This Day In Sports: Dorsett breaks an iconic college record

October 23, 1976: In a 45-0 defeat of Navy in Annapolis, Pittsburgh running back Tony Dorsett breaks the all-time college rushing record of Ohio State’s two-time Heisman Trophy winner, Archie Griffin. On the day, Dorsett rushed for 190 yards while also becoming the first player ever to run for over 1,000 in four different seasons. Keep in mind that 1) the season was 11 games long in those days, and 2) bowl game stats didn’t count. The future Dallas Cowboys star didn’t need to worry about either of those qualifiers, as the game at Navy came in Week 7.

Dorsett went into the game needing 152 yards to break Griffin’s career mark. At the end of the third quarter, Dorsett had 148. With the game in hand, Pitt coach Johnny Majors asked Dorsett, “Do you want to break it now, or wait until next week and do it at home?” Dorsett replied, “Coach, I’m not guaranteed next week.” So in the ultimate live-in-the-moment moment, Dorsett remained in the game. On the next play, he took a pitch and raced 42 yards for a touchdown on what would be his final carry of the day. Teammates, and Dorsett’s parents, streamed to the end zone to celebrate with him.

Recognizing the significance of Dorsett’s achievement, Navy shot off a cannon in his honor. At the same time, the entire brigade of Midshipmen in the stands threw their hats into the air. The gestures touch Dorsett to this day. The Panthers and Dorsett would go on to an undefeated season and the national championship, beating Georgia 27-3 in the Sugar Bowl. Dorsett would get to a total of 6,082 career rushing yards and would win the Heisman himself later that year. Dorsett’s record was later broken by Ricky Williams of Texas in 1998 and Ron Dayne of Wisconsin in 1999—and it’s now held by former San Diego State star Donnel Pumphrey with 6,405 yards.

Pumphrey had the benefit of playing in 54 career games, eight more than Williams and 13 more than Dayne and Dorsett, but it’s still a heck of an achievement. Pumphrey amassed 2,133 rushing yards as a senior in 2016 and broke the NCAA career record in the fourth quarter of a 34-10 win over Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl. He played two career games against Boise State. One of them was the infamous nine-degree game on the blue turf in 2014, and Pumphrey rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the 38-29 Broncos victory.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

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