kentucky — and then take the next two weeks to work on a Heisman acceptance speech. 

That had to be the game plan. Two weeks ago the odds on Jackson winning the Heisman were posted in Las Vegas at 1-to-20, which means you had to risk $2,000 to win $100.

Then Houston happened.

Then Kentucky happened.

Jackson fumbled once as the Cardinals lost at Houston, 36-10. He backed that up with a critical fourth-quarter interception on a tipped ball and fumble at the UK 10-yard line Saturday as the Cardinals lost to Kentucky, 41-38, in a rivalry game U of L was favored to win by 28.

Will the losses, combined with Jackson’s four total turnovers Saturday, cost him the Heisman on Dec. 10 in New York City?

No.

He is still the frontrunner on my ballot. Nine voters who responded to a post-game e-mail also said they still like Jackson’s chances of striking the Heisman pose.

“I think this opens the door, but no one is really stepping through it,”  Dennis Dodd, a national college football writer for CBSSports, said in an e-mail message.

“Remember, all the games haven't been played today yet. The nation's top rusher (D’Onta Foreman of Texas) just had his coach fired. Jalen Hurts (Alabama’s freshman quarterback) has thrown 2 interceptions. Jabrill Peppers (of Michigan) lost and didn't do much.

“(It) may be time to dust off the West Coast bias and consider (Washington quarterback) Jake Browning. The question, to me, is ... after Jackson who the hell is going to be invited to New York?”

“Ending the season with two straight upset losses and committing multiple costly turnovers in those games is a good way to loosen your hammerlock on the Heisman,” wrote Pat Forde of Yahoo!Sports.

“What Lamar Jackson -- and his team -- did is invite a lot of others into the conversation. But is there a ready-made replacement as the Heisman favorite? Probably not.

“The next week might provide some more clarity, but one thing is sure: Jackson's work is done, and it didn't end nearly as well as it started.”

The theme was similar in all the responses to my question.

“I don't think these last two weeks lost the Heisman Trophy for Lamar Jackson, but it certainly made him vulnerable,” said John Clay, a voter from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

“His numbers and impact are certainly worthy of the trophy, but losing to Houston and Kentucky, fumbling at key times, opens the door. Thing is, I'm not sure there is anyone else to walk through that door.”

“Obviously, Jackson hasn't played well the past two games, but I'm not sure anyone else has done enough to make up ground on him,” said ESPN national college football writer Mark Schlabach.

“I mostly blamed Louisville's offensive line for his poor play against Houston, but the Kentucky game was squarely on his shoulders. I think his poor play at least cracks the door in voters' minds, though.”

For the record, Heisman voting opened on-line this week. Ballots are not due until 5 p.m. Dec. 5, giving voters the opportunity to watch conference championship games next weekend before making selections for first, second and third places. 

Despite the turnovers (the last pick came on desperation throw on the game’s final play), Jackson also ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. He even struck a Heisman post at least twice after Louisville touchdowns.

“I mean I just felt like it was a rivalry game,” Jackson said. “It’s exciting. I was just trying to bring some excitement to the game. That’s all.”

He finished the regular season with 21 rushing touchdowns and 30 passing TDs. Credit Jackson with 1,538 rushing yards and 3,390 passing yards, with 220 completions in 382 attempts, a completion percentage of 57.6 percent.

But the three interceptions bumped his season total to nine.

“It was me just trying to make big plays,” Jackson said. “They weren’t mistakes, just trying to make big plays. Just trying to get out to a better position.”

“Today's performance makes things more interesting, and it has trended that way for a couple of weeks,” wrote Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star.

“The 51 touchdowns is still a big plus in his favor. What isn't in his favor is no game next weekend. Not sure how I'd vote if had to today.”

As the voters who responded to my e-mail noted, none of the top contenders have better numbers. Neither do Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Stanford halfback Christian McCaffery nor Louisiana State halfback Leonard Fournette, the players who started the season as the Heisman frontrunners.

“I think it does hurt but the best thing going for Lamar is that few of us have considered, until now, who would replace him,” wrote Chris Dufresne of TMG CollegeSports.com

“Peppers could have stepped into the void today had Michigan won at Ohio State. But who is second? Baker Mayfield (of Oklahoma)? Jalen Hurts? Adoree Jackson (of USC)? Dede Westbrook (of Oklahoma)?

“How about giving McCaffrey the Heisman he should have won last year? (says West Coast bias). My bottom line is ‘I Don't Know.’ I'll watch all the games next week with a lean toward Lamar. But this is suddenly no year to turn your ballot in early." 

“It certainly could open the door for someone else,” said Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com. “The question though is who?  (Ohio State quarterback J.T.) Barrett? Browning?

“My guess is that he did well with people who voted before today.  I don’t know how many that is.  Personally, and I don’t have a vote, I think he’s still had the best season.”

“Yes, watching those late struggles did give me pause about Jackson, as did Louisville's collapse late in the season,” wrote Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News.

“I actively have been looking at other candidates today. I thought if Peppers could make some big plays, it might give me more of a reason to seriously consider him.  I'm also watching Sam Darnold (quarterback at USC) a lot more closely as well. 

“But strangely enough, I haven't seen anybody who can match what Lamar has done. I won't vote until after the championship games -- as is my usual routine -- to watch if anybody really emerges. 

“Right now, I still would vote Lamar as my No. 1 pick, but it's shakier today than two weeks ago. And I'll be waiting on the games next week before I make my vote on Monday after the championship games.”

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