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The University of Oregon had never won a Heisman Trophy going into Saturday night‘s ceremony. Then again, they’ve never had a player quite like quarterback Marcus Mariota.
As expected, Mariota became the school’s first Heisman Trophy winner on Saturday night, winning the prestigious award in a landslide. He received 90.9 of the possible points, giving him the second biggest victory in modern times, trailing only Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith’s 91.6 in 2006.
His victory is also one of the rare occurrences in recent history where a preseason frontrunner went on to win the award.
Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon III edged out Alabama receiver Amari Cooper for second place. Cooper actually received more first-place votes than Gordon did, but the Wisconsin running back received a vast majority of the second-place votes.
A quick look at the numbers explains why TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin and Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett did not receive invites to New York for the ceremony. Cooper, the third-place finisher, received 805 more points than the fourth place finisher (Boykin) did.
The night clearly belonged to Mariota, though. A candidate to be the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, he brings a rare combination of athleticism, poise and size to the quarterback position. He can beat you throwing the ball downfield or with his scrambling. The latter attribute clearly enhanced his Heisman stock over the final two months of the season.
He ran for three touchdowns in Oregon’s first five games. He rushed for 11 over their final eight. He finished the season with 4,452 yards (669 rushing) and a Pac-12 record 52 total touchdowns.
Winning the school’s first ever Heisman caps off an impressive season for Mariota, who led the Ducks to a 12-1 record, and their first Pac-12 championship since 2011. Now, his focus turns toward leading the Ducks into the Rose Bowl to take on defending champion Florida State in the national semifinal on New Year’s Day.
The game will pit the last two Heisman Trophy winners against each other, as the Seminoles are quarterbacked by Jameis Winston.
A victory over Winston in the Rose Bowl, and either Alabama or Ohio State in the national championship game, would cement Mariota as one of the all-time great quarterbacks in modern college football history.
Saturday night was a big moment for Oregon and Mariota.
Early January could be even bigger.