A Walk Down Memory Lane Of Heisman-Worthy Performances During Thanksgiving

The Buzz: Heisman news and views

Thanksgiving week is here and the only thing Americans consume as much of this week as turkey is likely football.

And this week — often Thanksgiving itself — has provided some of the greatest performances in Heisman history.

You don’t have to go back any more than one year to see an example of that as 2021 Heisman winner Bryce Young led a remarkable Alabama comeback in the Iron Bowl, leading the Crimson Tide to a 24-22 win in four overtimes.

His numbers were relatively modest. Young threw for 317 yards on 25-of-51 passing with two touchdowns and one interception.

In fact, Young and the entire Tide offense were shut out through three quarter, trailing the Tigers 10-0, but an early fourth-quarter Alabama interception provided a spark.

First, Young directed Alabama on a 46-yard field goal drive to get the Tide on the board.  But after stopping Auburn, Alabama’s next drive stalled on its own 46-yard line after a failed fourth-and-one run. 

The Tide defense, however, stonewalled the Tigers and got the ball back for Young, albeit on Alabama’s 3-yard line. Young was tasked with 97 yards with 92 seconds to go. 

A third-down pass to John Metchie III got the Tide out of the shadow of their own goal posts. Following Young’s 9-yard run, he found Ja’Corey Brooks for 21 yards to get into Tiger territory.

Three plays later, Young and Auburn faced a fourth-and-seven, where Young found Jahleel Billingsley for 14 yards to keep the drive alive. And on third-and-10 from the 28 — with a stadium full of Tiger fans screaming — Young connected with Brooks again for a 28-yard touchdown that sent the game into overtime.

Auburn and Alabama exchanged TDs in the first OT, the Tide’s coming on a 6-yard strike from Young to Slade Bolden. The teams then exchanged field goals in the second overtime.

What followed was a battle of 2-point conversions in the game’s new overtime rules. Both teams successfully executed their 2-point plays in the third overtime, Young finding Metchie III again. 

And then in the fourth OT, after Auburn failed to convert, Young came back to Metchie III one more time, connecting for the game-winning 2-point play. Two weeks later, after an SEC title win over Georgia, Young won Alabama’s second straight Heisman.

2010: Cam Newton leads the ‘Camback’ against Alabama

Eleven years earlier, it was Auburn who came from behind — wayyyy behind — to defeat Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Quarterback Cam Newton tossed three touchdown passes and ran for another as the Tigers overcame a 24-0 deficit to beat Alabama, 28-27, outscoring the Tide 21-3 in the second half. Newton guided the Tigers to the national title and also won Auburn’s third Heisman.

1971: Johnny Rodgers‘ amazing punt return against Oklahoma

As we get ready to celebrate Johnny Rodgers’ 50th anniversary of his 1972 Heisman Trophy win, it’s worth another look back at Rodgers’ dramatic punt return against Oklahoma in the ‘Game of the Century’ on Thanksgiving Day in 1971, which essentially launched his successful campaign for the trophy the following year.

2002: Carson Palmer throws for 425 yards and four touchdowns vs. Notre Dame

USC, under second-year coach Pete Carroll, put an exclamation point on the Trojans’ ‘return to glory’ season with a huge win over Notre Dame, 44-13. Palmer set Irish opponent records in Troy’s 44-13 triumph, completing 32-of-46 passes for 425 yards and four scores. The performance was the final chapter of Palmer’s fantastic regular season and enough for the voters, too, who awarded him the Heisman, USC’s first since 1981.

1984: Doug Flutie‘s Hail Mary against Miami

Almost four decades later, it still stirs. Doug Flutie‘s 48-yard touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan came as time expired as Boston College beat Miami, 47-45. Shortly after, Flutie became the first quarterback to win the Heisman since 1971.

1998: Ricky Williams breaks Tony Dorsett‘s all-time rushing record 

Ricky Williams’ 60-yard run in the Longhorns’ 26-24 victory over Texas A&M allowed him to topple Tony Dorsett‘s 22-year-old rushing record on his way to capturing Texas’ second Heisman. Williams carried the ball a season-high 44 times, rushing for 259 yards while making a season-high five receptions for 36 more yards.

1976: Tony Dorsett switches to fullback, runs wild in win over Penn State

Tony Dorsett ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns on 38 carries — 173 after switching to fullback in the second half — to break the NCAA’s single-season rushing mark in Pitt’s 24-7 victory over Penn State. The Panthers won the national title that year, while Dorsett won the Heisman.

1993: Charlie Ward pummels Florida for 475 yards, 4 TDs

Ward completed an FSU-record 38 passes in 53 attempts for 446 yards and four touchdowns as the Seminoles beat the Gators, 33-21, in the Swamp. Ward soon after won FSU’s first Heisman.

1963: A fallen President

This weekend is important for what didn’t happen…and why. That year’s game between Army and Navy (featuring eventual Heisman winner Roger Staubach) was postponed due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the previous weekend.