In 1956, Notre Dame quarterback Paul Hornung won the Heisman Trophy after leading the Fighting Irish to a 2-8 record. It’s the last time a player with a losing record was awarded for being college football’s most outstanding player, a historical footnote that will stand for at least one more year. The nation’s leading rusher, D’Onta Foreman, was not invited to New York as one of the 2016 Heisman finalists. Texas’ 5-7 final record certainly didn’t help his case.
This year’s crop includes three quarterbacks in Clemson’s Deshaun Watson, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield; one wide receiver in Oklahoma’s Dede Westbrook; and Michigan linebacker Jabrill Peppers. Foreman would have been the sole running back had he been selected.
The junior running back, who last week declared for the NFL draft, led the nation with 2,028 yards despite playing two fewer games than No. 2 Donnel Pumphrey (though Foreman carried the ball three more times). Foreman and Pumphrey were the only two rushers to break the 2,000-yard mark this season. Foreman’s 15 rushing touchdowns trailed behind Jackson’s 21. That Foreman finished 27th in the nation in yards per carry also worked against Foreman, though if he can even sniff his 6.28 average on Sundays, he’ll be the greatest running back of all time. The current NFL modern-era record among running backs is held by another Longhorn, injured Chiefs back Jamaal Charles (5.5).
Here are some comparative charts, starting with the three QBs:
Mayfield, the best pure passer of the bunch, leads in completion percentage (71.2), yards per attempt (11.1), and touchdowns (38). Jackson, the Heisman frontrunner, however, is more of a dual threat whose real damage comes on the ground. His 21 touchdowns lead the country among power-five conferences. For comparison, here’s D’Onta Foreman’s 2016 rushing stats.
While the Big 12 isn’t exactly known for its defense, Foreman is the only rusher in the top five from a power-five conference. He outgained Jackson by nearly 500 yards (in one fewer game and on 89 more attempts), who finished at No. 8. Additionally, all 11 games Foreman played in were against power-five teams, his sole absence being a blowout win against UTEP, a game in which his replacement, Chris Warren, rushed for an additional 95 yards on 20 carries.
The real tale of the tape, however, is in D’Onta’s consistency. Take a look at his game logs:
Foreman rushed for more than 100 yards in 11 straight games this season, and 13 going back to 2015, a Texas record. After Warren went down during the Oklahoma State game on October 1, Foreman shouldered almost the entire running back load, breaking the 200-yard mark in three out of four conference games down the stretch, including a 341-yard effort in a win over Texas Tech on November 5. That’s the third-highest single-game total in Texas history. Additionally, Foreman averaged 4.5 yards per carry or higher in every game.
Foreman turned the snub into motivation, however, tweeting last night, simply: “MORE FUEL” accompanied by a gas pump emoji.
If Hornung had played today, he’d have likely been snubbed too, but regardless, he transitioned nicely into the NFL. He was selected first overall that spring by the Green Bay Packers. The Kentucky native switched positions to running back, as the Packers already had all-timer Bart Starr under center, played for four NFL champions, was named to the NFL’s 1960s All-Decade team, and was eventually inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Any running back would happily take that outcome, hardware or not.
Image courtesy Texas Athletics.
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