Despite a historically strong campaign in his first year as a starter, Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon finished second in the 80th annual Heisman Trophy balloting Saturday behind Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Gordon finished with 1,250 points, well behind Mariota’s winning total of 2,534. Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper rounded out the Top 3 with 1,023.
Continuing Wisconsin’s recent string of impressive runners, Gordon put together one of the greatest single season rushing performances in college football history. Through 13 games, he has totaled 2,336 yards and 26 touchdowns while averaging 7.6 yards per carry.
The yardage figure already ranks fourth all-time, and Gordon still has the Outback Bowl left to play Jan. 1. That will be the final game of his collegiate career, as the redshirt junior announced Wednesday that he will forego his senior season to enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
While he may have come up short in the Heisman race, Gordon still arguably had the best individual game by any player this season. In a crucial Big Ten West matchup against Nebraska Nov. 15, he gashed the Husker defense for a then-FBS record 408 rushing yards and four touchdowns on only 25 carries. He didn’t even play in the fourth quarter.
Any other year, Gordon’s video game-like numbers would have easily won him the Heisman. But he happened to run into a buzzsaw in Mariota, who had one of the best quarterback seasons ever.
Widely considered to be a top pick in next year’s NFL Draft, Mariota recorded one of the best efficiency ratings of all time while throwing for 38 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He led the nation in yards per pass attempts and also rushed for an additional 14 touchdowns.
When a quarterback and running back have equally remarkable seasons, the quarterback tends to win out. Twelve of the past 13 non-vacated Heismans have gone to signal callers. Besides that, Oregon’s 12-1 record and looming appearance in the College Football Playoff made it nearly impossible for Gordon to overcome the Badgers’ team struggles and surpass Mariota.
Despite not winning the Heisman, Gordon still racked up a variety of accolades. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back and was named an All-American by a variety of publications.