Lamar Jackson leapt over a loaded field of Heisman Trophy contenders early in the season and by the time he slowed down nobody could catch him.
Jackson continues a recent trend of breakout stars winning the Heisman. He is the sixth player to win the award as either a redshirt freshman or sophomore, all since 2007, joining Manziel (redshirt freshman), Jameis Winston (redshirt freshman), Mark Ingram (sophomore), Sam Bradford (sophomore) and Tim Tebow (sophomore).
Jackson had a combined 51 touchdowns in the 2016 regular season — 30 passing and 21 rushing. That’s the 13th-best offensive season in FBS history, though Jackson didn’t have the most total touchdowns in college football this season. Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes had 53 total touchdowns.
But while Mahomes is a very good player, Jackson is the more dynamic quarterback. Jackson averaged 6.6 yards per carry and threw for 8.9 yards per pass, a 1.5 yard improvement from his passing statistics in 2015.
Jackson is also the first player to win the Heisman whose team lost the last two games of the season since Notre Dame wide receiver Tim Brown’s 1987 Heisman win. Though Jackson’s season ended with a relative whimper, it doesn’t distract from his greatness throughout the 2016 season.
Here are the five best games of Jackson’s 2016. And remember, we get an enticing matchup between Jackson and Louisville vs. LSU and running back Leonard Fournette in the Citrus Bowl.
1. Sep. 17: Louisville 63, Florida State 20
This game is why Louisville should have ended the season ahead of Florida State in the final College Football Playoff rankings (the Seminoles are going to the Orange Bowl ahead of the Cardinals), but we digress.
The final score might have been closer than the game actually was. Jackson had 17 carries for 186 yards and four rushing touchdowns while he was 13-20 passing for 216 yards and a score.
The 63 points Louisville rolled up was the most given up in Florida State history and four of Jackson’s five touchdowns came in the first half as Louisville entered the break with a 35-10 lead. The game established Jackson as the Heisman favorite just three weeks into the season, a title he wouldn’t relinquish despite a relatively mediocre close to the season.
2. Sep. 1: Louisville 70, Charlotte 14
If you were a college football fan and weren’t familiar with Jackson entering the season, you knew his name after the opening weekend.
Jackson had eight touchdowns against Charlotte and they all came in the first half. Read that sentence again. It’s entirely true. There ain’t no fake news here.
He threw for six touchdowns and ran for two as the Cardinals demolished the 49ers. Jackson finished the game 17-23 passing for 286 yards and had 11 rush attempts for 119 yards. He was pulled early too, for obvious reasons. Imagine the stats he could have piled up if Louisville didn’t slow down in the second half?
3. Oct. 1: Clemson 42, Louisville 36
Yes, this game is a loss, but it’s a road game where Jackson outplayed fellow Heisman contender Watson.
Jackson directly accounted for 71 Louisville plays in the six-point loss. His performance entering the game even had Clemson coach Dabo Swinney remarking that his team had to be the Kryptonite to Jackson’s Superman.
And Clemson was. Barely. The Tigers had to stop the Cardinals inside the red zone on a last-gasp game-winning drive. Jackson was 27-44 passing for 295 yards and a touchdown and interception and had 31 carries for 162 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Watson had a great statistical game too. But he also had four turnovers.
4. Nov. 5: Louisville 52, Boston College 7
This game was all about efficiency as the Cardinals had no trouble with the Eagles. Jackson threw for four touchdowns on just 17 pass attempts while running for three touchdowns on 15 carries.
One of those rushing touchdowns was a 69-yard run to open the scoring while he also added another 53-yard rushing touchdown. His rushing effort meant he became the first Louisville quarterback to top the 1,000 yard mark in a season.
5. Oct. 22: Louisville 54, NC State 13
NC State had almost beaten Clemson a week before the Louisville game. There was no such scare for the Cardinals.
Jackson accounted for four touchdowns in the blowout win. His first of the game was his 34th of the season, breaking the all-time single season touchdown record that was set by former Louisville quarterbacks Brian Brohm and Dave Ragone.
Jackson finished the game with 431 total yards and had 359 of them by halftime as the Cardinals were up 44-0 after two quarters.