Dwayne Haskins seemed to do enough to win the Heisman Trophy.
Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore quarterback led the country with 4,580 passing yards and 47 passing touchdowns. He was one of six players in college football to complete more than 70 percent of his pass attempts, and averaged 352.3 passing yards per game, No. 2 in the country.
This was enough to earn him a trip to New York City as one of three Heisman finalists alongside Alabama sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma redshirt junior quarterback Kyler Murray.
But without a trip to the College Football Playoff in his future, Haskins will leave New York City without a trophy to bring home.
Murray earned Oklahoma’s second straight Heisman Trophy after Baker Mayfield won it in 2017. Murray and Mayfield are the first duo from the same school to win in back-to-back seasons since 1974 and 1975 when Ohio State running back Archie Griffin won two straight Heisman trophies.
Even with a statistical lead in many categories compared to both Murray and Tagovailoa, there was always one thing that kept Haskins on the outside looking in: the 49-20 loss to Purdue.
This loss cost Ohio State its chance at a national championship, keeping the Buckeyes at No. 6 in the final College Football Playoff rankings despite a dominant win against then-No. 4 Michigan and a decisive win against then-No. 21 Northwestern to secure their second consecutive Big Ten title.
But as Ohio State left the field in West Lafayette, Indiana on Oct. 20, as his teammates walked to the locker room with their heads down after suffering their first loss of the season, Haskins realized he could not lead the offense by himself any longer.
“I never thought I would have to throw 72 times to win the game,” Haskins said after the loss to Purdue. “But you gotta do what you gotta do to win and this ended today.”
Haskins did everything he could to succeed in that game, completing 49 passes, 15 more completions than he had had in any other game this season, breaking a school record, for 470 yards, which at the time was also a school record. He broke his own record five games later with 499 yards against Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship.
Identity for the Ohio State offense was a struggle for this team all season. Coming off a season with the No. 1 running game in the Big Ten and with both sophomore running back J.K. Dobbins and redshirt junior Mike Weber returning, the expectation coming in was the run-heavy, pass-when-needed offense would return.
But this did not match Haskins’ style, throwing for more than 400 yards in three straight weeks against Indiana and Minnesota before breaking the passing yards record against the Boilermakers.
The Haskins-run offense really did not take shape until the end of the season, throwing for 895 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final two games of the season, what many considered as the coming out party for a quarterback who was fighting for a starting job back in April.
Ohio State and Haskins are in a similar situation. The Purdue loss defined the season for both, keeping the Buckeyes out of both the Orange and the Cotton Bowl. The Purdue loss kept Haskins away from earning Ohio State’s first Heisman winner since Troy Smith in 2006, a year in which he threw for 2,542 passing yards with 30 touchdowns, numbers which Haskins surpassed easily.
The Buckeyes were 12-0 when Smith was picked as the Heisman winner before losing to Florida in the National Championship.
In recent years, there seems to be a game that defines the season for Ohio State, a single game that the Buckeyes wish they could have back. As Ohio State prepares for the Rose Bowl and Haskins leaves New York empty handed, something that a better performance from Ohio State in its one loss this season could have prevented.