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Trophy Watch - An Article by Jim Gazzolo

Nov 17, 2023 07:32AM ● By Ryan Wall

One week after being forced from the biggest game of the season with a concussion, Jayden Daniels’ Heisman hopes seemed lost.

They had appeared to die with LSU’s title run on the Alabama turf.

During the following week, there was even worry that Daniels would miss last Saturday night’s home game against Florida. 

Not only was he back in the Tiger huddle but Daniels was better than ever. His record performance led to a victory and vaulted him right back into the race for college football’s greatest award, the Heisman Trophy.

Daniels accounted for 606 yards of total offense and five touchdowns as LSU won 52-35. He was simply unstoppable.

Daniels became the first quarterback in FBS history to throw for over 350 yards and run for more than 200 in a single game. He finished 7-of-26 throwing for 372 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 12 times for 234 yards and two more scores. 

If that performance doesn’t earn him some votes there is not much else he can do. While the three Tiger losses will hurt, if they don’t lose another game they will finish with the same amount of defeats as USC last season, which saw its quarterback Caleb Williams win the honor. 

He clearly won the vote of his head coach, Brian Kelly.

“If he didn’t win it tonight, he has got to be the leading candidate,” Kelly said Saturday. “Unless the Heisman is just about popularity. If you want to be the most popular, fine, but he is the best player in college football.”

Of course that is debatable. While Daniels is one of the best there are a lot of others who also could be considered for that. And not all of them are quarterbacks.

But Daniels has shown he can play with the best of them. He has also improved perhaps more than any other this year. Now you can add toughness to his resume.

“God created me to be tough and get through stuff quickly,” Daniels said. “This was my first concussion to get over and I did everything they said I needed to do to play and progress daily. It all worked out.”

The only thing that seems to be keeping Daniels from running away with the award is the LSU defense. It has cost them not only a chance at the national championship but makes it easy to overlook the quarterback’s performances.

That really should not matter when it comes to an individual award but it does. Voters like playoff teams and they get more eyes on their final games. Not a lot of people will be watching LSU’s final two contests so Daniels’ game may go unnoticed.

But if the award is truly for the college player who has had the best season then it will be hard to vote against the LSU quarterback.

He has the numbers on his side.

Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese athletics. He is the host of Poke Nation on CBS-Lake Charles.