CRAWFORD | Lamar Jackson for Heisman
WDRB's Eric Crawford doesn't get a Heisman vote, but he doesn't need another week to call the race for Lamar Jackson of Louisville. His reasons why, here.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- I don't do political endorsements. I sure as heck do sports endorsements. I used to have a vote for the Heisman Trophy. I don't anymore. All I can do is endorse.
Yeah, this is a hometown endorsement. It also happens to be the right one, which is a happy coincidence.
Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson should win the Heisman Trophy. It shouldn't be all that close. His last two games weren't his best. Here are his stats from his last two games, both losses, as Louisville dropped from playoff contention: He threw for 492 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns. (He also threw three interceptions -- one of them a desperation throw on the game's final play, and one a tipped ball -- and lost two red-zone fumbles. And he was sacked 14 times for 114 yards of losses.)
It was a rough couple of games. He still averaged more total yards in those two games (348) than all but five players in America are averaging this season. And those were his bad games.
Now, let's look at the good. Lamar Jackson is the first player in major college football history to throw for 30 touchdowns and run for 20 in a regular season. (Granted, the seasons were shorter way back in the day). Tim Tebow had the 30-20 trick in 2007. Cam Newton had it 2013. Both wouldn't have gotten there without postseason stats.
He averaged 5.9 yards per play against ranked competition.
He threw for more touchdowns by himself (30) than all but 13 teams in the nation.
Notre Dame, USC and Ohio State have the most Heisman Trophies, with seven each. Jackson scored more touchdowns this season than both Notre Dame and USC.
He twice scored at least seven touchdowns in a game. No FBS player has done that in at least a decade.
He is the first player in FBS history to run for 1,500-plus yards and throw for 3,300-plus yards in a season.
When he threw for 411 yards and rushed for 199 against Syracuse, it was the first time in FBS history a player had thrown for 400-plus and rushed for 175-plus in a game.
He is responsible for 25.7 points per game and 410 yards of total offense -- both rank second nationally. There are 61 teams in FBS that don't average that many yards per game. There are 36 that don't score that many points per game.
His 21 rushing touchdowns are tied for second on the ACC's single-season list -- for any position, not just QB.
Jackson is the most exciting player in college football. Even when on the ropes at halftime at Clemson, nobody turned away, and he delivered in the second half -- though the Cardinal defense couldn't preserve a stunning comeback win.
Jackson kept fans in their seats during blowouts, just to see what he might do, what memorable moment he might deliver, like leaping a defender at Syracuse, or his spin-move touchdown against Florida State, or reversing field and taking off 50 yards against Boston College.
Jackson was considered such a foregone conclusion to the trophy proceedings that no real competition could solidify behind him. While he struggled in his final two games, it's unlikely anyone can take advantage. And it's impossible for anyone to match his numbers.
Jackson is a sophomore. I think it's important to remember that he's been playing with the mantle of "Heisman favorite" since September. That's a tough task for seniors. For a true sophomore, it's something different entirely. Yet Jackson didn't lose focus on the team concept this season.
Remember what Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones said: "We weren’t playing Louisville today; we were playing Lamar Jackson."
That has been the case all season. Teams are keying on Jackson. It hasn't stopped him.
He's not a perfect quarterback. He's a young quarterback. He makes mistakes. He doesn't make the right read every time. He holds the ball a little too long at times, trying to do too much. He needs to be more accurate.
But I've been impressed with how Jackson handled himself through all of this. He started the year and nobody was talking about him. Now all of a sudden, guys like Peyton Manning are seeking him out. He's being talked about on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
I could've done without the Heisman-posing after touchdowns in the Cardinals' regular-season finale against Kentucky (which Louisville lost). But he wasn't campaigning.
"I mean, I just felt like it was a rivalry game, it’s exciting," Jackson said. "I was just trying to bring some excitement to the game. That’s all.”
You don't have to be perfect to win the Heisman Trophy. You just have to be the best in college football that season. Jackson has been that.
I expect, over the next week or so, we'll hear a pretty good deconstruction of Jackson. With the past two weeks, Jackson left the door open. But no one, to paraphrase another Louisville coach from a former job, is walking through that door. Many of the experts will be looking for someone else to give the Heisman to. They'll tear down what Jackson did this season as best they can.
What they won't be able to do is build a better case for anyone else than you can build for Jackson.
Winning the Heisman as a sophomore is not an easy thing. Tim Tebow did it, and they started tearing him down before his junior year began. Same for Johnny Manziel after the 2012 season. You're a marked man in the biggest sense you can be, in college football.
I expect Lamar Jackson to carry that mark into the Cardinals' bowl game in a month, and I expect him to carry it into next season.
And he should.
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