HUNTSVILLE, Texas -- Throughout this season, Lamar Jackson's touchdown count has been a popular statistic to track.
As the Louisville quarterback and Heisman Trophy front-runner racked up end-zone trips, it seemed an assault on the record books was inevitable ... until some November hiccups slowed his pace.
But there's another quarterback in college football who has kept pace with Jackson and still has a chance to etch his name into history, though you might not have heard of him: Sam Houston State quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe.
The junior from Houston has 53 touchdowns (52 passing, one rushing) for the 11-0 Bearkats, who host Chattanooga in the second round of the FCS playoffs Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN3).
Former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan holds the Division I and FBS records for overall touchdowns (63) and touchdown passes (58) in a season, while former Mississippi Valley State quarterback Willie Totten's 1984 marks of 61 overall touchdowns and 56 touchdown passes stand as the FCS records. If the Bearkats continue to win, all of these numbers are attainable for Briscoe, who is averaging 4.7 touchdowns passes per game for the FCS’ No. 1 offense.
Briscoe has thrown for at least six touchdowns in four games, has had five games of 400-plus passing yards, and is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the FCS Player of the Year.
“It’s amazing, not only the 52 touchdowns but the fact that he did that playing, usually, three quarters of a game,” said Sam Houston State coach K.C. Keeler, whose team is winning contests by an average of 28 points. “It’s a really tremendous season.”
It’s even more tremendous considering Briscoe's journey to this point: Two years ago, he was at UAB when the program was shut down.
"Oh, it's been a roller coaster, that's for sure," said the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Briscoe.
A four-star recruit out of high school, Briscoe was recruited by Baylor and Arkansas, but chose UAB because of his relationship with Garrick McGee and Richard Owens, who recruited Briscoe while they were assistants at Arkansas. Both went to UAB when McGee got the head-coaching job, and Briscoe eventually followed.
He enrolled in January 2013, redshirted, and then served as the Blazers’ backup quarterback in 2014, playing in six games. Things were going smoothly ... until the football program met its demise. Briscoe said he still remembers the feeling in the room when school president Ray Watts delivered the news.
"You could cut the tension with a knife,” Briscoe said. “There were so many emotions, from sadness to anger to confusion to shock. ... I don't think the president or the school realized -- I don't think we realized -- how much it would affect people's lives outside of football. I think that was really the hardest part. Ending everything we worked for was awful."
Suddenly Briscoe, like his teammates, scrambled to figure out his future. Final exams loomed as players tried to figure out how to get out of apartment leases and navigate their uncertain football futures. When college coaches from across the country descended on Birmingham to recruit the team’s players, Briscoe said it was "like a fire sale.”
“Coaches were renting out entire conference rooms in hotels, and you just go in from room to room to room to talk to them,” Briscoe said. “It was literally like speed dating.”
Briscoe chose to return to his home state -- in small part because he missed local staples such as Whataburger and good Mexican food -- and joined a program with a strong track record of recent success. Sam Houston State was coming off four consecutive FCS playoff appearances and had reached at least the national semifinals three of the four seasons prior to Briscoe's arrival.
One concern: There was no guarantee he would walk in and play. The team had a starting quarterback, Jared Johnson, who threw for 3,054 yards as a sophomore.
“All that really meant nothing to me because I'm confident in what I can do and I'm not scared of competition at all,” Briscoe said. “It was just a matter of getting the opportunity. ... I knew that if I got the opportunity, I would make the most of it.”
Keeler liked what he saw from Briscoe’s first spring, but one of Keeler's old college roommates confirmed Briscoe’s talent. Former New York Giants quarterback Scott Brunner, with whom Keeler played at Delaware, trains quarterbacks for TEST Football Academy in New Jersey and has worked with Joe Flacco and Zach Mettenberger. And Brunner took immediate notice of Briscoe.
“He came out and spent about a week in spring [here], just kind of watching what we did,” Keeler said. “The thing he said on the way out was, 'The Briscoe kid has special arm talent.' And I thought Jeremiah had a pretty good arm; I've been around some great ones. I didn't maybe recognize it as quickly as Scott did.”
In 2015, Briscoe split time with Johnson, who was the Southland Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year. Johnson transferred to UTSA before this season and Briscoe took the reins. His FCS-leading 4,096 passing yards are fewer than 1,000 away from the all-time FCS record (5,076, set by Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke in 2012) -- and it’s reachable if the Bearkats win a few more games.
Briscoe credits Johnson with helping the new QB learn the offense. “He's one of the most selfless people in the world, and I think that's why were able to be so successful last year,” Briscoe said.
Meanwhile, Briscoe has enjoyed being close to home. He is glad to be chasing records but is more concerned with the team goal: winning the FCS title.
“I wanted to come to a place that wanted to win a championship,” Briscoe said. “I have never won a championship in anything in my life. I've been second, I've been third. But I've never won one. That's something I've really, really wanted to do my entire life.”