Dwayne Haskins came into this season with big shoes to fill.
Following behind J.T. Barrett, who held a handful of Ohio State records and was a part of the two teams that made the College Football Playoff, the redshirt sophomore was not expected to immediately become the next legend under center.
But Haskins did that and more this season, and he hasn’t shown it in a more spectacular fashion than he did in Ohio State’s 45-24 victory against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.
For many, all this success from a first-year starter came as a surprise. But for Haskins, he knew he was going to win the job in the offseason.
He knew he would be the star that he eventually became.
“I knew I was gonna be the guy, just a matter of time before [Urban Meyer] made the decision,” Haskins said. “I always wanted to come to school here at 10 years old, I knew I was gonna be a quarterback here, knew we were gonna do great things this year, and that’s me birthing it into existence.”
Haskins completed 34-of-41 passes for 499 yards and five touchdowns with one interception. The completions, yards and touchdown passes were all records for the Big Ten Championship.
During the most impressive performance of his collegiate career, Haskins passed Barrett for the most total touchdowns in a single season in Big Ten history.
He beat his own program record of 470 passing yards he set in the loss to Purdue, and earned his fifth game of 400 passing yards or more. Every other quarterback in Ohio State history has combined for one of those games.
“I mean it is what it is, he be doing it all year,” redshirt junior wide receiver K.J. Hill said. “I feel like he should be in New York and win the Heisman.”
The Heisman race has officially opened up after Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was injured in the third quarter after throwing 10-of-25 for 164 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.
Tagovailoa, Haskins and Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray appear to be the lead candidates after Saturday’s games, and Haskins still may be the least likely of the trio to end up with the trophy.
But the redshirt sophomore has found a way to win games like Saturday’s Big Ten Championship all season long.
With the Ohio State run game regressing to 2.3 yards per carry, Haskins opened up Northwestern’s zone defense — designed to allow short-yardage plays, but stop deep balls — with touchdown passes of 29 and 42 yards, as well as another 63-yard throw to redshirt senior wide receiver Johnnie Dixon.
The 42-yard score was to redshirt senior wide receiver Terry McLaurin perfectly in stride over McLaurin’s shoulder on the right sideline.
McLaurin said he often doesn’t have to do much because of his quarterback’s accuracy.
“It makes my job a lot easier,” McLaurin said. “A lot of my passes this season have been right in my bread basket. All I gotta do is catch it.”
Haskins’ day was not without errors.
In the second quarter, Haskins had Hill open on the left side of the field, but the redshirt sophomore overthrew it, giving the Wildcats an easy interception.
But for the crucial error in the first half, there were plenty of highlight moments to make up for it.
Haskins showed his improved footwork with a 16-yard touchdown pass to McLaurin on a perfect throw to the corner of the end zone to get Ohio State up early. In the second half, Haskins found Dixon on the 63-yard throw, the entirety of the yards picked up through the air.
Whether he is going to the College Football Playoff or, more likely, the Rose Bowl, Haskins is satisfied with the season his team has put together.
“Any team would want to be 12-1 and win a conference championship, so whether that’s in the playoffs or the Rose Bowl, you know it’s just an opportunity to play for the university, play for each other,” Haskins said. “Regardless of whether you make the playoffs or not, and I’m just happy to be a part of this team.”
Haskins, 13 starts later, now sits atop as one of the most prolific passers Ohio State has ever had.
The redshirt sophomore who was once committed to Maryland, who knew the whole time he was going to be the guy, has become the guy who nearly threw for 500 yards in the Big Ten Championship.
Only time will tell if Haskins has done enough to be invited as a Heisman trophy nominee. Haskins said he feels he has “a pretty good shot,” but to head coach Urban Meyer, there should be no doubt.
“He’s without question a Heisman candidate. 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.”