For the second year in a row, in my opinion, the Heisman voters got it wrong, and for a second straight year it came at the expense of Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson.
However, the good news for Watson and his Clemson teammates, is he will have an opportunity or two to prove the Heisman voters wrong, again.
In last year’s national championship game against Alabama and the 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry, it was obvious to anyone who knows anything about football who the best player on the field was that day, and it was not Henry.
Watson was magnificent for the Tigers, even in a losing effort. He threw for 405 yards and four touchdowns on 30 of 47 passing, while running the ball for 73 more yards. His 478 total yards were the most in a national championship game.
Watson has already proven he was the best player on the field when he played against this year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but nobody noticed. Lamar Jackson’s highlight plays overshadowed the fact Watson had the better game.
The funny thing was, it was not Watson’s best game, either, but it was better than Jackson’s. People will look at the numbers and say, “Wait a second! Jackson had 457 total yards to Watson’s 397. How could Watson have had a better game?”
So let’s breakdown those numbers, shall we. Jackson rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries. He had 39 yards on losses, thanks to five sacks, which equates to a 5.2 yards per carry average.
On the passing side of things, Jackson completed 27 of 44 passes (.613) for 295 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Overall, he averaged 6.1 yards on the 75 plays he was involved in and accounted for three total touchdowns.
Those are impressive numbers. I’m not going to lie. It was one of the best individual performances I have ever seen in person. But like everyone else in the press box, I got caught up in the moment and I did not really look at what Watson accomplished until I went back and watched the game the next day.
The funny thing was, it was not even Watson’s best game, but he played every bit as good as Jackson did. Watson ran the football just 14 times, but rushed for 91 yards, an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He was not sacked. He also completed 20 of 31 passes (.645) for 306 yards and five touchdowns.
Overall, Watson averaged 8.8 yards on the 45 plays he was involved in. So if you really look at it, Jackson had just 60 more total yards than Watson, though he got an extra 30 plays to do it.
Granted some people will point to Watson’s four turnovers that night—three interceptions and a lost fumble—while Jackson had just two. And that’s a fair point. Like I said, Watson outplayed Jackson and he did not even play his best game.
But what people did not pay attention to when these two played head-to-head was what Watson made the plays when it mattered most. With his team trailing by eight points with 7:52 left in the game, Watson rallied the Tigers for two scoring drives, including a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett for the game-winner.
He also threw a 20-yard dart to Mike Williams on the previous drive that pulled the Tigers within two points.
Now some will say that Jackson did put his team in position to win the game with a late drive, but wide receiver James Quick made a mistake when he turned outside instead of inside on a fourth-down pass that forced him out of bounds a yard short of the sticks.
However, what people failed to look at was the drive before that drive. The Cardinals were up two points and had a chance to kill some clock, but Jackson twice threw incomplete and because of pressure on third down, he missed his tight end Cole Hikutini on what should have been a first down.
On the ensuing drive for Clemson, Watson hit Deon Cain for 24 yards on a third-down play to keep the drive going, and then on the next play, with pressure in his face, he found Leggett crossing and hit the big tight end in stride for the 31-yard game-winning touchdown.
That play won Clemson the game, ultimately an ACC Atlantic Division Championship and an ACC Championship. Because of that play, Watson and Clemson are once again playing for an opportunity to win a national championship, but I guess that kind of stuff doesn’t matter to voters.
I saw where a couple of voters have since said they did not vote for Watson because of the 15 interceptions, which I get, as long as they realized Jackson had 13 total turnovers himself, three fewer than Watson’s 16.
Personally, I have nothing against Lamar Jackson. I think he is an outstanding player and he seems like a good kid, I just don’t think he was the most outstanding player in college football. I know Deshaun Watson will prove me to be right, and that the Heisman voters got it wrong, again.