Former San Diego State senior running back Donnel Pumphrey made history in his last college game. Entering the Las Vegas Bowl against Houston, Pumphrey needed 108 yards to pass Ron Dayne for first place on the NCAA’s official all-time rushing list for FBS (or Division I-A) players. And Pumphrey did it, clearing Dayne’s 6,397-yard mark in the fourth quarter last December.
He was selected in the fourth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday by the Philadelphia Eagles.
This achievement isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The NCAA’s official record book has a policy not to include bowl or other postseason stats from before 2002, but it does count all bowl stats accrued since then. The all-time list including postseason stats for everyone is here, via Sports Reference. Dayne is on top of it.
Pumphrey gets the benefit of his numbers from four bowl games in four years, and they’re substantial. He had 213 bowl rushing yards coming into Saturday, plus another 200 in Mountain West title games. That’s 413 yards Pumphrey gets credit for compared to Dayne, not yet counting this year’s numbers.
Dayne’s real rushing total, counting postseason games, is 7,125 yards, all earned at Wisconsin from the 1996 to 1999 seasons. Dayne congratulated Pumphrey while also pointing out that number.
The NCAA doesn’t credit Dayne with 728 postseason yards. If it did, Pumphrey would’ve entered the bowl game a full 835 yards behind Dayne. We can probably deduce he wouldn’t have been able to catch him.
The same goes for Tony Dorsett, who ran for 6,526 postseason-included yards at Pitt between 1973 and 1976. Pumphrey entered his last game 237 yards behind him for second place behind Dayne on the all-inclusive rushing list. But in the NCAA’s view, Pumphrey entered the day 208 yards up on Dorsett.
None of this is to denigrate Pumphrey, a great player wrapping up a great career. He is, indeed, among the most prolific runners ever to play college football. He got to have a deserved, cool moment with his dad on the field after the game.
He just wasn’t more prolific than Dayne and Dorsett, no matter how the NCAA decides to count yards.