Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday in New York City, meaning for a second straight year Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson fell just short of bringing back college football’s biggest individual award.
Watson finished second in the Heisman balloting, the highest finish ever by a Clemson player in the Heisman voting, beating his third place finish last year. Jackson ran away with the vote with 2,144 points, while Watson recorded 1,524.
Jackson earned 526 first place votes, while Watson got 269 votes.
But Watson did not lose on Saturday. He is still the winner of both the Davey O’Brien and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award as well as an ACC Champion for a second straight year.
Watson was also the first player in college football to be a Heisman Finalist and take his team to the College Football Playoff in back-to-back years. The Tigers will take on Ohio State on New Year’s Eve in the CFP semifinals at the Fiesta Bowl.
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, who had 26 first place votes, tallied 361 points, while his teammate Dede Westbrook had 209 points. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers totaled 208 points.
He is also the first player from any school named a Heisman finalist in consecutive years since Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M in 2012 and 2013. Watson is the first ACC player to be a two-time Heisman Finalist as well.
“This is a great honor for Deshaun and our program,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “You just don’t have a lot of two-time Heisman Finalists over the history of your program. He is our first, and he’s very deserving. I’ve said it before; I believe he is the best player in the nation and has been a great representative of our University. College football is better over the last three years because of Deshaun Watson.”
Watson finished third in the Heisman voting last year behind winner Derrick Henry of Alabama and Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey.
The native of Gainesville, Georgia, who is a junior in eligibility, but will receive his undergraduate degree next Thursday, led Clemson to the ACC Championship last Saturday in a 42-35 victory over Virginia Tech. It was the second consecutive year Clemson has won the ACC title, the first time the program has done that in 28 years.
Watson is the first Clemson quarterback to lead the Tigers to back-to-back conference crowns since Rodney Williams led Clemson to three straight from 1986-88.
Watson was 23-for-34 for 288 yards and three touchdowns passing and added a team best 85 yards rushing on 17 carries and scored twice against Virginia Tech. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the ACC Championship game for the second consecutive year.
The Tigers rank second in the final College Football Playoff Poll and will face Ohio State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on December 31. It is the second consecutive year Clemson has made the College Football Playoff.
For the season, Watson has completed 329 of 487 passes for 3,914 yards and 37 touchdowns. He ranks fourth in the nation in completions, fifth in touchdown passes, eighth in completion percentage and eighth in total offense.
His 37 touchdown passes are a Clemson season record and second in ACC history behind the 40 Jameis Winston had when he won the Heisman in 2013. Watson has added 526 yards rushing, giving him 4,440 yards of total offense.
Watson has finished strong, connecting on 138 of 186 passes for 1,586 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last five games. That is a 74 percent completion percentage. He has had 20 touchdowns rushing and passing over the five games, including 11 in the last two games, and averaged 356.8 total offense yards per game for the last five contests.
Earlier this week, Watson was announced as the winner of the 2016 Chic Harley Award by the Touchdown Club of Columbus, Ohio. The award has been presented each year since 1955 to the National Player of the Year through the conference championship weekend.
Watson won the Archie Griffin Award last year from the same organization. It is presented to the top college player through the bowl season. Watson will receive the award at the Touchdown Club of Columbus Awards banquet on Feb. 4, 2017.
Watson won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award on Tuesday, and took home the Davey O’Brien Award for a second straight season on Thursday.
Watson’s 269 first place votes rank as the sixth most in history for a runnerup and his 1524 points ranked 10th most by a runnerup. The margin between Watson’s second place ranking and Mayfield’s third place was the widest in the 81-year history of the award.
Watson is the first ACC player to finish in the top three of the Heisman Trophy voting in consecutive years. He was also the first ACC player to be invited to New York for the ceremony in consecutive years.
Earlier this week, Watson beat out Jackson for the Davey O’Brien Award. It was the second consecutive year he had won the honor. He also won the Unitas Award as the top senior quarterback in the nation on Friday. Last year he won the Manning Award, which takes into account performance in bowl games. He is a finalist for that award also this year.
Watson has joined Colt McCoy of Texas and Marcus Mariota of Oregon as the only players to win the O’Brien, Unitas and Manning quarterback awards over a career.