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Gardner Minshew misses out on chance to become second Washington State Heisman finalist

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 3, 2018, 9:12 p.m.

Quarterback Gardner Minshew missed a chance to join former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf (1997) as the Cougars’ only Heisman Trophy finalists. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Quarterback Gardner Minshew missed a chance to join former Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf (1997) as the Cougars’ only Heisman Trophy finalists. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

PULLMAN – A trio of quarterbacks will head to New York City for Saturday’s Heisman Trophy Ceremony, but Washington State’s Gardner Minshew won’t be among them.

Despite turning heads in his first and only season as the Cougars’ starting quarterback, Minshew missed out on an opportunity to become the school’s second Heisman Trophy finalist – and first since Ryan Leaf in 1997 – when the list of candidates was whittled down to three finalists Monday evening and broadcast on ESPN’s NFL Countdown Show.

Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins are still in the running to win the 83rd Heisman Trophy. According to the website Bovada, Murray, the two-sport OU star who also has a professional baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics, has the best odds.

All three finalists won conference championships over the weekend, presumably helping set them apart from the rest of the field. Tagovailoa and No. 1 Alabama will meet Murray and No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29, while Haskins and No. 6 OSU will meet Pac-12 champion Washington in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl.

The Heisman ceremony can take up to six finalists, but the fact that only three players were selected this year indicates there was a significant gap between the third- and fourth-place vote-getters.

Minshew is still expected to finish in the top 10 of the voting, which will be announced Saturday, and would become just the eighth player in program history to accomplish the feat.

WSU’s other top-10 finishers are quarterback Jack Thompson (9th, 1978), running back Rueben Mayes (10th, 1984), quarterback Timm Rosenbach (7th, 1988), quarterback Drew Bledsoe (8th, 1992), Leaf (3rd, 1997), quarterback Jason Gesser (7th, 2002) and running back Jerome Harrison (9th, 2005).

The national leader in passing yards per game, Minshew still has a good chance to become the second-highest vote-getter in school history. Bovada gave him the seventh-best odds of winning the Heisman, behind the three finalists, Clemson running back Travis Etienne, West Virginia quarterback Will Grier and Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Minshew was considered one of the top-three Heisman candidates late in the season, and the school launched an official campaign for the QB prior to WSU’s game against Arizona, but his chances of getting to the Big Apple dipped after Minshew threw no touchdowns and two interceptions in WSU’s 28-15 loss to UW in the regular-season finale. It was not only the first game all season in which he failed to throw a TD, but the first in which Minshew failed to eclipse 300 passing yards, accumulating just 152 yards in a driving snowstorm.

Despite the Heisman miss, Minshew still gets an East Coast trip this weekend. The East Carolina transfer learned Monday he’d won the 2018 Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award – given to the nation’s top fourth-year junior or senior QB – and will fly to Baltimore to be recognized in a ceremony on Friday.

Minshew, who has hit the 400-yard mark in six games this season and is still on pace to break Jared Goff’s single-season Pac-12 conference record, is also a finalist for the Walter Camp Award and the Davey O’Brien Quarterback Award. He’ll also likely be named the Pac-12’s Offensive Player of the Year when the conference hands out its annual awards on Tuesday.


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USA Today tabs Washington State right tackle Abraham Lucas as Freshman All-American

UPDATED: 6:30 p.m.

Lucas started all 12 games on WSU’s offensive line during the regular season and helped the Cougars reduce their sacks total from 44 in 2017 to just 11 in 2018. The Everett native and Archbishop Murray product anchored the right side of an offensive line that was named a semifinalist for the Joe Moore Award – given to the nation’s top O-line – and he was integral in WSU’s FBS-leading passing totals.