The Bulls are having the kind of season college dreams are made of.
They are dominating the Mid-American conference with a 4-0 record and Jaret Patterson is shattering records and capturing the attention of the nation.
Everyone’s watching Patterson–– even LeBron James.
On Saturday, Patterson ran for 409 yards and scored eight touchdowns. Eight. Those are basketball numbers, not football scores. He tied Howard Griffith’s FBS record for single-game rushing touchdowns and came 18 yards short of Samaje Perine’s single-game rushing record.
The game before that, Patterson had 301 yards and broke his own UB single-game record of 298 yards. He joined Ricky Williams as the only two players to rush for back-to-back 300-yard games in college football history.
The conclusion is simple: Patterson should get the Heisman -- or at least be a strong contender.
Patterson has played half as many games as Heisman running back rivals like Najee Harris of Alabama, Travis Etienne of Clemson and Breece Hall of Iowa State. Yet, is still posting comparable numbers. He has 16 rushing touchdowns and 920 yards, second and fifth in the nation respectively. He also leads the nation with 230 rushing yards per game.
Hall ranks second in the country with 1,260 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Harris ranks first in the country with 17 rushing touchdowns and No. 10 with 893 rushing yards. Etienne has 12 rushing touchdowns and 692 rushing yards. The senior also has 511 receiving yards and 2 touchdown catches.
But, Hall and Etienne have each played in nine games, while Harris has played in eight.
Patterson has played in four.
Imagine how Patterson’s numbers might read if he played more games. I’ll tell you: If he kept up his current pace, in nine games, he would have 2070 rushing yards, 810 more than Hall.
Think about that.
Obviously, the Heisman is awarded for actual yardage, not imaginary play, but the numbers are telling.
The UB running back has scored one fewer touchdown than Harris in four fewer games. Again, the numbers.
If he could keep this pace up, he could have 32 rushing touchdowns through eight games.
Of course, Patterson’s historic pace would be difficult to maintain throughout a full season, but his first four games give us no reason to think otherwise.
His play has been mind-boggling. That’s what the Heisman –– the award for the most outstanding college football player of the year –– should reward. Giving it to Patterson, a running back, would be a sign that the award isn’t only reserved for quarterbacks from powerhouse schools. Since 1980, only 13 running backs have received the Heisman, compared to 24 quarterbacks. Fifteen of the past 18 Heismans have gone to quarterbacks. Patterson should also win the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s best college running back.
One of Patterson’s big hurdles is playing in the MAC. If he were putting up numbers like this in the SEC, he would be on everyone’s list. Some might argue, Patterson hasn’t faced tough enough competition to win the Heisman, I’d argue that’s irrelevant. The point is, Patterson is performing in a way the MAC has never seen.
He’s a two-star recruit from mid-major Buffalo and he is having one of the greatest seasons in college football history. I think it’s time the titans from the Power Five move over and give him his space on the Heisman list.
I know it’s not that easy.
The Power Five conferences essentially run college football. They have the best recruits, the biggest stadiums and the biggest budgets. They always win. The Power Five schools played a full season, the MAC season got cut to six games because of COVID-19. Since 1961, every running back who has won a Heisman came from a Power Five school. That’s why it would be special to see an outsider from the ultimate underdog city win.
Here’s more perspective: Ty Detmer of BYU is the only player from a non-Power Five school to win the Heisman Trophy since 1980 (Houston quarterback Andre Ware won it in 1989, but the school was a part of the then-Power Five Southwest Conference).
Only three MAC players have ever been nominated for the Heisman trophy: Randy Moss (1997), Chad Pennington (1999) and Jordan Lynch (2013).
Patterson’s record-breaking season is reminiscent of Jordan Lynch, Marshall Faulk and Steve McNair’s Heisman-caliber seasons.
In 2013, Lynch broke the NCAA record for single-game rushing yards by a quarterback… then broke it again later on in the season. He had a dominant season and propelled Northern Illinois into the national spotlight. Lynch came the closest of any MAC player nominated for the Heisman, finishing in third place.
Faulk was arguably the best player in the country in 1992. His statistics were off the charts, rushing for 1,758 yards and 15 touchdowns. In one of the most infamous snubs in Heisman history, the San Diego State running back finished in second place behind quarterback Gino Toretta of No. 1 ranked Miami (FL).
In the 1994 Heisman race, quarterback Steve McNair was the most dominant player in the country. He broke nearly every offensive record in the history of college football and led Alcorn State to an 8-3-1 record. Of course, McNair played at FCS school Alcorn State and wasn’t taken seriously throughout the season. After a playoff loss, McNair was nominated for the Heisman Trophy, finishing third.
Despite the numerous roadblocks in Patterson’s way, he is still one of the strongest Heisman candidates of this year.
Finally, Patterson has something else that makes him remarkable and Heisman-worthy. He is a person of character. He’s humble and hard-working. When he breaks records he praises others, including the offensive line and coaches. He is a coach and team favorite, always the hardest-working kid on the team.
The Heisman’s mission statement says it rewards a “player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity. The winners of the trophy epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work.”
Heisman finalists will be revealed Dec. 24 and announced Jan. 5.
If the Heisman takes its work seriously, Patterson should be at the top of the list.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.