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Kyler Murray Wins Heisman Trophy, and Will Face the Runner-Up

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Kyler Murray replaced a Heisman Trophy winner by becoming a Heisman Trophy winner.

Murray, the Oklahoma quarterback, won the Heisman, college football’s most prestigious individual award Saturday night, edging Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama and setting up a College Football Playoff matchup of Heisman winner versus runner-up.

The fourth-ranked Sooners play the top-ranked Crimson Tide in the Orange Bowl semifinal on Dec. 29 in the seventh bowl matchup of Heisman winner and runner-up, and the first since the second-place finisher Vince Young and Texas beat Reggie Bush and Southern California in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

This season, Murray stepped into the starting job held by last year’s Heisman winner and first overall N.F.L. draft pick, Baker Mayfield. Oklahoma is the first team with have Heisman-winning quarterbacks in consecutive seasons and the fifth over all with winners in back-to-back years.

“This is crazy,” Murray said in his acceptance speech. “This is an honor, something that I’ll never forget. Something that I’ll always cherish for the rest of my life.”

Murray, a pinpoint passer and explosive runner, surpassed the production of Mayfield. Murray has averaged 380 yards of offense a game and accounted for 51 touchdowns. Mayfield finished last season averaging 353 yards and accounting for 49 touchdowns.

The winner this season, unlike most, was not a foregone conclusion, but Murray (517 first-place votes and 2,167 points) ended up with a fairly comfortable margin of 296 points over Tagovailoa. Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the other finalist, was a distant third with 783 points. Three more quarterbacks followed: Will Grier of West Virginia, Gardner Minshew II of Washington State and McKenzie Milton of Central Florida.

Murray was named on 92 percent of the ballots, the third most ever. Tagovailoa had 1,871 points, the most for a runner-up in the 84 years of the Heisman.

Tagovailoa was the Heisman front-runner for most of the season, but Murray surged late as the Sooners turned to him and its offense to bail out a leaky defense. And Tagovailoa picked a bad time to have his worst game of the season, throwing two interceptions in the Southeastern Conference championship against Georgia and leaving early with a sprained ankle.

Murray’s first season as a starting quarterback in college is set up to also be his last. He has signed a $4.66 million contract with the Oakland Athletic after he was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft in June. Listed at 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds, Murray is small for an N.F.L. quarterback but talented enough to be an intriguing prospect if he gave it a try.

Oklahoma’s late-season Heisman campaign for Murray harked back to Bo Jackson, the 1985 Heisman winner, who went on to star in the N.F.L. and M.L.B.

“I’d like to do both if possible,” Murray said Friday. “But I don’t know how possible that is.”

The N.F.L. draft analyst Dane Brugler of The Athletic called Murray a potential top-50 pick.

“The N.F.L. hasn’t had a 5-10 or shorter quarterback have sustained success in a long time, but Murray has a rare skill-set with his arm talent, mobility and instincts,” Brugler said.

For the next month, though, Murray is focused on capping his college career with a national championship. He took a circuitous route to get to a place many expected him to be.

His high school career made him a Texas legend. Playing for Allen High School, just outside of Dallas, Murray won three straight state championships and his team went 42-0 with him starting.

A five-star recruit, he signed with Texas A&M in 2015, looking to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman winner. Murray spent one tumultuous season with the Aggies, playing eight games before deciding to transfer.

At Oklahoma, the plan was sit out the 2016 season to fulfill N.C.A.A. transfer rules and then step in for Mayfield in 2016. But Mayfield was granted an extra year of eligibility and returned for the 2017 season, relegating Murray to backup duty.

His brief stints provided glimpses of a potential star. This season, as the focal point of Coach Lincoln Riley’s creative offense, Murray blossomed.

Murray fought back tears while thanking Riley.

“You pushed me harder than any coach ever has,” Murray said, “and I just want to say thank you for believing in me and allowing me to be the quarterback of this team. The leader of this team.”


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