Haskins waited to show championship mettle
INDIANAPOLIS — After Dwayne Haskins Jr. threw five touchdown passes to lead Ohio State to the Big Ten title over Northwestern on Saturday night, coach Urban Meyer dropped his previous reluctance to lobby for his quarterback’s Heisman Trophy candidacy.
“He's without question a Heisman candidate,” Meyer said. “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.”
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Haskins is generally considered behind Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray in the Heisman race, but Haskins has rewritten the Big Ten and Ohio State record books in his first season as a starter.
In throwing for 499 yards in Ohio State’s 45-24 victory, Haskins became the Big Ten’s season leader in offensive yards with 4,702, surpassing Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s 4,272 in 2010.
Haskins also broke J.T. Barrett’s record of 47 total touchdowns in a season. Haskins has 51. He completed 34 of 41 passes against Northwestern.
“We had great protection all game — receivers bringing a lot of clutch plays on third down and first down,” Haskins said. “We had great play-calling. And the biggest thing was execution. The thing I had to do was give the ball to playmakers and let them make the plays. I'm just the distributor. And we did a great job.”
For Haskins, the performance was especially gratifying because he expected to start last year’s Big Ten title game against Wisconsin.
Haskins replaced Barrett against Michigan when the senior quarterback injured his knee and led the Buckeyes to victory. When Barrett required arthroscopic surgery, his status was in doubt all week. Players almost never return from a surgery, even an arthroscopic one, in less than a week.
“Last year was crazy,” Haskins said earlier this week. “I still kind of don’t know what happened. J.T. had his knee scoped, and all week in practice I was with the 1s. I thought I was going to start.”
It wasn’t until Haskins saw Barrett running without apparent problems in warmups before Ohio State’s conference title game against Wisconsin that he knew his first start as a Buckeye would have to wait.
“I wouldn’t say let down,” Barrett said when asked if he was disappointed not to play in last year’s game. “As a competitor, you want to play, but you have to know what’s best for the team. J.T. was our leader at the time and he’d done a great job for the university.”
Though Haskins didn’t play against Wisconsin, he believes his preparation for that game benefited him anyway for the Northwestern game.
“It helps me out going into this game because I know what it takes to prepare for a game like this,” he said.