Black quarterbacks in the running for Heisman Trophy
Local players had solid years despite late-season woes
Banner Sports sponsored by Cruz Companies
If members of the New England Football Writers Association were to nominate only local athletes for the national Heisman Trophy in early November, their likely candidates would have been Black quarterbacks Jaden Craig of Harvard University and Thomas Castellanos of Boston College.
Both were having a phenomenal season.
Castellanos led The Eagles to their fifth victory in a row, 17-10 over longtime rival Syracuse on Nov. 3. BC was soaring in the Atlantic Coast Conference and climbing.
Craig guided Harvard to a Veterans Day 25-23 triple-overtime win over Pennsylvania to clinch a share of first place in the Ivy League, and won the NEFW’s weekly Golden Helmet Award on Nov. 12.
But when the Heisman Trophy ceremony is held in Dec. 9 in New York City, another group of Black quarterbacks will be in contention for the big prize: Michael Penix, Jr., Jayden Daniels and Jalen Milroe.
As the regular season ended, both BC and Harvard came closer to the ground. BC lost its final three games, including Saturday’s 40-20 defeat to Miami at “the Heights.” Castellanos’ stats were dignified, 151 passing yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, 131 rushing yards with one touchdown.
BC will play the 17th-ranked Southern Methodist University Mustangs in the Wasabi Fenway Bowl on Dec. 28 at 11 a.m.
Harvard had to settle for a three-way tie for the Elite Eight title with Yale and Dartmouth, after losing its final game of the season 23-18 in New Haven on Nov. 18. Craig threw for an acceptable 245 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception in the loss. But because of 19th-century Ivy League rules barring post-season football participation, the boys from Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire will be watching bowl games from their living room couches.
However, the nationwide speculation for the Heisman Trophy winner is coming into focus. At the center of the picture are Penix, of the University of Washington Huskies, Daniels, of the LSU Tigers and Milroe, of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Penix’s 12-0 Huskies are ranked third in the playoff poll and scheduled to play fifth-place Oregon in the after-this-season-disbanding Pac-12 Football Championship Game on Dec. 1. Fascinatingly, Oregon’s quarterback Bo Nix has the inside track to the Heisman, making that the upcoming game to watch.
Still undefeated, Penix put up the early season numbers, but his performance in Washington’s last two rather low-scoring games has been lackluster. He will need a spectacular game against Oregon and Nix to convince Heisman voters he deserves consideration.
Daniels’ Tigers are only 9-3, sit at 13th and await a bowl invitation to see where they play next. However, Daniels has eye-popping statistics. He has thrown for NCAA records 3,812 yards and 40 passing touchdowns while running for 1,134 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He led a 42-30 comeback victory Saturday over Texas A&M, hurling three fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Daniels’ problem is being slightly out of the spotlight, without another game before the Heisman election, and playing in a Southeastern Conference dominated by undefeated and No. 1 in the nation Georgia and media giant, 10-1, eighth-place Alabama.
Alabama and Georgia play each other for the SEC Championship Saturday. Milroe of the Crimson Tide finds himself in that game with a chance to shine further. Milroe threw an amazing last-minute touchdown pass to the back of the end zone in Alabama’s come-from-behind 27-24 victory Saturday over Auburn.
Thanks to Milroe, Alabama still has an outside chance to play for this year’s National Championship. The team will need a loss by one of the undefeated teams ahead of them in the rankings.
After the victory over Auburn, Milroe said, “OK, give me that Heisman.” If he were to dominate Georgia on Saturday, knocking the two-time defending national champions from the ranks of the unbeaten, his candidacy would be difficult to ignore.
The biggest fall from Heisman grace this year came for Shedeur Sanders of the Colorado Buffaloes, son of head coach Deion Sanders. After three straight impressive victory performances, Shedeur Sanders was thrown into the Heisman mix.
However, after winning four of their first six, the Buffaloes lost their last six, finishing at 4-8, which is still an improvement over their 1-11 record last year. A 23-17 loss Saturday to Utah came with Shedeur on the sidelines suffering from multiple injuries, no longer a Heisman candidate.