Donnel Pumphrey broke the NCAA career rushing record Saturday in his college finale, running for 115 yards and a touchdown in San Diego State’s 34-10 victory over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Pumphrey passed former Wisconsin star Ron Dayne’s mark of 6,397 yards on a 15-yard run early in the fourth quarter, with teammates swarming him on the sideline, and wrapping up his sensational career in his Nevada hometown with 6,405 yards.
“It means the world to me,” Pumphrey said as his father wiped away tears before hugging him.
Pumphrey’s senior total of 2,133 yards rushing ranks in the top 10 for a FBS player.
Ron Smith returned an interception 54 yards for a touchdown, Curtis Anderson caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Christian Chapman, Juwan Washington ran for a touchdown, and John Baron kicked two field goals for the Aztecs (11-3). They overcame a 10-0 first-quarter deficit against the Cougars (9-4) for their second consecutive bowl win.
Neither the victory nor Pumphrey’s record-setting performance seemed likely after Houston’s defense absolutely smothered the Aztecs in the first quarter. Led by freshman Ed Oliver, Houston had seven tackles for loss on San Diego State’s first 16 plays. Pumphrey had 1 yard rushing on seven carries in the first quarter and the Aztecs didn’t have a first down until the first play of the second quarter — on a penalty for running into the kicker.
But Pumphrey started to gash Houston on the perimeter, giving San Diego State the lead for good on a 32-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, and the defense intercepted four of Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr.’s passes in the second half.
Ward threw for 229 yards and had a 2-yard touchdown run, tying Bryce Beall’s school record of 39 rushing touchdowns.