Donnel Pumphrey

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Nearly 15 years later, NCAA refusing to retroactively count bowl stats remains baffling

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San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey set the all-time career rushing record on Saturday by eclipsing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in a victory over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. Or did he?

Pumphrey ended his career with an all-time total of 6,405 rushing yards, cementing himself in first place on the all-time rushing leaders list. Dayne finished his college career with 6,397 rushing yards, but that total does not include Dayne’s rushing total from the bowl games he played. If you include Dayne’s postseason rushing totals, including three bowl games with 200+ rushing yards, Dayne finished his career with 7,125 rushing yards, a point the former Badgers Heisman Trophy winner was quick to note in a congratulatory tweet.

So why do we count Pumphrey’s postseason stats but not Dayne’s?

The simple answer is the NCAA is probably too lazy to do some research to go back in time and retroactively count bowl stats for teams and players.

In 2002, the NCAA made the decision to start counting bowl game stats with the official records for regular season performance. The decision was made to make college football record-keeping consistent with how records are held for other NCAA sports, where postseason results are counted on top of regular season stats.

“Each sport we compile statistics in, that’s the way it’s done,” Gary Johnson, senior assistant director of statistics at the NCAA, said in 2002. “We’re basically bringing football in line.”

The NCAA began tracking and officially recording stats in 1937. At the time, only a small handful of bowl games existed, so there was no need seen to keep track of bowl stats in the same fashion. As time went on and more teams were given opportunities to play in a postseason bowl game, it was determined that there was a new need to keep track of bowl stats since it affected more than just a small handful of programs. Some conferences, like the Big Ten, had already taken the initiative to keep bowl game stats on the record, but the NCAA was slow to adapt (surprise, surprise). The problem is the NCAA decided to not go back and make bowl game stats from before 2002 a part of the record books. Why?

That’s a good question, especially since in 2002 Purdue sports information director Tom Schott expressed his desire to see the NCAA choose to go back and do juts that at some point.

“I think it’s doable,” Schott said. “I can understand them not wanting to go back right now. I hope at some point they go back.”

Here we are in 2016, and approaching 2017, and no initiative has been made to dig into the archives to adjust the records accordingly. And because of the decision not to retroactively count bowl game stats before 2002, we have a new all-time rushing leader on the record books, much to the dismay of the Wisconsin faithful.

If altering the record books is a way to preserve the history of the game as it was seen and recorded for decades, that defeats the purpose of keeping track of history. Football stats may be trivial to most, but the NCAA is making a very simple decision not to preserve the history of the game as it actually occurred out of pure laziness. To suddenly change the way history is recorded when such an obvious option to better preserve it exists without taking the measure to do so is silly. To me, the solution is simple. Either count all the bowl game stats or none of them. Either way is fine, so long as it is consistent.

It’s time to have somebody at the NCAA correct this blatant inaccuracy with the official record books. Until they do, the NCAA is devaluing the significance of their own individual records.

AAC gets off to bumpy 0-2 start to the bowl season

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The American Athletic Conference may be, arguably, the strongest and deepest of the Group of Five conferences in college football, but the bowl season has not gotten off to a good start for the conference that sells itself is the sixth power conference. Houston and UCF both took losses in the two bowl games involving teams from the AAC on Saturday, getting the conference off to a disappointing 0-2 start to the season.

Houston suffered a blowout loss in the Las Vegas Bowl against Mountain West Conference champion San Diego State, with Donnel Pumphrey setting the new all-time NCAA rushing record in the process. The Cougars were a five-point favorite heading into the matchup with the Aztecs and returned home with a 24-point loss in the head coaching debut of Major Applewhite. For a team that knocked off top five opponents Oklahoma and Louisville in the regular season, ending the year with a 9-4 record and a Las Vegas Bowl loss (and a head coach to Texas) was a bitter ending to a promising season. UCF’s loss to Arkansas State was not quite as shocking of an upset, with the Knights coming into the Cure Bowl as a slight favorite against the Sun Belt co-champions.

The image problem for the AAC is it just suffered two losses to champions from two other Group of Five conferences right out of the gate. And it is not as though the AAC had a stellar postseason last year either. The AAC went just 2-6 in postseason bowl games a year ago, the worst overall record of any conference. The bowl record a year ago was overshadowed by Houston’s victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl, but the AAC went winless against Conference USA (0-2), the MAC (0-1), and the Mountain West Conference (0-1) last bowl season. The American went 2-3 in bowl games in 2014 and 2013 too.

If the AAC is going to come together and support its case to be the top Group of Five conference, it will have its work cut out for them the rest of the bowl season, although there may be some favorable matchups to come.

Tulsa will take on Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl, and the Golden Hurricane should be a decent favorite in the game. But one should never count out the Chippewas this time of year. Memphis gets a tough draw against Conference USA champion Western Kentucky, although the Hilltoppers are going through a coaching change that could impact the team in the Boca Raton Bowl. Navy’s matchup with Louisiana Tech could be a challenge given recent depth concerns for the Midshipmen from their last two games played against Temple and Army.

Two AAC teams, Temple and USF, will take on power conference opponents, Wake Forest and South Carolina, respectively. Both the Owls and Bulls should stand a good chance to boost the AAC’s record and to do so against the ACC and SEC would be a good finish for the conference. But if the AAC comes up with another losing record and tacks on more losses against Group of Five conference opponents, the talk about the AAC’s pedigree among non-power conferences will be tarnished for an entire offseason.

Pumphrey breaks record, San Diego State breaks Houston’s offense in Las Vegas Bowl

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Donnel Pumphrey became the FBS all-time leading rusher and San Diego State earned a 34-10 triumph over Houston in a Las Vegas Bowl that will be remembered as one of the best wins in Aztec football history.

