Johnny Manziel

Setting the stage for the 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony


Saturday night, and even as anyone with an Internet connection or television set already knows who it will be, one of six players will take home one of the most prestigious awards in all of sports, the Heisman Trophy.

More than likely, viewers won’t be tuning in to see who wins; rather, they’ll take a peek to see if Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston can make it a historic night vote-wise while also becoming the second straight redshirt freshman to claim college football’s highest honor.

Ahead of that ceremony, here’s a quick primer on tomorrow’s activities as well as a brief historical look at the iconic stiff-armed trophy.

WHAT: the 79th Annual Heisman Memorial Trophy
WHERE: New York City
WHEN: Sat., Dec. 14, at 8 pm ET on ESPN
WHO: In addition to Winston, the finalists are Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, Auburn running back Tre Mason, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron and Boston College running back Andre Williams.

Winston, in his first year as a starter at this level, has already set a slew of school and national freshman records in helping FSU to its first BCS title game since the 1999 season.  Winston finished the regular season leading the nation in passing efficiency; second in passing touchdowns and yards per completion; and eighth in passing yards.

Manziel, of course, is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, becoming the first redshirt freshman to capture the award last year.  In attempting to become the second player to win back-to-back Heismans, Manziel has actually thrown for more yards (3,732-3,706), has more touchdown passes (33-26) and a higher completion percentage (69.1-68) than he did last season.  Where Manziel has lagged is with his feet; after rushing for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2012, the A&M quarterback totaled “just” 686 and eight in 2013.

In leading the nation in rushing with 2,102 yards, Williams has topped the 200-yard mark five times and the 300-yard mark once in putting up the ninth-best single-season rushing performance in FBS history.  He’s also just the second BC Eagle to be named a finalist, joining 1984 winner Doug Flutie.  While Lynch plays quarterback, he’s second to Williams in rushing yards with 1,881 and is tied for third in the nation with 22 rushing touchdowns.  The NIU senior is just the third player ever from the MAC to be named a Heisman finalist, joining a pair of players from Marshall — wide receiver Randy Moss (1997) and Chad Pennington (1999).

Tied for third in the country in rushing touchdowns with Lynch is Mason, who, like his Tigers team, seemingly came out of nowhere toward the end of the season to put both himself and his program in the national spotlight.  Mason’s 1,621 yards are sixth in the nation and played a significant role in putting the Tigers into the BCS title game against Winston’s Seminoles.

In McCarron’s three years as a starter, the Tide has gone 36-3 and won a pair of BCS championships.  He’s eighth in the country in passing efficiency this season after finishing No. 1 in 2012, and has thrown just 15 interceptions — and 75 touchdowns — in 996 career attempts.

Finally, some historical tidbits on college football’s biggest award.

FIRST AWARDED: Dec. 9, 1935
FIRST WINNER: University of Chicago running back Jay Berwanger
2012 WINNER: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel
: Ohio State running back Archie Griffin (1974 & 1975)
TAINTED WINNER: USC running back Reggie Bush, who had his 2005 win vacated because of NCAA improprieties.
: 56 seniors, 17 juniors, three sophomores and one freshman.  Just one senior (Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, 2006) has won the award the past nine years.
POSITION BREAKDOWN: 38 running backs, 31 quarterbacks, three fullbacks and one cornerback; Yale’s Larry Kelley (1936) and Notre Dame’s Leon Hart (1949) are listed as ends on the official Heisman website.  While running back is the position most often awarded, quarterbacks have won 11 of the last 12, the lone exception being Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.
VOTER BREAKDOWN: The Heisman Memorial Trophy electorate is comprised of 928 sports journalists and every living former Heisman winner — 870 of the former, 58 of the latter. The United States is broken down into six sections (Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, South and Southwest), with 145 media members from each section.

Brian Kelly defends decisions on two-point conversion attempts

Brian Kelly
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Notre Dame fell two points shy of tying a road game at Clemson Saturday night, partly because the decision to go for two-point conversion on one early fourth-quarter touchdown backfired on the Irish. Down 12 points early in the fourth quarter, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly chose to go for two-points to cut the Clemson lead to 10 points, meaning Notre Dame would need a touchdown, extra point and a field goal to tie. The two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Irish trailed by 12, 21-9.

Had the Irish gone for the easier and more likely extra point, Notre Dame would have been down 11 points. That is still a bit of an uphill battle that would require a two-point conversion later on anyway, but it also meant Notre Dame had to score two touchdowns instead of a touchdown and a field goal for a shot at tying the game. Making things worse, Notre Dame burned a timeout after the touchdown before deciding which two-point conversion play to run.

Notre Dame’s execution of a late two-point conversion with the game on the line with under 10 seconds to play also came into question as the Irish looked to give freshman quarterback DeShone Kizer the call on a run-pass option. This was stuffed by Clemson as Kizer held on to the football. Kelly, after the game, defended his quarterback’s decision to try and run for the two points.

“We had fair numbers,” Kelly said. “He’s reading it at the line of scrimmage, if the numbers were fair, they were in zone coverage. It was the right call. He made the right call.”

