Christian McCaffrey Finishes Runner-Up for Heisman Trophy


On Saturday Night at the PlayStation Theater in New York City, the Heisman Memorial Trophy was awarded to Alabama running back Derrick Henry, with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey finishing as runner-up.

The most prestigious award in college sports was handed out on Saturday night, with Alabama ball carrier Derrick Henry taking home the Heisman Memorial Trophy, which “annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity”. Henry is Alabama’s second Heisman trophy winner, joining fellow running back Mark Ingram, who won the award in 2009. Finishing second was McCaffrey, and Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson was third.

In his sophomore season, McCaffrey emerged not only as the premier back for the Stanford Cardinal, but as the one of most versatile and explosive players in college football. As the season wore on and McCaffrey got more and more run, his candidacy for the Heisman Trophy became increasingly more difficult to ignore.

McCaffrey’s crowning achievement this season came as he etched his name in the record books. His 3,496 total yards (1,847 rushing yards, 540 receiving yards, 1,042 kick return yards, and 67 punt return yards) are the most in NCAA history in a single season, and he still has a Bowl game to play. His yardage total broke the previous record held by one of football’s all-time greats, Barry Sanders, set in 1988, his junior season, when he totaled 3,248 yards (2,628 rushing, 106 receiving, 421 kick return, 94 punt return). Sanders was the Heisman winner that year.

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McCaffrey also set a number of school records, including rushing yards in a single game (243 yards against UCLA), all-purpose yards in a single game (461 against USC in the Pac-12 Championship Game), most consecutive games with over 100 rushing yards (nine), and tied the record for most touchdowns in a single game (four against UCLA, matching the record held by Kerry Carter (twice), Glyn Milburn, Tommy Vardell, Darrin Nelson, Toby Gerhart (twice), Stepfan Taylor, and Remound Wright). On top of that, McCaffrey even threw two touchdowns on the year, including one to his quarterback, Kevin Hogan.

The 19-year-old running back is the first Cardinal player to finish in the top-three in Heisman voting since 2011, when quarterback Andrew Luck also finished runner-up, to Robert Griffin III. McCaffrey matches Gerhart for the highest voting finish by a Stanford running back. Gerhart was also a runner-up in 2009, and also finished behind an Alabama running back, Ingram. Quarterback Jim Plunkett remains the only Heisman winner in school history, taking home the award in 1970.

While McCaffrey made a strong case, the same can be said for Henry and Watson, who joined McCaffrey as finalists in New York City.

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Henry was the engine that made the Alabama offense go, which in turn lifted the Crimson Tide to a 12-1 record, an SEC title, a second-place ranking, and a place in the College Football Playoffs. The junior set the SEC record with 1,986 rushing yards, and tied the Conference record with 23 touchdowns. He has a great chance to break that record come January. In addition, Henry was named the 2015 Maxwell Award winner (as college football’s player of the year), and the Doak Walker Award winner (as the nation’s best running back). Henry becomes the first non-quarterback Heisman winner since Ingram.

Watson has led the Clemson Tigers to a perfect 13-0 record, the top ranking in the nation, and the number-one seed in the College Football Playoff. In his sophomore season, Watson completed 69.5 percent of his passes (287 completions on 413 attempts) for 3,517 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also ran for 887 yards and 11 touchdowns on 163 attempts. Watson was awarded the Davey O’Brien Trophy, given to the nation’s best quarterback. Watson’s third-place finish is the highest ever for a Tiger, and he was the first Heisman finalist in school history.

Joining those three in the top five were Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield and Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Mayfield, a junior, completed 68.6 precent of his passes (243-of-354) for 3,389 yards, plus an outstanding seven-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. In addition, he ran for 420 yards and seven touchdowns.

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Reynolds is the first Navy Midshipman to finish in the top-10 in voting since 1985, when senior running back Napoleon McCallum finished seventh. The senior set the NCAA Division-1 record for career rushing touchdowns, racking up 85 in his four years. This season, he completed 46-of-84 attempts for 964 yards and six touchdowns, while throwing just one pick. He ran for 1,093 yards and 19 touchdowns.