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Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray won the 2018 Heisman Trophy following a 50-plus touchdown effort that helped the Sooners earn a College Football Playoff berth.
USA TODAY

NEW YORK — Kyler Murray became the second Oklahoma quarterback in a row to win the Heisman Trophy by edging out Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the front-runner for much of the regular season before Murray’s torrid close vaulted the Sooners back into the College Football Playoff.

Murray captured 517 of 878 first-place votes and amassed 2,167 points. Tagovailoa earned 299 first-place votes and 1,871 points. Tagovailoa’s point total was the most by a runner-up in Heisman history, breaking the previous mark of 1,794 points set by Minnesota tailback Paul Giel in 1953.

The third invitee to the Heisman ceremony, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, finished a distant third behind Murray and Tagovailoa with 783 points.

Murray is the first junior to win the Heisman since Alabama running back Derrick Henry did so in 2015. Murray received 78 percent of all possible points, the eighth-highest percentage in Heisman history, and was named on 92.03 percent of all ballots, good for third in voting history.

Rounding out the top 10 were West Virginia quarterback Will Grier (126 points), Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew (122), Central Florida quarterback McKenzie Milton (39), Clemson running back Travis Etienne (29), Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (27), Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (26) and Memphis running back Darrell Henderson (21).

Taylor and Milton returned to the top 10 after finishing sixth and eighth, respectively, a season ago.

kyler murray wins 2018 heisman trophy to give oklahoma qb repeat - Kyler Murray wins 2018 Heisman Trophy to give Oklahoma QB repeat

The award seemed Tagovailoa’s to lose since early September, when the Crimson Tide’s first-year starter began to put together the finest year by a passer in program history. The sophomore didn’t throw an interception until Nov. 3, nine games into Alabama’s season. By that point, Tagovailoa had tossed 25 touchdowns despite playing an average of just two-plus quarters per game — he only made eight pass attempts in the fourth quarter during the regular season.

In all, Tagovailoa threw for 37 touchdowns against four interceptions while completing 67.7 percent of his attempts. Haskins had similarly impressive numbers: Ohio State’s redshirt sophomore tossed 47 touchdowns while completing more than 70 percent of his throws, culminating in a six-touchdown performance in the Buckeyes’ rivalry win against Michigan and five more in the Big Ten title game.

But Murray’s entire season, and his last month in particular, made the two-sport star impossible for Heisman voters to ignore. Murray threw for 4,053 yards, added 892 yards on the ground and accounted for 51 total touchdowns in leading Oklahoma to another Big 12 Conference championship and a matchup with the Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl.

As the Sooners’ defense struggled, Murray carried Oklahoma to narrow wins in November against Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and West Virginia, and then avenged the team’s earlier loss to Texas in the conference championship game. In five games since the start of November, Murray accounted for 2,142 yards of total offense and 17 touchdowns.

He’s the seventh Oklahoma player to win the Heisman, tying the Sooners with Notre Dame and Ohio State for the most wins by any single program. 

Murray also joins former teammate Baker Mayfield as the fourth pair from the same school to win the Heisman in back-to-back years, joining Yale’s Larry Kelley and Clint Frank in 1936 and 1937, Army’s Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis in 1945 and 1946 and Southern California’s Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush in 2004 and 2005, though Bush’s win was later vacated by the Heisman Trust.

Murray and Mayfield are the first players to come from the same school and play the same position to take the Heisman in successive years. In addition, Mayfield and Murray were both transfers into Oklahoma — Murray came in from Texas A&M and Mayfield from Texas Tech.

Former Ohio State running back Archie Griffin is the only player to win the Heisman twice, in 1974 and 1975. While eligible to return in 2019, Murray is set to join the Oakland Athletics’ organization this spring as the team’s recent first-round draft pick.

“He’s one of the elite guys to ever do it, to balance both,” said Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.

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