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Alabama's Smith wins Heisman trophy

By Matt Baker
Tampa Bay Times/TNS

Florida quarterback Kyle Trask’s bid at Gators history fell short Tuesday night when Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith won the Heisman Trophy as college football’s most outstanding player. Trask was one of the four finalists.

Trask broke program records in passing touchdowns (43) and yards (4,283) for the SEC East champions. He established himself as an early frontrunner and entered the final month of the season as the betting favorite to earn the sport’s most prestigious individual honor and become the fourth Heisman winner in Gators history. But he and his team slipped down the stretch.

The turning point likely came on Dec. 12 against LSU. With star tight end Kyle Pitts - who finished 10th in the Heisman race - sidelined with an injury, Trask and the Gators struggled. Trask completed less than 62 percent of his throws with as many touchdown passes (two) as interceptions. Thanks in part to the most famous thrown shoe in college football history, UF lost as big favorites against LSU.

Trask played admirably the next week in the SEC championship against Alabama, passing for 408 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But his comeback attempt ran out of time against two other Heisman finalists.

Trask’s worst game of the season (three interceptions, no touchdowns) in UF’s Cotton Bowl embarrassment against Oklahoma happened after the votes were cast.

Although the 900-plus voters did not rank him as the top player in the country, Trask’s performance nonetheless ranked among the best in UF history. Only four other Gators have ever finished in the top four in Heisman voting: Steve Spurrier (who won in 1966), Danny Wuerffel (third in ’95, first in ’96), Rex Grossman (second in 2001) and Tim Tebow (first in ’07, third in ’08).

He could not, however, keep history from being made elsewhere.

Smith became only the fourth receiver ever to win the Heisman, after Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers (‘72), Notre Dame’s Tim Brown (’87) and Michigan’s Desmond Howard (’91). The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Louisiana native is a master technician and one of the focal points of an Alabama offense that enters Monday’s national championship in Miami as one of the best ever.

When ballots were due, Smith led the nation with 98 catches for 1,511 yards, and his 17 receiving touchdowns ranked second. He also returned a punt for a touchdown against Arkansas and recovered a key onside kick against the Gators in the SEC championship.

Smith, who was also the Associated Press’ Player of the Year, is only the third non-quarterback to win the other award this century. The other two are also from ‘Bama: running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015).

Trask will not be back in Gainesville next season to have another crack at the award because he is entering the NFL draft, where he is expected to be chosen in the early rounds. But another Gators passer could be.

According to early betting lines, UF’s expected starter, Emory Jones, is among the 15 Heisman frontrunners in ’21.

Wide receiver DeVonta Smith of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes for a touchdown over the defense of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first quarter of a 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game on Jan. 1, 2021 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Smith has won the Heisman Trophy as college football's most outstanding player.