The 2017 Heisman Trophy race is three months from being decided, but on Saturday, we received a reminder that every contender must prove that they're better than Lamar Jackson.
Winning the Heisman twice is nearly impossible. After all, only Archie Griffin has done it, and it requires a player living up to the absurdly high standard he set when he won the trophy. For Jackson, that means trying to match a 2016 season in which he had 5,114 yards of total offense and accounted for 51 touchdowns, in addition to overcoming the backlash to how Louisville's season ended.
It's only Purdue and North Carolina, but Jackson's repeat campaign is off to a hot start as he reminds us just how dominant he's capable of being. After throwing for 378 yards and rushing for 107 yards in a tight win over Purdue in Week 1, Jackson humiliated North Carolina in the No. 17 Cardinals' 47-35 win in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
Jackson completed 25 of 39 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns, and he rushed 19 times for 132 yards and three touchdowns. That adds up to 525 yards of total offense -- a yard more than Louisville had as a team against Purdue, and more yards than all but 40 FBS teams had in total entering Saturday. The Tar Heels kept things close for much of Saturday, but they had 401 total yards as a team and were out-gained by Louisville by 304, thanks mostly to Jackson.
Jackson showcased his escapability and arm strength in the second quarter with a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Smith:
Lamar Jackson, still good pic.twitter.com/HHKf2swaz1— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) September 9, 2017
Jackson had 43-yard touchdown run early in the second half, and he sealed the game with a spinning 11-yard touchdown run through traffic with 3:06 left to finish off a 99-yard drive after Louisville came up with a big stop at the one-yard line.
The Louisville defense, without top cornerback Jaire Alexander, had some issues against the pass, but the Cardinals did find a weapon to pair with Jackson in running back Malik Williams, who carried 13 times for 149 yards.
The 525 yards of total offense are the second-most Jackson has had at Louisville, behind only his 610-yard performance in Week 2 against Syracuse last year.
Lamar Jackson has 2 of the 3 seasons since 2000 in which a player accounted for 1,000 yards of offense through his team's first 2 games. pic.twitter.com/O8v9Uht7Mq— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 9, 2017
For Jackson, tormenting the Purdue and North Carolina defenses is one thing. We'll learn a lot more about his repeat Heisman chances in big games to come, starting with next Saturday's showdown with Clemson in Death Valley.
For now, though, Jackson has wasted no time reminding us exactly why he was deserving of the Heisman last year, no matter what happened to his team late in the season, and why he is capable of being a top contender again.