NEW YORK — Kyler Murray became the second Oklahoma quarterback in a row to win the Heisman Trophy by narrowly edging out Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the front-runner for much of the regular season before Murray's torrid close vaulted the Sooners back into the College Football Playoff.
The third invitee to the Heisman ceremony, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, finished a distant third behind Murray and Tagovailoa.
The award seemed Tagovailoa's to lose since early September, when the Crimson Tide's first-year starter began to put together the finest year by a passer in program history. The sophomore didn't throw an interception until Nov. 3, nine games into Alabama's season. By that point, Tagovailoa had tossed 25 touchdowns despite playing an average of just two-plus quarters per game — he only made eight pass attempts in the fourth quarter during the regular season.
In all, Tagovailoa threw for 37 touchdowns against four interceptions while completing 67.7 percent of his attempts. Haskins had similarly impressive numbers: Ohio State's redshirt sophomore tossed 47 touchdowns while completing more than 70 percent of his throws, culminating in a six-touchdown performance in the Buckeyes' rivalry win against Michigan and five more in the Big Ten title game.
But Murray's entire season, and his last month in particular, made the two-sport star impossible for Heisman voters to ignore. Murraythrew for 4,053 yards, added 892 yards on the ground and accounted for 51 total touchdowns in leading Oklahoma to another Big 12 Conference championship and a matchup with the Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl.
As the Sooners' defense struggled, Murray carried Oklahoma to narrow wins in November against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, and then avenged the team's earlier loss to Texas in the conference championship game. In five games since the start of November, Murray accounted for 2,142 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns.
Murray joins former teammate Baker Mayfield as the fourth pair from the same school to win the Heisman in back-to-back years, joining Yale's Larry Kelley and Clint Frank in 1936 and 1937, Army's Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in 1945 and 1946 and Southern California's Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush in 2004 and 2005, though Bush's win was later vacated by the Heisman Trust.
Former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only player to win the Heisman twice, in 1974 and 1975. While eligible to return in 2019, Murray is set to join the Oakland Athletics' organization this spring as the team's recent first-round draft pick.
"He’s one of the elite guys to ever do it, to balance both," said Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.