Duggan 2nd to Williams in Heisman race, now on to the playoffs

Caleb Williams (at podium) and past winners onstage at the 2022 Heisman Trophy ceremony. (Todd Van Emst/Pool Photo via AP)

TCU quarterback Max Duggan came up short in his underdog quest for the Heisman Trophy, finishing second among four finalists for the coveted award presented Saturday night in New York.

Southern California signal caller Caleb Williams, the acknowledged Heisman front-runner for much of the 2022 season, won the award with 544 first-place votes to Duggan’s 188. Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud finished third, followed by Stetson Bennett of Georgia.

Williams was the only finalist whose team will not be playing in the College Football Playoffs and he good-naturedly pointed that out in his acceptance speech.

Acknowledging the three players he bested for the award, Williams said: “I may be standing up here today, but y’all get to go to the College Football Playoffs. Guess you can’t win ’em all.”

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TCU will face Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl, the first of two CFP semifinals to be played on New Year’s Eve. The Fiesta Bowl is in Tempe, Arizona, with kickoff at 3 p.m. Central time. Ohio State and Georgia will play the second semifinal, the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta. Both games will be televised on ESPN with the winners facing off for the national championship Jan. 9 at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.

Duggan’s runner-up finish in the Heisman race ended an award winning streak that was highlighted by last week’s announcement that he had become the first TCU quarterback to win the Davey O’Brien Award – a trophy named for the TCU legend who won the Heisman and led the Horned Frogs to a national championship in 1938.

Duggan also won the prestigious Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and was named the Big 12 Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year, completing 65% of his passes with 30 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He rushed for 404 yards and six touchdowns while leading TCU to an 11-1 record and No. 3 finish in the playoff rankings. The Council Bluff, Iowa, native accomplished all this just two years after undergoing nine hours of heart surgery for Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a rare condition that causes a faster than normal heartbeat – and after losing the starting quarterback job to Chandler Morris before the 2022 season only to win it back after Morris was injured in the season opener against Colorado.

Duggan’s consistently brilliant passing and running, as well his week-in, week-out leadership and gritty play thrust him into the Heisman picture virtually out of nowhere. Williams was seen as a leading contender for the award even before the season started.

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He passed for 4.075 yards, 37 touchdowns and just four interceptions, setting a USC record for total offense with 4.447 yards. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound sophomore also ran for 10 touchdowns.

Williams and No. 8 USC fell short of the Pac-12 championship and a spot in the playoff, but it was still a rebirth for a college football blue blood that has had only short spurts of success over the last decade. The Trojans hope a revival is underway, led by Coach Lincoln Riley and Williams. With the two of them orchestrating one of the nation’s most prolific offenses, USC went from 4-8 last season to 11-2 and a Cotton Bowl bid this year.

Williams, who played last season at Oklahoma, is the fourth transfer to win the Heisman in the last six years, joining Baker Mayfield (2017) and Kyler Murray (2018) of Oklahoma and Joe Burrow (2019) of LSU.

Williams is the sixth – and second straight – sophomore to win the Heisman. Alabama’s Bryce Young won the award in his second season last year, and finished sixth in the voting this year, behind Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.

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Williams was as meticulous and thorough with his 10-minute acceptance speech as he is preparing for a game. And almost as poised as when he plays.

Williams got choked up talking about Riley, who he followed from Norman to Los Angeles, and really had to hold it together when thanking his parents.

He called his mother, Dayna, who paints his nails with a motivational message before each game, the most important woman in his life. He thanked his father, Carl, for instilling a relentless worth ethic.

“You’re always there for me making sacrifices in your life so I can achieve my dreams, which eventually became our dreams,” Caleb said.

He finished with USC’s battle cry: “Dreams really do come true. Thank you, and fight on.”