One cliche in college football is that you can’t win the Heisman Trophy in the first game of the season, but you can lose it.
Going into the season, Josh Rosen was on most people’s Heisman lists, but nowhere near the top. UCLA’s junior quarterback, who had been labeled “Chosen Rosen’ in high school and grabbed headlines as an outspoken freshman, wasn’t even considered the top QB in Southern California going into 2017.
That title was stolen from him by arch-rival Sam Darnold, who led USC to an epic comeback against Penn State last January on Rosen’s home field.
Not that Rosen, who had an injury plagued sophomore season, was avoiding the spotlight. He made headlines last spring by telling Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes that “”football and school’ don’t go together. but came into this season with more of a matter-of-fact attitude.
Heisman candidate? Rosen was in the “other QB contenders” pile, behind Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, returning winner Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett.
Most of Rosen’s season opener on Sunday against Texas A&M did nothing to change that perception. Through much of the first three quarters, the Aggies chased, hit, knocked down and pounded Rosen, who seemed confused and overwhelmed as A&M built a seemingly insurmountable, 38-10, halftime lead.
And then….Chosen Rosen re-emerged, leading the Bruins to five consecutive touchdowns as they came back from a 44-10 deficit to pull out a 45-44 victory, the greatest comeback in school history and the second greatest in the annals of FBS lore.
Rosen finished 35 of 59 for 491 yards and four scores, including the game-winner in the final minute capped by a fake spike and touchdown toss, to Jordan Lasley, called by first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
“That was all coach Fisch,” Rosen said afterward.
But it was Rosen, though, who calmly pulled the trigger.
Opening game efforts often get lost in the Heisman contender clutter, but this one felt different. This was in prime time national television. It was a historic comeback, with extra twists–the fake spike and some controversy over whether Lasley had full control of the pass as he danced out of the end zone. And it was between two Power 5 schools with big time ambitions.
One of the knocks on Rosen is that he hasn’t always been a committed teammate. This may have been the game, however, in which he not only won a game, but won the locker room.
“Josh is the real deal,” said tight end Caleb Wilson, who had 205 receiving yards on 15 catches in the victory. “He showed it today. He never pouted, he never got sad. He showed moxie.”
All of this should work in Rosen’s Heisman favor.
History tells us Rosen must do much more. It wouldn’t hurt if he lead the Bruins into the college football playoff the way the Pac 12’s last Heisman winner, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, did.
But when Heisman contenders are being discussed in November, the A&M game and Rosen’s effort will again be discussed. That might just be enough to win him the Heisman, which is why Josh Rosen is TMG’s Newsmaker of the Week.