For the second year in a row, an Oklahoma Sooners quarterback has won the Heisman Trophy. Quarterback Kyler Murray was named the winner of this year’s Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York as he edged out Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for the award down the stretch of the season.
Murray took on the starting role this season following in the footsteps of 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who left Oklahoma a year early to be the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Already with a shot at baseball locked up with the Oakland Athletics, Murray was committed to playing at least one more year of football before getting set on his baseball career. Even though a game was played by his head coach leading up to the start of the season, Murray was clearly going to be the starting quarterback for Oklahoma this season, and he did not disappoint.
Murray passed for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns with seven interceptions and rushed for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns in leading Oklahoma to the Big 12 championship and a spot in the College Football Playoff for the second straight year. The only game in which Murray failed to throw for at least 200 yards was a September home game against Army, but Murray produced three quick touchdown drives in a game that saw Army dominate the time of possession and not give Murray many chances. In that game, Murray completed 11 of 15 passes for 165 yards and he carried the football seven times for 71 yards with four combined touchdowns. Oklahoma held the football for just 15:19 in that game, a 28-21 overtime victory against a determined Army that found an advantage against Oklahoma’s defense.
The lack of solid defensive play put plenty of pressure on Murray all season long to find ways to put points on the board. Because Oklahoma’s defense was a constant weakness that could be exposed, Murray had to keep up the pace and rarely was given a chance to take a foot off the gas pedal. Whatever works in Norman, right?
On Thursday night at the Home Depot College Football Awards Show in Atlanta, Murray received the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s best quarterback, but Tagovailoa took home the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award. The last Walter Camp Player of the Year not to win the Heisman Trophy was Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in 2012. The last Maxwell Award winner not to win the Heisman Trophy was Alabama’s AJ McCarron in 2013. The last time a player won the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award but did not win the Heisman Trophy was 2012, when Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel took the Heisman but Te’o took the other two individual awards.
Murray’s Heisman Trophy victory moves Oklahoma into a tie for first place with Notre Dame and Ohio State on the list of all-time Heisman Trophy winners. All three schools now have seven Heisman Trophy winners each. USC would also be tied for first place but the Trojans officially only have six Heisman winners with the 2005 Heisman won by Reggie Bush vacated from the record book. Now the Trojans are alone in second place, officially speaking. Murray’s Heisman Trophy means Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley now has two Heisman Trophy winners in his first two seasons as a head coach.
The stage is now set for a playoff showdown between this year’s Heisman Trophy winner and first runner-up as Alabama and Oklahoma will play in the Orange Bowl semifinal in the College Football Playoff in a few weeks. According to research by Associated Press college football reporter Ralph Russo, this will be the seventh bowl game featuring the Heisman winner and runner-up dating back to 1975.
Here is how the voting went down, with Murray running away from Tagovailoa with 517 first-place votes to Tagovailoa’s 299. Murray won the award by a total of 296 points.