It was halfway through the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium during last Friday’s game. Donnel Pumphrey lined up wide. He ran a quick route and reached for the pass. Then, a San Jose State defensive back targeted him at near-top speed. The helmet-to-helmet strike was a full-bore stunner that brought Donnel to the ground, and sent his mouthpiece soaring through the air for what seemed to be an eternity.
The crowd gasped, and there was a moment of waiting to see what might happen next. It had the making of a major concussion hit, likely to be followed by a team of assistants helping a player hobble off the field with a game ending injury.
Then Pumphrey energetically jumped to his feet, and returned to the line. If that wasn’t a strong enough display of strength and resolve, what followed certainly was.
On the very next play, Christian Chapman handed off to Pumphrey. He veered around the left end. The defense was waiting for him out there, just like before. This time, Pumphrey dispensed with the cutbacks, and simply hit the throttle. Turning the corner and racing down the sideline, he left two Spartans diving onto a cloud of dust. He scored.
SJSU defensive back, Trevon Bierria, was ejected from the game. SJSU coach Ron Caragher enthusiastically ran over to give Bierria a “bro” handshake on the way out.
“A big hit,” Pumphrey said after making the 27-yard touchdown, with an ominous grin. “It got me excited.”
Late in the third quarter, Pumphrey scored another 23-yard touchdown. He found a gap up the middle and swerved past a linebacker, accelerating sharply as he reached the secondary. The final defender had no chance at stopping him.
“I hit them with speed,” he said. “Sometimes, that’s what you’ve got to do.”
Opposing coaches consider it a success when they can keep Donnel Pumphrey at or below 150 yards per game. SJSU was thrilled to keep him to 135 yards Friday. Still, he helped the Aztecs to a 42-3 win, and he remains first nationally with 1,246 yards for the season and eighth on the all-time list with 5,518 yards, now past LaDainian Tomlinson, Herschel Walker and Archie Griffin.
Here is a schedule of where the remaining all-time rushing leaders stand:
Rank Player Team (seasons) Total rushing yards
It will take 176 yards a game — right around his average — for Pumphrey to break Ron Dayne’s record in the regular season. If San Diego State reaches the conference championship and a bowl game, as expected, he might even get a chance to reach Dayne’s record during prime time, possibly in the Cotton Bowl.
College football fans have taken notice since Pumphrey’s name appeared on numerous award watch lists. Then, people started to realize Dayne’s record of 6,397 career yards was within reach. He has even put himself in position to surpass 6,400 career yards.
It would make Donnel Pumphrey the most prolific rusher in NCAA history.
Donnel Pumphrey hopes to join the very best players this season with an invitation to the Heisman Trophy presentation.
For now, we will continue to provide updates on his progress. Stay tuned.