It was a milestone night as Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy in a landslide Saturday.
Mariota becomes the first Oregon Duck to win the award, the first Hawaii-born winner and the first player from a Pacific Northwest university since 1962 to take the most prestigious individual award in college football. Terry Baker of Oregon State was the only previous winner from the states of Oregon and Washington.
Mariota became the clear choice as the season wore on, and that clarity was reflected in the voting: the Oregon QB garnered 90.9 percent of the total points possible - the second-highest total ever, behind Ohio State QB Troy Smith in 2006. Mariota finished with 2,534 total points, including 788 first-place votes.
Runner-up Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin received 1,250 points, while third-place finisher Amari Cooper of Alabama had 1,023 points. Cooper did finish with 49 first-place votes to Gordon's 37. Defending Heisman winner Jameis Winston of Florida State finished a distant sixth place, and was not one of the three finalists brought to New York City for the ceremony.
Fifty-three weeks after Mariota surprisingly said he was returning to Oregon for his senior season, the decision has paid off in every facet. In the course of leading the Ducks to a 12-1 record, the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the first College Football Playoff, Mariota posted dazzling individual numbers.
The Oregon quarterback has a pass efficiency rating of 186.33. That’s third-highest in FBS history, trailing only Russell Wilson (191.78) and Robert Griffin III (189.7), both from 2011 – and by the time the season is over he might surpass them. Only five quarterbacks in the last seven years averaged more than his 10.2 yards per attempt. Mariota has thrown 38 touchdowns and two interceptions, a 19-to-1 ratio bettered by only one QB in the last seven seasons (South Carolina’s Connor Shaw was 24-to-1 last year). His 9.1 yards per play yards per play running and passing is third-highest among all quarterbacks in the last seven seasons.
With 53 total touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing, one receiving) Mariota has an outside shot at Colt Brennan’s NCAA FBS record of 63 TDs set in 2006 if he plays two more games.
Yet while making a slew of big plays, he has simultaneously been fastidious with the football – especially in an up-tempo offense, where the decisions come fast and furious. Yet Mariota has done it. He’s run or passed on more than half of Oregon’s 966 plays, with just five turnovers all season.
Depending on team need, Mariota could end up being the No. 1 player selected in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Wisconsin running back Gordon leads the nation in rushing yards (2,336), rushing yards per game (179.7) and rushing touchdowns (26). He also leads the nation in yards per carry (7.56) for anyone with more than 200 carries – and Gordon has 309.
Gordon is Mr. Big Play. His 54 rushes of 10 yards or more, 31 rushes of 20 yards or more, 20 rushes of 30 yards or more and 16 rushes of 40 yards or more all lead the nation.
He’s single-handedly rushed for more yards than 85 FBS teams. And he’s single-handedly rushed for more yards than Wisconsin has gained passing – by a margin of nearly 400 yards.
Cooper already was a star receiver at Alabama, but his numbers skyrocketed in the first season with Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator. He leads the nation in receptions (115) and receiving yards (1,656) and has scored 14 touchdowns for the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide, who will begin the playoff as the favorites to win the national championship.
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Trevone Boykin, TCU
J.T. Barrett, Ohio St.
Jameis Winston, FSU
Tevin Coleman, Indiana
Dak Prescott, Miss. State
Scooby Wright III, Arizona
Bryce Petty, Baylor