INDIANAPOLIS – After throwing his fifth touchdown pass of Saturday night’s Big Ten Championship Game against Northwestern, Dwayne Haskins did his version of the famous pose that Desmond Howard struck 27 years ago.
He earned the right to do so.
When Haskins was called to the front of the stage to accept his Big Ten Championship Game MVP trophy following Ohio State’s 45-24 win at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, the large crowd of Ohio State fans still in attendance chanted “Heisman! Heisman! Heisman!” in unison.
He deserved that ovation.
While Haskins might not necessarily be the favorite to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, the Ohio State quarterback deserves an invitation to next Saturday’s ceremony in New York, and in his final chance to impress Heisman voters before the final ballots are cast, he certainly gave voters reason to think about voting for him.
One week after completing 20-of-31 passes for 396 yards and six touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ 62-39 win over Michigan, Haskins was even better against Northwestern, completing 34 of 41 passes for 499 yards – breaking his own single-game school record for passing yards – and five touchdowns.
For the season as a whole, Haskins has now completed 70.2 percent of his passes for 4,580 yards and 47 touchdowns – all Ohio State records by a substantial margin, with the latter two also being Big Ten records – and established himself as not the only best passer statistically in Ohio State history, but also one of the best passers in college football this year.
Several of his touchdown throws on Saturday were spectacular.
On his first touchdown pass of the night, Haskins eluded multiple Northwestern pass-rushers before lofting a throw over multiple Wildcat defenders to Terry McLaurin for a 16-yard touchdown. His second touchdown pass was a perfectly thrown deep ball to McLaurin for a 43-yard touchdown. His third touchdown pass, from 29 yards out to Chris Olave, came on another beautiful deep strike to the end zone. His fourth touchdown pass required him to use his feet again to evade the pass rush before finding Johnnie Dixon from 9 yards out. And he set up his final touchdown pass – his easiest touchdown of the night, from 17 yards out to an open J.K. Dobbins – with a long bomb to Dixon for a 63-yard gain.
When Haskins was asked during Ohio State’s postgame press conference whether he thought he should be a Heisman Trophy finalist, Ohio State coach Urban Meyer interjected.
“I'll help him with that. That's my job as a coach. He's without question a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said. “I've seen the statistics of the other two great players, and there's no doubt. Dwayne Haskins is a Heisman candidate, and he should be in New York City.”
Asked for his own answer in the locker room after the press conference, Haskins expressed confidence that he would get an invitation to next weekend’s ceremony in New York.
“I think I have a pretty good shot,” Haskins said in the locker room. “I’m excited to see what happens, and just take it day-by-day.”
Haskins’ teammates – including Olave, right tackle Isaiah Prince and defensive end Chase Young – were strong in their support of his Heisman candidacy after Saturday’s game.
“Did you see the game?” Young said on Big Ten Network, his voice cracking in his passionate response. “He’s the best quarterback that ever came to the Ohio State. He’s the best quarterback in the nation right now. I don’t care who you say.”
Chase Young on Dwayne Haskins: Did you see the game? Hes the best quarterback that ever came to the Ohio State. Hes the best quarterback in the nation right now. I dont care who you say. pic.twitter.com/djNywLQMCL— Eleven Warriors (@11W) December 2, 2018
Prince, when asked if he thought Haskins earned an invitation to the Heisman ceremony, said he thought Haskins should win the Heisman. Olave, who was taken aback when informed that Haskins threw for 499 yards, said he thought Haskins’ statistics and game film spoke for itself.
"I just say check the stats and check the highlights. He's just unreal when he's got the ball in his hands," Olave said.
“I've seen the statistics of the other two great players, and there's no doubt. Dwayne Haskins is a Heisman candidate, and he should be in New York City.”– Ohio State coach Urban Meyer
Haskins’ Heisman campaign also received social media endorsements from several prominent celebrities on Saturday night, including LeBron James and John Legend.
Congratulations to the Buckeyes on another big 10 championship! Great win! And Haskins looks like a Heisman winner!— John Legend (@johnlegend) December 2, 2018
The two favorites to win the Heisman Trophy all season have been Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, and they might still be the frontrunners. Both have had tremendous seasons. Murray has completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 4,053 yards and 40 touchdowns with only seven interceptions, while rushing for 892 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tagovailoa has completed 67.7 percent of his passes for 3,353 yards and 37 touchdowns with only four interceptions, while rushing for 190 yards and five touchdowns.
None of them made a stronger final push on Saturday, however, than Haskins. Murray had an impressive performance in Oklahoma’s 39-27 Big 12 Championship Game win over Texas, completing 25-of-34 passing attempts for 379 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 39 yards. Tagovailoa had a rough day in the SEC Championship Game, completing just 10-of-25 passing attempts for 164 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions before leaving the game with an ankle injury, after which backup quarterback Jalen Hurts led Alabama to a 35-28 comeback victory over Georgia.
Haskins, who confirmed to reporters Saturday night that he will play in the Buckeyes’ bowl game even if they don’t make the College Football Playoff, did just about everything he could in his final game before the Heisman is awarded to make his case for being the best player in college football.
It would be a surprise if he doesn’t at least earn a trip to the Big Apple next weekend. But now, it’s up to the voters to decide whether he, Murray or Tagovailoa should ultimately take home college football’s most prestigious individual honor.