LAS VEGAS, NV- All he needed was 108 yards. The University of Houston just discovered that big things can from small packages. San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey Jr. is listed as 5-foot-9, 180 pounds. In real-time, Pumphrey seems to be a little bit smaller than that. That’s okay. What’s he’s done rushing the football has made him a giant in college football. How about legend.
Just call Pumphrey the little guy with the big heart, one that refuses to be measured by second-guessing and doubters. Pumphrey gave a kiss good-bye to all the disbelievers by going rogue against the Houston defense in the Las Vegas Bowl to become the all-time rushing king in college football.
Rushing for a game-high 115 yards in leading San Diego State to a convincing 34-10 win against Houston at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Pumphrey climbed above Mount Everest and is sitting on top of the mountaintop of most yards gained by a running back in NCAA Division I history.
“When you give a great back that many at-bats and that many opportunities, ne is going to spit at some point and it did,” Houston coach Major Applewhite said after the game.
By the time Pumphrey was finished with the Cougars, he had concluded his college football career with 6, 405 yards, surpassing former Wisconsin great Ron Dayne. That’s a lot of mileage on the treads.
That means Pumphrey has surpassed O.J. Simpson, Eric Dickerson and Hershel Walker. His career performance outweighs what Tony Dorsett, Reggie Bush, Mike Garrett and Mike Rozier did. Along the way, Pumphrey slid by Jim Brown, Marcus Allen, Emmitt Smith and Hall of Fame running back and former San Diego State star Marshall Faulk on the list.
That’s not too bad for a player who was not invited to the 2016 Heisman Trophy presentation, even though he had rushed for 2, 018 yards and 16 touchdowns this season prior to the Las Vegas Bowl. But Pumprehy didn’t just waltz to the top of the yardage list. The first quarter resembled the mash unit as Houston went all out to make sure Pumphrey didn’t break loose.
The Cougars didn’t just contain Pumphrey; they held the running back standout to minus one yards on seven rushing attempts. Pumphrey got it going in the second quarter, and then by the time the third quarter rolled around, Pumphrey cemented the Cougars’ demise with a 32-yard touchdown run. That wasn’t the record-breaker.
Pumphrey saw his wishes come to fruition when he took a toss and ran 15 yards to college football glory. Moments after breaking the all-time mark, what happened on the San Diego State sideline was precious as teammates immediately came over and mobbed Pumphrey.
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” Pumphrey sai during a postgame press conference. “They didn’t want me to break it against them. Our offensive line, they accepted the challenge. At first they (Houston) was controlling the line of scrimmage. Then our offensive line, they controlled the line of scrimmage from the second quarter all the way through the rest of the game. Our defense did great, so it was easier for us to be able to have the ball in our hands and be able to run the ball.”
Pumphrey and the Aztecs’ offense certainly benefitted from the four interceptions the team’s defensive unit had of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. However, this was clearly a stage that belonged to Pumphrey.
“I” just honestly blessed to be around these guys right here, and just to experience all of this with my teammates and my family and friends,” Pmphrey said. “It’s amazing.”