All Buffalo running back Jaret Patterson wanted this fall was an opportunity to showcase his talents, so he launched a player-led movement to encourage the MAC to host a 2020 fall football season.
He got that, and more.
Through four games in the 2020 campaign, Patterson has become a walking record book. While re-writing history from week to week, there’s one more individual accolade Patterson should be considered for — the Heisman Trophy.
The Heisman Trophy is essentially a quarterback and running back award. Every winner since 1998 played one of the two positions. So when picking the most impactful quarterback or running back in 2020, ask yourself this — are any quarterbacks posting jaw-dropping numbers and shattering record books to this degree?
Seemingly every week, Patterson treats college football fans to a new record. Whether it’s a program achievement, a MAC rushing record or most touchdowns in an FBS game, he finds a way to secure a spot in history every time he touches the field. For instance, we just witnessed second occurrence of back-to-back 300-yard games in the sport’s history. Patterson is accomplishing feats we hardly ever see, and his pronounced impact on the record books has to be recognized.
Last Saturday, Patterson tied the records for most rushing touchdowns and most total touchdowns scored in a single game, previously held by former Illinois great Howard Griffith. The junior tailback charged for eight touchdowns against an undefeated Kent State team, solely responsible for 48 of Buffalo’s 70 points. On top of his scoring production, Patterson sprinted his way to 409 rushing yards — the second greatest single-game total of all time, just 18 yards behind former Oklahoma running back Samaje Perine. When combining the impact of the yards and touchdowns, Patterson manufactured the greatest rushing performance in college football history.
It’s not like Patterson kept punching it in from the 1-yard line against Kent State. He broke free for six runs of 30 yards or greater — and four of those runs wound up in the end zone. Patterson has the complete package. His combination of speed, vision, strength, cutting, and the ability to break out of any tackle is unmatched by any running back in the FBS.
That Kent State rushing barrage was by no means a one hit wonder for Patterson. This is what he does. Just one week prior, the Buffalo running back burst for 301 rushing yards and four touchdowns on Bowling Green, breaking his own single-game MAC rushing record set in 2019.
The only other player to post 300 rushing yards in back-to-back games is Texas running back Ricky Williams. He had the best two game stretch in college football history in 1998 with a 668 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Patterson topped both numbers over his most recent 2-game stretch. In his past two performances, Patterson holds 710 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns at 10.6 yards per carry to his name.
Williams won the Heisman Trophy that season, racking up 714 first-place votes. The second-place finisher, Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop, received just 41. A precedent for producing these lofty numbers has been set by Williams and it resulted in a Heisman.
Patterson is at a clear disadvantage due to the unprecedented nature of the 2020 season, however. By the time the Heisman Trophy ballots are counted, he will have played a maximum of seven games — six regular season contests and a potential MAC Championship, a game in which Buffalo is currently on track to participate. Winning the conference title with one of the few undefeated records entering bowl season could work wonders for his Heisman campaign, and he’ll likely catch up to the nation’s statistical leaders by then. But despite playing four games before the month of December arrived, Patterson already ranks among the nation’s elite in every rushing category.
In total rushing yards, Patterson is in fifth place with 920. In rushing touchdowns, he ranks second with 16, one behind Alabama running back Najee Harris who has played eight games this season. Patterson’s 8.6 yards per carry rank first among all running backs and his 230 rushing yards per outing are superior to any player in college football. The next closest running back in rushing yards per game is Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim, who trails Patterson’s average by over 66 yards.
Is four games too small of a sample size? Is this sustainable? Of course it’s sustainable and past data proves Patterson accumulates these astronomical statistics on a regular basis. Look at manner in which Jaret Patterson concluded his 2019 season. As a sophomore, he ranked fifth in the country in total rushing yards and pieced together an off-the-charts stretch to end the season. In his final six games, Patterson broke out for 1,113 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns, securing a Bahamas Bowl MVP in Buffalo’s first-ever bowl victory. All six of those games featured a minimum of 140 rushing yards.
MAC players aren’t accustomed to the Heisman race, but it’s not completely uncharted territory for the conference. While no MAC player has claimed the prestigious award, several have garnered a considerable amount of votes. You only have to backtrack seven years to find former Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch sitting front row in New York at the 2013 Heisman Trophy ceremony. Lynch, who held the single-game rushing record for quarterbacks until 2017, finished third place with 40 first-place votes. Additionally, former MAC member Marshall produced three top-6 Heisman finishers in the past quarter-century, with Randy Moss checking in at fourth place in 1997, Chad Pennington at fifth in 1998, and Byron Leftwich landing at sixth place in 2002.
One more word that lurks in the Heisman mission statement that Patterson embodies is “integrity.” Check that box off as well for the Buffalo running back. Head coach Lance Leipold often harps on how great of a practice player and teammate Patterson is and how vital he is to the program off the field. But if you ask Patterson about his greatness, you’ll never comprehend it because he never makes it about himself. He always redirects the credit for these record-breaking performances toward the offensive line, the coaching staff, and everyone else in the Buffalo program as those responsible for his records.
Patterson, a very team-centric player, often reiterates his goal of winning a MAC Championship for Buffalo. By launching for 920 yards in four games, Patterson is benefitting his team in immense fashion and the Bulls are 4-0 with an average margin of victory greater than 26 points. Buffalo ranks first in the country in scoring offense, second in rushing yards per game, and in the bottom five in average turnovers committed. Patterson isn’t producing empty stats — he’s changing the complexion of an entire program.
Patterson is a record-setter, he is the captain of an undefeated team, he is a one-of-a-kind talent, and most importantly, he is a well-deserving Heisman candidate. When the renowned trophy is awarded this January, No. 26 belongs in the conversation for the 2020 Heisman Trophy recipient.