San Diego State had a phenomenal Heisman candidate this season in senior running back Donnell Pumphrey. The Aztecs star and leader helped produce a 10-3 season and a repeat Mountain West Championship for the Aztecs. He did everything and more to earn a nod to become a Heisman finalist.
During the 2016 season, Pumphrey played dominantly. The senior carried the ball 330 times on the season and rushed for 2,018 yards. He also found the end zone 16 times on the ground and caught 26 passes for 205 more all-purpose yards.
Donnel’s consistency was also a plus. He averaged over four yards per carry in all but one game this season while also rushing for 110 yards or more in 10 of the Aztec’s 13 games. What’s more, that he exceeded 200 yards rushing in four games (and 198 yards in another) is simply remarkable- especially considering he did not play the fourth quarter in more than one of those games.
The senior became the 28th player in the NCAA to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season over the weekend, after gaining 110 yards in SDSU’s 27-24 win over Wyoming in the Mountain West Championship Game.
Pumphrey also became the 1st player ever in the NCAA to rush for over 6,000 yards and catch for over 1,000 yards- a remarkable and unprecedented feat.
Pumphrey, needs just 108 yards to become the #1 all-time most prolific running back in the NCAA. He currently sits between Heisman winner Ron Dayne and Heisman winner Ricky Williams.
Pumphrey’s exclusion ultimately means he did not appear on a significant enough number of ballots submitted by the 929 Heisman voters.
It also means San Diego State University did not garner as much media attention for its football phenom as did other universities. Donnel did not have the same exposure, and may not have gained the same mind share as the other candidates.
San Diego State University and the Mountain West conference must challenge the NCAA to recognize worthy programs when they emerge outside of Power 5 settings- for San Diego State; for Boise State, for Air Force, and for other teams that often find themselves receiving the short end of the NCAA stick.
If there’s one thing Pumphrey can take solace in it’s this: winning the Heisman is a crapshoot. It can be a curse more often than it is a blessing. Ask Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow or Robert Griffin III. Winning “ol’ stiff arm” did not help them.
So, who made the list of finalists? Louisville quarterback and self-promotion sensation Lamar Jackson; Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson; Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield; Oklahoma wide receiver Dede Westbrook, and Michigan athlete Jabrill Peppers all were invited to Saturday night’s ceremony (5 p.m. PT, ESPN). Many argue Pumphrey should have been the fourth man.
Pumphrey will, instead, prepare for SDSU’s Las Vegas Bowl game against Houston as he aims to secure the 108 yards needed to break the all-time NCAA rushing record. He may also head to Atlanta as a finalist for the 2016 Doak Walker Award, presented to college football’s premier running back.
You can talk about level of competition Donnel faced, but Pumphrey dominated the teams put in front of him and did so with superb consistency.
He absolutely deserved to be in attendance.