Though the Aztecs eventually ran away for the win, the first quarter played completely differently. Like a Houston rout, to be exact. Thanks to a Ty Cummings field goal and a Greg Ward, Jr., touchdown plunge, the Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead, limiting the Aztecs’ offense to four punts and three three-and-outs to open the game. Houston finished the frame with a 102-5 yardage advantage, limiting Pumphrey’s first seven carries to minus-1 yard.

The game after that, though. John Baron II chipped in two short field goals to get the Aztecs on the board, while the San Diego State defense limited Houston to just five total yards in the second quarter.

That domination continued in the third quarter as three consecutive Houston drives ended in Ward interceptions. The Cougars forced a punt after the first pick, but Pumphrey cashed in on the second with a 32-yard touchdown jaunt to put San Diego State on top 13-10 at the 3:14 mark of the third quarter, and Ron Smith stepped in front of a wide receiver screen and raced it 54 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 20-10 with 56 seconds left in the frame. Ward finished the day completing 25-of-34 passes for 229 yards with four interceptions while netting zero yards on 14 rushes and eight sacks. He was sacked three times on Houston’s next-to-last possession alone, including a fourth down that the Coogs’ coaches for some reason felt necessary to go for despite being deep in their own territory and trailing by 17 with just over three minutes remaining.

Pumphrey topped Ron Dayne‘s all-time record early in the fourth quarter, racing 15 yards around right tackle to become the first player in FBS history to top the 6,400 yard mark. Pumphrey finished the day with 19 carries for 115 yards and one touchdown, officially closing his record-breaking career with 1,059 carries for 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns spread over 53 games. He also became the only player in FBS history to record three consecutive seasons of 2,000 rushing/receiving yards. Dayne, as far as the NCAA is concerned, carried for 6,397 yards on 1,149 carries in 47 countable games. (Dayne, however, rushed for 7,125 yards when including three non-countable bowl games.)

After San Diego State turned away a desperation 4th-and-1 Ward rush at the Houston 31-yard line, the Aztecs put the game away with 8:58 to play as Christian Chapman (10-of-14 passing for 128 yards) hit Curtis Anderson III over the top for a 28-yard play-action touchdown pass, nudging the score to an out-of-reach 27-10. Juwan Washington punched in the capper on a 13-yard carry with 1:11 left to play. In the only downer of the day for the club, Rashaad Penny totaled only 10 yards on nine carries, leaving him five yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark to go with Pumphrey’s 2,133 yards this season.

The win pushed San Diego State to 11-3 on the year, the second consecutive season the Aztecs have won 11 games and the Mountain West championship, cementing SDSU’s status as the nation’s most underrated program. Houston’s loss dropped the Cougars to 9-4 on the year and 0-1 in the Major Applewhite era.

Donnel Pumphrey breaks Ron Dayne’s FBS all-time rushing record

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One average rush for Donnel Pumphrey became, as a famous man once said, a giant rush for college football history.

With a 15-yard carry in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl, Pumphrey became the all-time leading rusher in FBS history, passing Wisconsin runner Ron Dayne‘s mark of 6,397 carries. The carry pushed the San Diego State rusher to 6,402 career yards on 1,058 carries.

Pumphrey finished the game rushing 19 times for 115 yards and a touchdown, and finished his career with 1,059 carries for 6,405 yards and 62 touchdowns spread over 53 games.

However, it must be noted, the record does come with an asterisk.

Had the NCAA kept records throughout Dayne’s career as they did in Pumphrey’s, the Wisconsin rusher would’ve closed his career with 1,220 carries for 7,125 yards spread across 50 games. Officially, Dayne carried for 6,397 yards on 1,149 carries in 47 countable games.

So Dayne holds the mark of running for the most yards in FBS games, but Pumphrey is the FBS all-time rushing leader. Makes perfect sense, right?

In an odd bit of history, Brent Musburger was also on the call when Ricky Williams broke Tony Dorsett‘s FBS record in 1998 (which Dayne smashed just one year later). Williams, like Pumphrey, was exactly 11 yards shy of the mark on the carry that broke the record as well. Handing the ball off to Williams on that carry? Houston head coach Major Applewhite.

Donnel Pumphrey 50 yards short of record as Houston leads SDSU in Vegas Bowl

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San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey stands 50 yards short of the FBS all-time rushing record as his Aztecs trail Houston 10-6 at the half in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Houston’s Ty Cummings opened the scoring with a 31-yard field goal at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter. The Cougars’ next drive moved 74 yards in 10 plays, culminating in a 2-yard Greg Ward, Jr., plunge to give Houston a 10-0 lead through one quarter.

After four consecutive punts and three three-and-outs to open the game, San Diego State finally mounted a substantive drive midway through the second quarter, moving to the Houston 5-yard line before settling for a 23-yard John Baron II chip shot at the 6:28 mark of the frame. Baron added another field goal, this one a 28-yarder, at the 1:29 mark to pull the Aztecs within four.

More important historically than the outcome of a single bowl game is Pumphrey’s march toward history. He entered the game needing 108 yards to break Ron Dayne‘s FBS all-time rushing record of 6,397 yards and at the break has notched 58 yards on 13 carries. (It should be noted the records are a bit funky, as Dayne did so in 47 official games since bowl statistics did not count toward season stats until Dayne’s senior season of 1999; the Las Vegas Bowl is Pumphrey’s 53rd career game.)

For Houston, Ward has completed 7-of-11 passes for 81 yards while the Cougars have mustered only 26 yards on 18 total carries. Houston is playing without second-leading receiver Chance Allen, serving a suspension for a violation of team rules.

Houston out-gained San Diego State 102-5 in the first quarter, while SDUS returned the favor with a 94-5 margin in the second quarter.