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Forde-Yard Dash: Non-Heisman Contenders Worth Recognizing for Impressive 2020 Campaigns

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (tent folding instructions sold separately in Tallahassee):

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The Dash salutes four players who are having fabulous seasons that almost certainly will not result in winning the Heisman Trophy, but still are worth recognizing and celebrating. The list:

Jaret Patterson (31), Buffalo running back. Undersized and insanely productive, the junior running back generously listed at 5-foot-9 is on a historic tear. His 301 yards against Bowling Green was the highest single-game rushing total in the nation this season—and then he obliterated that Saturday with 409 yards and a record-tying eight touchdowns against previously undefeated Kent State. The two-game total of 710 yards erases Ricky Williams's FBS record of 668 set in 1998, and he needs 228 in the Bulls’ game Saturday against Ohio to take down Barry Sanders’s three-game record total of 937 set in 1988.

What do Sanders and Williams have in common? They were runaway Heisman winners, of course. Playing in the Mid-American Conference and having a seven-game season doesn’t set up Patterson for similar rewards.

Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) breaks free for a touchdown against Auburn at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the Iron Bowl.

DeVonta Smith (32), Alabama wide receiver. Mac Jones will probably get most of the Heisman votes from the ‘Bama team, but the guy they call Smitty has been fabulous. He was the 2020 “possession receiver” for the Crimson Tide until Jaylen Waddle got hurt against Tennessee. In the three games since: 27 catches for 518 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 19.2 yards per reception in that time.

At a school with an elite receiving roll call, Smith is making his mark on the record books. His 13-catch performance against Mississippi ties the Alabama single-game mark. He already holds the single-game records for receiving yardage (274 against the Rebels last year) and touchdown receptions (five in the same game). With 12 TD grabs, he is within striking distance of the single-season school record of 16. He’s already got the career TD catch record with 35.

And he will always be remembered for making the biggest TD catch in school history, hauling in the walk-off bomb from Tua Tagovailoa to win the 2017 national championship against Georgia.

Zaven Collins (33), Tulsa linebacker. The key to the Golden Hurricane’s 5-1 turnaround season? The junior linebacker who keeps making all the plays for a defense that is on pace to give up the fewest yards per play (4.82) at Tulsa this century and fewest points per game (22.2) since 2006.

Collins leads the team in tackles (48), tackles for loss (10.5), sacks (four), interceptions (four) and defensive touchdowns (two). Pretty nice stats for a high school quarterback who also played safety and had one other scholarship offer at the time he committed, from Division II Central Oklahoma.

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Jermar Jefferson (34), Oregon State running back. Patterson leads the nation in rushing yards per game, but Jefferson is second at 168.75 while averaging a fat 7.42 yards per carry. His rushing total has risen every game, from 120 yards in the opener to 133, then 196, then a heroic 226 in the upset of rival Oregon Friday. Even with a shortened junior season, Jefferson could be a 3,000-yard career rusher in a few weeks.

Speaking of the Heisman, a question for voters to ponder down the stretch: how much are star players penalized for missed games? Specifically Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields (35) and Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence (36)?

Fields will definitely have the smallest sample size of the leading contenders. He’s played four games, with a ceiling of seven, and is fourth nationally in pass efficiency. Immediately head of him are Alabama’s Mac Jones (eight games) and BYU’s Zach Wilson (nine) while immediately behind him is Florida’s Kyle Trask (eight games). Lawrence, ninth nationally in efficiency, has played seven and should get two more before ballots are due. Jones, Wilson and Trask all should play 11.

Heisman voters, just like poll voters and College Football Playoff selection committee members, will be tasked with weighing very disparate numbers in selecting their top three.


Kansas (37) has been a disaster for most of its football existence, and absolutely for the past decade. But this 0-7 year’s team may be finding new depths. The Jayhawks are last nationally in points allowed per game at 49.8, and are on an active streak of giving up more than 50 in four straight games. In the long and inglorious history of Kansas football, that’s a first.

It’s one thing to give up 62 to Oklahoma. But the other three half-a-hundred teams are Kansas State (averaging 26, scored 55), Iowa State (averaging 33, scored 52) and most recently TCU (averaging 28, scored 59). When teams are more than doubling their scoring average against you, your defense has serious issues.

Kansas is at such a low ebb that it hasn’t come closer than 15 points to any of its opponents this season. Les Miles (currently 3-16 on the job) was a name hire, but not a good one.


Eli Drinkwitz (38), Missouri. If Will Muschamp was Kiffin’d for losing to Mississippi, then Derek Mason was Drink’d for a 41-0 loss to Mizzou. Taking over a program in a pandemic year is difficult, but Drinkwitz has done fine work getting the Tigers to 4-3 with winnable games left against Arkansas and Mississippi State. Drinkwitz is getting very good quarterback play from redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak, who is working with a completely rebuilt receiving corps. There will be a defensive rebuild necessary next year, but this could wind up being the best debut season for a Missouri coach since Warren Powers went 8-4 in 1978. Mizzou fans will Drink to that.


Ed Orgeron (39), LSU. The indelible image of a lost season came Saturday night, when Orgeron went unhinged on freshman quarterback T.J. Finley after throwing a pick six late in a loss to Texas A&M. This didn’t look like the composed CEO coach of 2019; this was eyes blazing, mask gone, screaming in the face of a teenager playing in his fourth collegiate game. Not a great look. Not a great season. The Tigers are 3-4 and could take a woodshed beating Saturday from Alabama. “We will be champions again,” Orgeron said Monday. There is a long way to go to get there.


When hungry and thirsty in Cincinnati, The Dash recommends a downtown trip to the Moerlein Lager House (40), right across the street from Great American Ballpark. This is a German town, and you get all the German feels at the Lager House. Get the soft pretzel, the sausage plate and Third Wave IPA, and thank The Dash later.

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