Sometimes a player can make the right decision and still come up short. Perhaps that is exactly what happened in the rain at Clemson Saturday night. Kizer made the best possible decision in the heat of the moment, but Clemson came out on top with solid work up front on the line of scrimmage. Of course, as it turned out late in the game, Notre Dame would have only needed an extra point to tie Clemson in the final seconds after the Tigers tacked on a field goal to set up a seven-point deficit with an Irish extra point earlier. The Irish were forced to go for two because they chased the points earlier in the quarter. Hindsight might be 20/20, but Kelly is not looking back on that decision.

Kelly is hardly the only coach to make some questionable decisions under pressure this season, or this weekend. He is, however, another example of a coach being paid millions to put his program in the best position making some questionable calls that have come back to bite him. Maybe Notre Dame would have won in overtime. The Irish certainly had the momentum in their hands. Or maybe Clemson wins anyway. Who knows?

Week 5, Statistically Speaking

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A statistical snapshot of the week that was in college football…

.6 — Yards per carry, on 25 attempts, Washington State averaged in a 34-28 loss to unbeaten Cal, which averaged just 2.6 ypc on its 30 attempts itself.  The two teams did combine for 779 yards passing, 390 for Cal’s Jared Goff and 389 for Wazzu’s Luke Falk.

0 — Prior to Missouri (Drew Lock) and South Carolina (Lorenzo Nunez), the number of times an SEC game had featured two true freshman quarterbacks as the starters.

1 — Turnovers for Florida State, LSU and Navy this season, the fewest of any FBS teams in 2015.

1 — Pass attempts for Army in the service academy’s loss to Penn State.  The Black Knights have now attempted 37 passes through five games.

UAB v Western Kentucky4 — Consecutive 400-yard passing games for Western Kentucky’s Brandon Doughty.  The senior now has eight such games over the past 18, including two that were more than 500 yards.

10 — Consecutive games Baylor has scored 30 or more points, the longest current streak in the FBS.  Michigan State had a streak of 12 straight entering Week 5, but scored just 24 in a win over Purdue.

16 — Counting Georgia’s Nick Chubb in Week 5, the number of players who have rushed for 100-plus yards since the beginning of the 2005 season. Chubb’s 146-yard effort in the loss was his 13th straight of 100 or more yards, tying UGA great Herschel Walker for the all-time school record.

21 — Deficit North Carolina erased in its 38-21 win over Georgia Tech, the largest comeback in the football program’s history.

22 — ACC wins under David Cutcliffe (2008-present) for Duke after winning just 18 conference games from 1990-2007.

Purdue v Michigan State28 — Career wins for Connor Cook, the most-ever for a quarterback in Michigan State history.  The senior surpassed the record of 27 set by Kirk Cousins.

34ESPN College Gameday shows that have originated from a game featuring Alabama and Florida, the most of any FBS programs.  Others schools with the most Gameday appearances include Ohio State (33), Florida State (31), Oklahoma (29) and Notre Dame (26).  The latter’s game at Clemson Saturday is included.

38 — Consecutive winning seasons for Florida State, the longest such streak in the country.

56 — Times Alabama has held its opponents to 20 points or less since the start of the 2010 season.  That number is tops in the nation, with Florida State and Stanford next at 54 and 48, respectively.

100 — Yards of total offense for Virginia Tech in a 17-13 loss to Pittsburgh.  That’s the fewest yards for Tech since 60 yards in a 1987 loss to Clemson, which also happened to be Frank Beamer‘s first game as Hokies’ head coach.

191 — Rushing yards for Utah State’s Kent Meyers, setting a single-game school record for a quarterback.  The old record was 121, set most recently by Chuckie Keeton.

<> on September 19, 2015 in Pullman, Washington.208 — Rushing yards for Wyoming’s Brian Hill in the Cowboys’ eighth straight loss, a 31-13 setback to Appalachian State.

221 — Career-high rushing yards for Michael Gordon in Arkansas State’s win over Idaho

234 — Rushing yards for Ezekiel Elliott on his first eight carries of the second half in Ohio State’s closer-than-expected win over Indiana.  195 of those yards came on three touchdown runs.  Elliott finished with a career-high 274 yards on 23 carries, and his 11.9 yards per carry were a school record.

260 — Career-high rushing yards for Larry Rose III in New Mexico State’s loss to rival New Mexico.  The sophomore averaged 12.4 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns.

365 — School freshman record passing yards for BYU’s Tanner Mangum in the Friday night win over UConn.

437 — Career-high passing yards for Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph in the win over Kansas State.  It was Rudolph’s second career 400-yard passing game, both of which have come this season.

Texas State v Houston455 — Yards of offense for Greg Ward Jr., including 182 yards rushing that set a single-game Houston record for a quarterback.

1922 — The last time Penn State played five consecutive home games prior to starting the 2015 season with five in a row in Happy Valley.

1930 — The last time Temple played a non-conference game against an FBS opponent in the state of North Carolina before the Week 5 game against Charlotte.

1942 — The last time both Ohio State and Indiana were undefeated entering a game prior to the Week 5 matchup between the 4-0 Buckeyes and 4-0 Hoosiers.

1950 — Prior to this year, the last time Cal began a season 5-0.

1966 — The last time Michigan State was ranked second in the country in the Associated Press poll.

1977 — Both the year and number of days since Clemson last played host to Notre Dame before Saturday’s clash of ranked teams.