Pumphrey can set rushing record
las vegas» When Donnel Pumphrey arrived at San Diego State from Las Vegas, even head coach Rocky Long was concerned he was too small to play running back.
Returning home for his final college game in the Las Vegas Bowl against Houston on Saturday, Pumphrey has more than put those doubts to rest as he needs 108 yards to pass Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne for most career rushing yards in NCAA history.
“We don’t think about his size anymore because he’s a big-time player,” Long said.
Pumphrey is listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, leading Aztecs offensive coordinator Jeff Horton to joke that “two Pumphs would equal one Dayne.” Horton would know, having coached the bruising Dayne during his Heisman Trophy-winning senior season in 1999 as he finished with 6,397 career yards rushing, although the NCAA did not include statistics from bowl games at the time.
Horton was hoping to get in touch with Dayne by phone this week and have him speak to Pumphrey. The two most prolific rushers in the sport might not share similar builds, Horton said, but have the same competitive fire.
“A lot of running backs aren’t my size,” Pumphrey said. “That’s why I try to play with a chip on my shoulder and play as big as possible. I try to play like I’m 6-1, 240 or whatnot. That’s just how my game is.”
Pumphrey has rushed for 6,290 yards in four seasons, including a school single-season record 2,018 yards to lead SDSU (10-3) to its second consecutive conference title. He needs 110 yards to have one of the 10 most-productive rushing seasons in college football, and is the only FBS player with 5,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his career.
But Pumphrey seems entirely nonplussed by what he has accomplished statistically and what he can still do, leaving his teammates to tout the record.
“The team wants it more than him,” running back Rashaad Penny said.
However, the Cougars (9-3) have a rush defense ranked No. 3 in the nation and won’t concede the record in their first game under new head coach Major Applewhite. Houston held Big 12 champion Oklahoma to just 70 yards rushing and a Louisville offense with Heisman winner Lamar Jackson to 101 yards on the ground.
Freshman defensive lineman Ed Oliver could not be stopped in those games, with five tackles for loss, four sacks and a forced fumble in the two marquee wins.